Monday, February 4, 2008

Reduced-Fat Skippy - A Culinary Abomination

My local supermarket had a sale on peanut butter. At a buck a jar, my eyes boggled and I blindly grabbed one and dropped it into the cart. Later, after I paid for my purchases and returned home, I realized to my dismay that I accidentally grabbed the reduced-fat variety. Uh-oh.

My mother was a high-fat, high-sodium cook. Very few of her recipes did not contain her essentials of butter, salt, or sour cream. Simply put, fat tastes good. Scientists spend countless hours trying to reduce fat and preserve the taste. As I opened the jar, I reminded myself that not all reduced-fat foods are disasters. A prime example of this is the reduced-fat version of Hellman's mayo. You really can't taste the difference.

I open the Skippy and take a sniff, and I am not impressed. I sample a smidgen and I am grossed out. Damn. I wasted a dollar. At least I didn't pay full price for this jarful of peanut-flavored paste.

Normally I don't buy Skippy or Jif (except for my favorite sandwich), because the hydrogenated oils are well-known evils to the arteries. Shortly before I became pregnant with Precious Daughter, The Oracle and I made a concerted effort to improve our eating habits. I've stopped buying many of the quick and easy, chemical-laden prepared foods to which we were so addicted. (I sorely miss those cheapie envelopes of quickie noodle side dishes with assorted powdery sauces. And Pop-Tarts)

One of the first "bad" items to go was hydrogenated peanut butter. Now we buy Smuckers or organic peanut butter. We buy organic foods whenever possible and affordable (the meats are pricey!). And I try to keep veggies and fruits domestically grown (except bananas, since there are no US-grown bananas). Bacon and hot dogs are varieties containing no nitrates. If I could afford to shop at Whole Foods every week, I'd do it in a heartbeat despite the drive. The stuff really does taste better.

*sigh* Back to the Skippy.

Regular Skippy contains remarkably few ingredients, healthy or not. "Roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogentated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean, and rapeseed) to prevent separation, and salt." Two tablespoons contains 190 calories, 16 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, and 150 mg sodium.

The reduced-fat version contains: "Roasted peanuts, corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein, salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean, rapeseed) to prevent separation, mono and diglycerides, minerals (magnesium oxide, zinc oxide [diaper rash ointment!!], copper sulfate), vitamins (niacinamide, pyidoxine hydrochloride)." Two tablespoons of this one contains 180 calories, 12 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, and 170 mg of sodium.

Summary: Lousy taste, funky chemicals, higher sodium, and not much of a reduced-fat reward.

I sound like a food critic.

Seriously, though, many reduced-fat or non-fat substitutes for the "real" thing share this common problem. Who hasn't heard that America is an obese nation? It makes me ill to see that we're getting sucked into buying lousy products loaded with crappy and sometimes questionable ingredients, and what do we gain? A mere 4 grams reduction in fat, a piddling 10 fewer calories, and scary multi-purpose chemicals. And I'm not even getting into the chemicals and additives plaguing the "regular fat" versions of convenience foods. That's a whole separate nightmare.

I have reacquainted myself with my cookbooks. If I can't make it with identifiable ingredients, I don't make it. I am proud that I haven't made a recipe involving Campbell's soup in years, not even the Thanksgiving favorite, green bean casserole. Instead, I found a recipe that uses cream and fresh mushrooms instead. I only make it once or twice a year, so I don't sweat over the fat content as I would with other things.

Thank you, God, for giving me children. Aside from the daily joys and frustrations of having school-aged kids, our desires to feed them healthy food has moved us toward healthier eating as well. I am one of America's overweight, and I am slowly trying to change that without the use of chemically-generated substitutes for the things I love.

Well, okay. Every rule has an exception, and mine is Cherry Coke Zero.


--V said...

Yeah, I compared nutritional info between the reduced fat and regular peanut butter, too, and came to the same conclusion. For ten more calories, I'll take the regular stuff.

dlyn said...

Have to agree about the reduced fat p-butter. Yuk! Give me Smuckers natural any day. Very nice blog, I will be back to read it again!