Friday, April 8, 2011

Breakfast Serial Part III - Spread the Word

What do you put on your toast? Your bagel? Your English muffin?

Whether your adding margarine, butter, jam, peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, or something else, the point is that you are ADDing something.

So often we forget that the things we add to our foods also count. Maybe it's the calories that count in your books, or maybe it's the sugar. Perhaps you're counting fat or even additives. The important thing to remember is that the spread COUNTS - so make it count! Make a good choice!

I hope this helps:

Margarine - if you plan to use it, go for NON-HYDROGENATED margarine. The stuff we used to get served at our grandma's at Thanksgiving was hydrogenated. It was full of trans fats which are bad news (they clog your arteries and increase your risk of stroke and heart attack). Today's non-hydrogenated varieties are much better for you because they don't have trans fats in them. On the flip-side: you may not be able to pronounce some of the ingredients in your margarine, so you be the judge as to whether you want to use it or not. However, you'll be happy to know that most of those big words are the names of added vitamins. So if you don't fear multivitamins, you don't have much of a reason to fear non-hydrogenated margarine.

Butter - good ol' fashioned super-whipped dairy fat. If you've every beat whipping cream too long, you know what I mean. (Yeah, it turns into butter - not so great on pumpkin pie ...) If you buy the salted version, you can expect the ingredients to include: cream, salt, and possibly colour. If it's the unsalted one, scratch the salt (ie. cream and maybe some colour). You'll notice that butter reports a tiny bit of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts Table (approx. 0.2 g per serving). That's because a tiny bit of trans fats is naturally-occurring in dairy cream - no need to worry.

Margarine vs. Butter - I'm often asked what people should use: margarine? or butter? My answer: use whatever you want, but don't use very much of it! If you are using enough that I will notice a difference in your cholesterol levels, you're using too much! Most often it's not a case of WHAT people are using to "butter" their bread, but more a case of HOW MUCH. Do you really need "butter" on your veggies, potatoes, bread, and everything else? My guess is no. Try ditching the "butter" for everything but toast for awhile. You'll get used to it. "But it doesn't taste as creamy and delicious without it (pouting face)!" Yeah, well, whoever said your mashed potatoes were supposed to taste like dessert? They should taste like potatoes!

Peanut Butter (or any other nut butter) - pb and its pals (almond butter, sesame, and so forth) can be a great source of protein and vitamin E on your morning toast (or other bread item). However, remember to check out the Nutrition Facts Table and the ingredients. If you're buying the typical Smooth PB variety, note the ingredients: peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt (if you're having the low-fat version, add in some corn syrup solids ... yup, you heard me!). WHOA! Didn't we just finish saying that hydrogenated oil is bad news? Well, it's in your pb! Compare to the "100% peanuts" variety of pb whose sole ingredient is .... PEANUTS!!! There's a no-brainer for ya. PS. You can get chunky or smooth natural pb and you can get it as usual, or organic. Just remember to store it in the fridge.

Jam - REMEMBER: Jam is a condiment - not a side dish. When you use jam, spread it thinly to enjoy it's flavour and sweetness. Any more than that and you might as well just grab a spoon and eat a 1/4 of the jar because that's what you're doing. But, for some reason when it's spread out on your toast over melted butter or margarine it doesn't feel like you've just eaten a good chunk of the jar. There's a good reason why the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts Table is 1 tablespoon. That's about all you should be using! Oh, and pick the lower sugar varieties - they taste more like homemade and you haven't tasted heaven till you've had homemade jam.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread - don't want to point any fingers, but what I'm talking about rhymes with shut-shmella (anyone seen Knocked Up?). Yes, it's true that when I was pregnant with JC I didn't leave home overnight without some whole wheat bagels (didn't have any whole-grain at the time) and a jar of shut-shmella, but that doesn't mean I'm proud of it. If you want to know the truth, it's got the sugar of sugary jam, the fat of peanut butter, the additives of regular smooth peanut butter, and a measly 1 g of protein per tablespoon. Yeah, forget the shut-shmella - it's just another dessert item masquerading as a breakfast food.

Honey - Honey is liquid sugar. That is all.

Don't get me started on plastic cheese-wannabe spread or cinnamon goo that comes in a tub. You've read what I have to say about the above and it only gets worse for the fake cheese and the cinna-goo.

Bottom Line - read about what you're eating and only eat what you are comfortable with eating. If you feel guilty when you eat something, chances are it's not the best choice for your bod. If you happen to eat something that I've bashed in this blog post, make a change, but don't be ashamed. I've eaten every single thing that I have talked about here. I just don't make a regular practice of it.

What do I eat on my bagel these days? 100% peanut butter (organic when available) and a bit (seriously about a tablespoon) of organic no-sugar-added strawberry jam.


  1. shut-shmella was my only craving when pregnant ... I never pretended that it was a healthy choice. Can't stand the stuff anymore.

  2. I wonder how many other prego-moms crave that stuff! Seems to be a popular one.

  3. I totally agree with just about everything in this blog except one: the issue of honey. Because it contains pollen extract it can be a powerful immune system boost for some people, but generally is only effective when bought from a regional producer {I.e. If you live in Town A, you should buy honey from a producer from around Town A to get the same pollen signature}. Some people even believe it has anti-carcinogenic {cancer-fighting} properties, but those results tend to be ambiguous. Personally, I tend to take that information with a healthy dose of skepticism. I think the issue that strikes home though for this article is quantity. It's spot on that a teaspoon or so of these additives are generally all that's ever expected to be used. I applaud such a healthy message.

  4. Handy tip for the all natural PB... I hate the stirring when you first open it. Store it upside down in your cupboard BEFORE you open it. It separates in the store sitting upright on the shelf but starts to recombine sitting upside-down. Try it! You won't have so much stirring to do.