A good rule of thumb for healthy eating is to eat only those things that are easily recognizable as food. Can we all agree on that?
What the Heck is That?
I found myself in the PB&J aisle at Target the other day (cut me some slack; I was looking for applesauce) when I noticed something I had never seen before:
What is this product sold in an aisle where I expect to find food? Well, the label tells me it has 85% less fat and calories, and that it contains no additives (plus, it has a leaf on it!)–so clearly, marketers want me to think this is a health food. But what the heck is it?
Ok. So they take a peanut, squeeze out all the fat they can get out (to sell separately), and powder it. Then they add sugar; they have to, because fat is flavor, so artificially low-fat foods need something else added in order to become palatable again. Then you, the consumer, are supposed to mix it with water to come up with a peanut butter substitute with all the allergenic proteins, but none of the satisfying fats. Voila! The perfect food!
Just Because It Says It’s Healthy Doesn’t Mean It Is
Let’s be clear about why this product exists. Peanut oil is a popular cooking oil because of its high smoking temperature. Some clever food engineers (or marketers?) decided they could monetize what used to be a wasted byproduct of the process of making peanut oil by taking advantage of people’s fear of fat. I mean, give them credit–it’s pretty clever to market industrial waste as health food! (See also: cottonseed oil.)
So That’s a No?
Peanut butter is definitely not paleo. It would be better to sub almond butter, which is less carcinogenic and atherogenic. But if you’re not going to do that, for cost or flavor reasons, (do I really have to say it?) at least eat the kind made with the whole food.
Food is not meant to be a fight. We shouldn’t have to feel bad about wanting to eat delicious food–and we shouldn’t think that we need to come up with substitutes for indulgences in order to “be good.” Food should be about sustaining your life, not proving your self-worth or morality or any of the other emotional baggage we like to associate to it.
If you like peanut butter, eat peanut butter! And let your body tell you when it’s enough. If you truly trust yourself and give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, you’re not going to get fat; you’re going to get healthy.
I love the Latest In Paleo podcast, and if you like this blog, you will too. One of my favorite episodes features guest speaker Charles Eisenstein, who discusses “The Yoga of Eating.” His premise is that we need to learn to trust our bodies. Our minds and bodies are not at war. We don’t need willpower when it comes to eating; we need trust. Take a listen and let me know what you think!