Since a mid-January recall of peanut butter products, many people have been squeamish about purchasing peanut butter snacks and jars of the lunchtime favorite itself, although major brands were not part of the recall.
As of February, 15,642 people in 44 states were reported to have contracted salmonella from the peanut products, according to the Web site of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But while major brands of jarred peanut butter are not being recalled, this may be an opportune time to add more variety to your PB&J.
A variety of butters made from tree nuts -- lower in fat than their peanut counterpart -- may be able to bring more balance to your diet.
"Look at it as an opportunity to try a few other things," said nutritionist Keith Ayoob, an associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Ayoob did not advocate banishing peanut butter from your diet, noting that it has good nutritional value, providing protein and some fiber, while its fat is primarily the monounsaturated kind. The spread is also appealing because it's convenient and easy to use and is a relatively inexpensive plant form of protein.
Other nutritionists echoed those sentiments.
Kathleen D'Ovidio, an exercise and nutritional sciences professor at San Diego State University, said the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in tree nut butters would enhance some diets, although they wouldn't replace peanut butter completely.
"There's reasons why you want to eat peanut butter, and there's reasons why you want to eat tree nut butters," she said.
D'Ovidio said her concerns are more with peanut products like cookies and other snacks than with the jarred brands. But having looked at jarred peanut butter after a similar outbreak in 2007, she said nut butters might be a little safer in this regard, as they are manufactured in smaller amounts.
While jarred peanut butter may not be anything to fear right now, the following pages have some alternatives you might like to try out.
Many large supermarkets, health food stores and specialty markets stock jars and jars of nut or seed butters that have a similar consistency but slightly different tastes.
You might even be able to grind your own butters in some stores, so you can buy a smaller amount, a good option when you're experimenting with a new food and are not sure if you'll like the taste. "Or you can try the new spread on crackers," Ayoob said. "It's less of a commitment than a sandwich."
You can even make your own nut butters at home in a food processor. It will be fresh and will lack the salt, sugar and preservatives that some store-bought brands might have.
D'Ovidio notes that peanut butter alternatives may have a different consistency, but that can often be alleviated by having the nuts freshly ground.
Also, she said, the different consistency could simply be a positive part of trying something new.
"I like almond butter," she said. "It tastes really good. It's a little runnier than peanut butter, but so what?"
Still, it's wise to bear in mind that many of the options below tend to cost more than peanut butter and all are somewhat comparable in calories.
As an almond lover, Leslie Bonci, the director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is also a big fan of this spreadable butter.