I have decided to add a regular feature to this blog: posts labeled “healthier eating” that will highlight healthy alternatives to specific foods or food groups. We begin with the peanut butter sandwich.
Recently, my friend Crystal told me how she ate peanut butter and pancake syrup sandwiches as a kid, and how she had to ask her parents not to make these sandwiches for her daughter. So, I started thinking about all the healthier peanut butter sandwiches my family has been eating the last few years, compared to those of my own childhood.
Crystal makes peanut butter and fruit sandwiches for her daughter. We do too, because it is very hard to find jelly or jam or even fruit preserves without high fructose corn syrup or a chemical preservative or both. The only one I have found at our local supermarket is imported from Lebanon: Cortas Fig Jam. My kids will eat it, but they prefer other flavors. I have made strawberry jam myself a few times, but since I’d rather use organic strawberries, it’s not really cost effective. So, we slice strawberries, or bananas, or peaches, or apples (really, any fruit will do) and put them on top of the peanut butter. The girls even like to make faces or other shapes with the fruit.
We also buy all natural peanut butter made with only peanuts and salt. Laura Scudders brand has no added sugar, corn syrup, or unpronounceable ingredients. When you buy it, you need to stir it, as the oil separates from the solids at room temperature, but if you refrigerate it, it will stay together. Otherwise, you will need to stir it each time you use it. Another alternative is almond butter (just almonds, sugar, and salt) or the no-stir almond butter with added date palm oil. Date palm oil is a saturated vegetable fat that stays solid at room temperature. It does not pose the health risks associated with saturated animal fats. Do not purchase nut butters with hydrogenated oils or other saturated oils. We buy MaraNatha Creamy Almond Butter No-stir because we can get it at our local supermarket.
Which brings me to the bread. I have tried to get my husband to like whole wheat or other whole grain breads for ten years. Finally, we found one that he likes enough to stop asking for white bread: Mrs. Beard’s Honey 7 Grain. The label claims “No Artificial Preservatives, Colors, or Flavors.” This bread does contain some questionable ingredients, but I am willing to eat those if it means I don’t have to listen to complaints about bread all the time. Also, despite the 7 grains, this bread does not have that much dietary fiber, but we tend to eat a high fiber diet most of the time, so I think we’ll be ok. One of these days, I’ll get around to baking our bread, but I have yet to find the time.
Nature’s Own makes a similar bread, and according to their website, they are removing high fructose corn syrup from all of their breads, so maybe we can find another one with higher fiber that my husband likes. We are trying Nature’s Own Honey 7 Grain this week.
You may be wondering: Why do I bother to avoid products with corn syrup? [By the way, pancake syrup is corn syrup with artificial color and flavor. I’ll post about healthier alternatives to that another time.] Believe me, it is not easy to avoid corn syrup, but it is well worth the effort. Corn syrup and other additives made from refined corn are in nearly every single processed food and drink. For this reason, they are major contributors to obesity and poor health. American taste buds have grown accustomed to the super sweet taste of corn syrup and we over consume sweetened foods to feed our cravings. Part of the reason we crave sugar and high glycemic carbs is because the sweet foods we eat are refined instead of whole, and they don’t contain the fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients present in raw sugar cane and corn. We don’t get the feeling of being full from the fiber or get the B vitamins needed to process the sugar from refined foods, so we crave more. All that low nutrient, high calorie food makes us gain weight.
Consider this: if you are eating lots of processed food, most of what you consume is refined corn and soy beans. If you are eating a chicken nugget, for example, the chicken was fed corn, the batter is made from different refined parts of corn, and the oil it is fried in could be made from corn . . . your whole meal is basically corn! All day long, you are eating processed foods, but really most of what you are eating started out as corn. Your body becomes nutrient deficient, because corn is not a complete food, and most of the fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients are removed during processing.
If you believe the claims of the corn processing industry, their “corn sugar” is the same as any other sugar. Here’s the problem with sugar (and sugar substitutes): it debilitates your immune system for hours and gives easy quick energy to cancer cells. Frequent consumption of sugar and refined carbs that are broken down into sugars is also the guilty culprit in many adult health problems, including high triglycerides and atherosclerosis. Children experience hyperactivity and lack of concentration. Seriously, for your health, stay away from refined sugar whenever you can. The healthier peanut butter sandwich avoids high fructose corn syrup in the two spreads and the bread and provides many more nutrients than the corn infused bread spread with corn butter and corn jam. I bet your kids will love it, or at least, they won’t notice enough difference in the taste to say anything.
Now, it’s your turn. How do you make a healthier peanut butter sandwich? What other healthy alternatives do you want to share, or to read about in this blog?