Celery and peanut butter has become a popular snack combination, with many people believing it to be a low-calorie way to satisfy hunger cravings. But is this combination really as diet-friendly as it seems? There are a few key factors to consider when determining if celery and peanut butter is truly a low-calorie snack.
Calories in celery
Celery itself is an extremely low-calorie food. A single large celery stalk contains only about 10 calories. Celery is mostly made up of water, in addition to some fiber and trace minerals. So plain, raw celery is one of the lowest calorie snacks around.
Calories in peanut butter
Peanut butter, on the other hand, is much higher in calories. A typical two tablespoon serving of smooth peanut butter contains about 190 calories. That’s almost 20 times the amount of calories found in a celery stalk! Peanut butter is high in fat, mostly the heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. But all those fatty acids still pack a hefty calorie load.
When combining celery and peanut butter, the total calories will depend heavily on the serving sizes used. For example:
- 2 celery stalks + 1 tbsp peanut butter = About 130 calories
- 1 celery stalk + 2 tbsp peanut butter = About 210 calories
As you can see, peanut butter quickly ramps up the calorie count for this snack combo. Even though celery is low-calorie, all the extra calories from just a spoon or two of peanut butter negate the low-calorie benefit.
Nutritional pros and cons
Beyond just calories, there are some other nutritional considerations when eating celery and peanut butter.
Some possible benefits of celery and peanut butter include:
- Protein – Peanut butter provides plant-based protein, important for keeping you full.
- Fiber – Celery is high in fiber, while peanut butter has about 2 grams per serving.
- Vitamins and minerals – Celery contains some vitamin K, folate, potassium. Peanut butter has small amounts of magnesium, vitamin E.
- Healthy fats – Peanut butter is a source of heart-healthy fats. These are preferable over saturated fats from meat and dairy products.
So in moderation, this snack provides a mix of protein, fiber and some various vitamins and minerals.
There are also some potential downsides:
- High in calories – As mentioned earlier, it’s very easy to overdo it on the calorie count when generously spreading peanut butter onto celery.
- Low in nutrients – While peanut butter provides a bit of vitamin E, magnesium and folate, celery and peanut butter are not overly high in vitamins and minerals compared to other whole foods like fruits or vegetables.
- Added sugars – Many commercial peanut butter brands contain added sugars, which should be limited in the diet.
The high calorie count is the main nutritional concern for someone hoping to use celery and peanut butter as a low-calorie snack. But peanut butter can quickly turn this into a high-calorie combination if portion sizes are not carefully controlled.
Benefits for weight loss
Assuming you are able to control portions, can celery and peanut butter be an effective tool for weight loss? There are a few potential benefits when eating this combo in moderate amounts as part of an overall healthy diet.
Foods that are high in nutrients relative to their calorie content are considered low calorie density foods. These types of foods can help promote weight loss, because you can eat larger portions and get fuller while consuming fewer calories. Celery is one of the lowest calorie density foods. So adding celery to a snack helps provide greater volume and satisfaction for minimal calories.
Protein and fiber
The protein and fiber in peanut butter may help you feel fuller for longer compared to crackers or pretzels paired with celery. Protein and fiber slow digestion, helping keep hunger at bay. And staying full between meals can prevent overeating and grabbing high-calorie convenience snacks.
Having quick go-to snacks like celery and peanut butter can prevent poor snack choices when you’re hungry between meals. Having pre-prepped celery stalks along with portion-controlled peanut butter makes for an easy, convenient, and portable snack.
So when eaten mindfully in appropriate portions, celery and peanut butter can be a smart snacking strategy for weight management. But it’s unlikely to be a shortcut to significant weight loss without also following an overall healthy eating plan and active lifestyle.
Ideal portion sizes
What is considered an appropriate serving size of peanut butter to pair with celery? Here are some recommendations for keeping this snack low in calories:
- Women – 1 tablespoon or less per 1-2 celery stalks
- Men – Up to 2 tablespoons per 2-3 celery stalks
The recommended peanut butter serving provides some added nutrition, flavor and satisfaction without excessive calories. Be sure to measure out the peanut butter carefully rather than estimating. And consider choosing an all-natural peanut butter without added sugars.
If weight loss is the goal, it may be wise to err on the lower end of these serving recommendations. 1-2 tbsp total of peanut butter is likely sufficient when pairing with multiple celery stalks. If you want crunch without extra calories, consider adding nuts, seeds, or coconut flakes to the nut butter. Tracking calories can also help ensure you don’t overdo it. Enjoying this snack occasionally as part of a balanced diet is better than relying on it too often.
