I was interested in Ed’s take on peanut butter and its role in weight loss, since the spread has a similar presence in my pregnancy. Peanut butter is a virtue and a vice. When I am good, I am very good; for dessert or a snack, I am satisfied with a single stalk of celery studded with raisins and a tablespoon of peanut butter. But when I am bad, I am wicked; I treat a peanut butter honey sandwich as a snack, even though it easily clocks in at 500 calories—and eating one peanut butter honey sandwich only makes me want another. Right away.
Last week’s throw-your-hands-up study in the Los Angeles Times about what pregnant women should and shouldn't eat involved peanut butter (and nuts in general). A long-term, large-scale study by the Dutch government reported that children whose mothers ate nuts, or nut products, on a daily basis while pregnant are 50% more likely to develop asthma than those whose mothers never or rarely did.
The first account of the study suggested exactly what my doctor had said months ago: nuts and peanuts are fine in moderation. But what defines "moderate consumption"? Is my idea of a little bit daily excessive? Since meat only hits my table a few times a week, I eat a spoonful of peanut butter or handful of nuts most days for a protein fix. As long as I’m not slathering it on that second peanut butter and honey sandwich, I feel pretty good about this.
What Constitutes Too Much Peanut Butter?
But I can’t help but be nervous since my baby’s father is both seriously allergic to tree nuts (but not peanuts) and mildly asthmatic. He is also a medical researcher and frequently amused by my frustration with such studies—they're never quite conclusive, and seem designed to worry laypeople without actually helping us figure out a sensible solution. In the interest of not freaking people out, health and nutrition scientists, in my opinion, should keep results to themselves until they can offer concrete recommendations. But maybe I’m wrong and most people would rather hear preliminary results, erring on the side of caution.
Would you (or have you) modified your consumption of nuts and peanuts based on a study like this?
Walking on the Peanut Butter Wild Side
If you plan (as I do) to keep walking on the wild side, and enjoy reasonable amounts of peanuts, almonds, and their cousins, here's a recipe for my favorite peanut butter cookie , packed with peanuts (and, um, butter). I actually haven’t baked them while pregnant because they definitely fall on the vice side of the peanut butter divide—I cannot enjoy them in moderation. But for those elite few with responsible maternal self-control, they make a nice treat.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter (they recommend Skippy but I use natural)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup dry roasted salted peanuts, ground fine in a food processor
Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in a large bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, three to six minutes. Beat in the peanut butter until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the ground peanuts until incorporated.
Working with three tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about two inches apart. Use a fork dipped in water to impress a crosshatch design on top of the cookies. Bake until the edges are golden and the centers have puffed and are beginning to deflate, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
The dough can be made ahead through step three and either covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to three days, or portioned out and frozen (make the crosshatch design before freezing). When ready to bake, reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and increase the baking time to 17 to 22 minutes.