Is Nutella healthy? Or is it worse than a chocolate bar?

With certain products I often wonder what goes through the heads of their marketing team. Nutella would definitely be an example of one of those products. In my opinion, this is health washing at it’s finest. Their marketing is such a stretch, I find it hard to believe they aren’t purposely trying to trick us into thinking their product is healthier than it really is so that we will consume more of it (putting more profits in their pocket!). 

This product is positioned in the market as a healthy breakfast option. When you watch their commercials and read their messaging you will hear things like “part of a balanced breakfast”, “spread some energy”, etc. It appears that their goal is to get us consumers to believe that this is a great product to give our kids, to start their day off right. But is it?

Let’s undress what is really in Nutella to see if it looks good naked.

Ingredients in Nutella:

Sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk powder, whey powder, lecithin, vanillin.

What about the first 2 ingredients?

The biggest thing that jumps out at me when I read this ingredient list is the first 2 ingredients: sugar and modified palm oil. When Nutella talks about their product in their marketing material they say that it is a “deliciously unique spread made from the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of cocoa.” Hmm, what happened to the first 2 MAIN ingredients. The thing is, marketers know that consumers don’t like sugar and modified palm oil (because they are unhealthy for us). So instead of using healthier ingredients they simply (and cleverly) omit them from their communication. In my opinion, this is misleading. I don’t think companies should be allowed to cherry pick whichever ingredients they want from their product and use those in their marketing in a way that convinces consumers a product is healthier than it really is.

Is it really just a “hint” of cocoa?

If you have ever seen a Nutella commercial you have likely noticed another marketing trick. They know that many consumers think skim milk is a healthy food and that chocolate (cocoa) should be consumed in moderation. Therefore, when they present the product to you they show you a big glass of skim milk and a tiny little teaspoon of cocoa. They also indicate in their marketing that the product contains a “hint” of cocoa. However, when we strip down the ingredients we can see clearly that there is actually more cocoa than skim milk powder in the product.

Let’s be honest… is it really part of a balanced breakfast?

Nutella website:

“Research shows that children do best starting their day with a balanced breakfast giving them the energy they need to feel and do their best. Canada’s Food Guide recommends including at least 3 out of the 4 Food Groups (Vegetables & Fruit, Grain Products, Milk Products, Meats & Alternatives) as part of a balanced breakfast. NUTELLA® can be part of a balanced breakfast, spread on whole grain toast and served with a glass of milk and a piece of fruit.”

This seems like a bit of a stretch to me. While I agree that children should start their day with a balanced breakfast, I find it very hard to agree that giving them a sugar and modified palm oil chocolate spread will benefit them. They point out that if you consume this product with fruit, whole grain toast, and a glass of milk you will be consuming a complete breakfast. I assume they are referring to the fact that the small amount of hazelnuts in Nutella satisfies the “Meat & Alternatives” category? Like I said, this seems like a stretch. Would you give your child a Mars bar for breakfast? Probably not. Nutella isn’t much different. The fact that there are nuts in it is irrelevant since there is so much sugar and modified palm oil.

What’s the deal with sugar?

Nutella contains a whopping 11g of sugar in just 1 measly little tablespoon. 

The World Health Organization in 2014 suggested the DAILY sugar intake for kids could be as low as 12.5g. Clearly, the amount of sugar in Nutella is not ideal.

One big problem with white sugar is that it is heavily processed and refined. It therefore provides large amounts of “empty calories”. This means that you are getting the calories without any of the beneficial vitamins and minerals that our body requires to function.

This excess in sugar is converted to fat in the body and is a major cause of obesity. It also spikes our blood sugar and can lead to many undesirable health implications like high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In fact, in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. This number continues to rise.

The problem is that obesity is very dangerous. It significantly increases their risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, and even cancer.

White sugar is not nutritious, it is not a healthy food for adults or children, and it should be avoided as much as possible. It certainly should not be consumed on a daily basis and it is not part of a balanced breakfast!

What about modified palm oil?

Modified palm oil is a highly refined and processed oil. It is not as nutritious as natural palm oil that is high in beneficial vitamins and minerals. Food manufacturers typically use a “modified” palm oil because it has a longer shelf life and in some cases, a more desirable “mouth feel”. Many companies started using fats like this modified palm oil to replace hydrogenated oils in their products when consumers started to avoid trans fats. Unfortunately, there is still some concern that these modified oils may cause health problems, especially if consumed regularly. 

What’s a great alternative?

If you are looking for something delicious to spread on your toast in the morning I recommend Almond Hazelnut Butter (make sure the only ingredients are almonds and hazelnuts).

If you are reading this thinking “ya but what about the chocolate!”. I have a solution. Add the jar of Almond Hazelnut Butter to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend/mix in some raw cacao (raw chocolate powder), and if you want a bit of sweetness add in some honey (a healthy alternative to sugar because it is loaded with beneficial nutrients and health benefits).

What’s the bottom line – Is Nutella healthy?

Nutella loves to market their product as being part of a complete breakfast. They want us to believe that it is a healthy way to start our day and a healthy food to feed our kids. They tell us it’s a “deliciously unique spread made from the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of cocoa.” However, in my opinion, a more accurate description would be: “Nutella is mainly a sugar and modified oil spread with hazelnuts, cocoa, and a hint of skim milk powder.” I don’t believe this product is part of a complete breakfast and I think that if it is consumed (which I don’t recommend that it is), it should only be consumed as a treat on occasion.

Personally I think I’ll stick to the healthy alternative that fuels my body and yet still tastes DELICIOUS!

What are your favorite foods to eat for breakfast? Let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!

Plus, I would really appreciate it if you could help me spread the word about Nutella by sharing this article with your friends and family. I want everyone to know what’s really in the Nutella jar so we can vote with our fork (or in this case our knife) for the food that is best for ourselves and our family. Thanks for all the support! 

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