Lower calorie alternatives
For those looking to further reduce the calorie count of the classic celery and peanut butter combo, some lower calorie alternatives include:
Other nut or seed butters
- Almond butter – About 100 calories per 2 tbsp
- Cashew butter – About 150 calories per 2 tbsp
- Sunflower seed butter – About 180 calories per 2 tbsp
- Classic hummus – About 80 calories per 2 tbsp
- Roasted red pepper hummus – About 60 calories per 2 tbsp
Low-fat cream cheese or ricotta cheese
- Fat-free cream cheese – About 25 calories per 2 tbsp
- Part-skim ricotta – About 40 calories per 2 tbsp
Light nut butter spreads
- WowButter – About 70 calories per 2 tbsp
- Justin’s Light Classic Almond Butter – About 90 calories per 2 tbsp
Swapping regular peanut butter for one of these lower calorie spreads can save about 100 calories per serving or more.
Low-sugar fruit spreads
- All-fruit preserves – About 50 calories per 2 tbsp
- 100% fruit spread – About 35 calories per 2 tbsp
Pay close attention to ingredients when selecting fruit spreads, as many contain added sugars. All-fruit and 100% fruit options use natural fruit sweetness.
Rather than celery, some other crunchy fresh vegetables can serve as lower calorie dippers:
- Bell peppers
- Broccoli florets
- Cauliflower florets
- Celery root
- Endive leaves
- Cucumber slices
Any raw veggie with a sturdy, scoop-able shape works nicely for scooping up nut butter or dip. Going for a wider variety of veggies boosts your nutrient intake.
For a lower carb choice, nut butter pairs well with apple slices. Spread peanut butter onto apple slices for a snack reminiscent of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Berries can also be dipped into nut butter for added sweetness.
Healthy recipe ideas
If you want to get creative, celery and peanut butter also work nicely in healthy recipes. Here are some recipe ideas to enjoy this combo in new ways:
Ants on a log
Traditional ants on a log uses celery stalks, peanut butter, and raisins. Consider using dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries as lower sugar dried fruit options.
Celery peanut butter energy bites
Mix together peanut butter, oats, honey or pure maple syrup, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds. Spoon mixture into hollowed out celery stalks and freeze for healthy grab-and-go snacks.
Thai peanut dressing over salad
Whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, low sodium soy sauce, grated ginger, and crushed garlic. Drizzle over a salad of shredded carrots, broccoli slaw mix, edamame and sliced peppers.
Peanut sauce with rice noodles or veggies
Sauté peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Toss with rice noodles or thinly sliced cabbage, carrots, and celery.
West African peanut stew
Make a flavorful stew with diced sweet potato, tomato, chickpeas, and crunchy celery, simmered in a peanut butter curry sauce. Serve over brown rice.
Peanutty granola bars
Stir peanut butter into honey and oats, along with nuts, seeds, coconut, and dried fruit. Press into a pan and slice to yield hearty, high protein granola bars.
Potential downsides of frequent use
While peanut butter and celery can be included sensibly as part of an overall balanced diet, relying on this snack too often may have some drawbacks:
High in omega-6 fats
Peanut butter provides polyunsaturated fats. But most peanut butter is skewed toward a higher ratio of omega-6 fats versus anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Eating peanut butter in moderation is recommended to avoid an excessive omega-6 intake.
Filling up on the same snack regularly can squeeze other more nutrient-dense foods out of your diet. For broader nutritional benefits, enjoy peanut butter and celery in alternation with a diverse range of other healthy snacks.
Those with peanut or celery allergies obviously should avoid this combo. Even those without food allergies may experience unpleasant symptoms if overdoing it on peanut butter multiple times per week. These can include bloating, diarrhea, or cramping.
High in sodium
Many peanut butter brands contain added salt and preservatives. The recommended sodium intake is less than 2,300 mg per day, so snacking too frequently on high-sodium processed foods makes it tricky to stay within healthy limits.
As with any single food, the dose makes the poison. Including peanut butter and celery as an occasional snack a few times per week is unlikely to cause harm. But relying on it as your primary go-to snack could backfire, for the reasons outlined above.
Celery and peanut butter is often portrayed as a dieter’s dream snack. But the bottom line is that it’s not an ideal low-calorie snack if peanut butter portions are too generous. However, when eaten in sensible portions, this combo can be included as part of an overall healthy diet, along with plenty of other fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy/nondairy alternatives.
Here are some final tips for keeping this snack waistline-friendly:
- Stick to 1-2 tbsp peanut butter per serving
- Measure portions carefully rather than estimating
- Consider alternate lower calorie nut butters or spreads
- Pair peanut butter with a variety of crunchy fresh veggies
- Incorporate this snack into a balanced diet with plenty of variety
What matters most is that any snack fits into your total daily calorie allotment. By practicing portion control and balancing it out with more nutrient-dense foods, peanut butter and celery can be part of an overall eating pattern that supports healthy weight management.