It’s OK to eat the peanut butter with added sugar

I’m back at my MOST FAVORITE coffee shop this morning, as we settle into yet another new routine and let the working crew finish the final touches on the house. Because we don’t own a microwave yet (survived without one for two years, actually, but our new kitchen has a dedicated microwave nook), and our stove isn’t hooked up yet, and our fridge only kind of works, I’m enjoying breakfast here, at the coffee shop.

I ordered a plain bagel with peanut butter.

A little container of JIF peanut butter was packed into my brown bag, alongside the toasted bagel. I spread it on thick, sliced up the banana I packed (BYOB), and enjoyed. I ate while I caught up on things, since my computer went untouched from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. I ate, not thinking much about my meal—mindless, and neutral.

There was once a time when I would have opened that brown bag, looked at the JIF peanut butter packet, and debated whether to skip the peanut butter. Orthorexia’s script would have taken over. I would have scoffed at the “added sugars” used to make this peanut butter taste different (“too sweet!”), and been too concerned about having that kind of sugar first thing in the morning. I would have had a little dilemma about whether to eat the bagel, or just munch on my banana and the trail mix in my backpack—a much “healthier” option. I don’t know exactly what decision I would have made in that moment, years ago, but I do know there would have been much to debate in my head.

That’s Orthorexia—a(n unhealthy) fixation on eating (so-called) healthy foods, all the time.

There’s very little, if any, wiggle room with Orthorexia. There’s a lot of internal debate about what is or is not “healthy” in that very moment, not taking the rest of the day or week or month or year (or, the reality of health) into context.

Even though my experience with Orthorexia was concentrated mostly during my time in college—studying nutrition and obsessing over how my personal food choices must meet these high nutritional standards—I still think about Orthorexia regularly. I try to notice the corners it hides behind (oh so many). I see its filter on social media posts. I listen, and look for ways in which I can help my clients see that this fixation on being healthy is actually leading to an unhealthy state. I understand their dilemmas, and try to anticipate where they might happen again.

Straight from my @RDRealTalk insta story this morning.
Straight from my @RDRealTalk insta story this morning.

What would you do with a packet of JIF peanut butter?

I’m not trying to vilify or glorify JIF, specifically—it’s just a brand we mostly recognize, and happens to be what ended up in my brown bag this morning.

I remember a tweet directed at me in my early RD days, when I posted something about my peanut-butter-and-oatmeal breakfast: “Doesn’t that {peanut butter} brand have added sugars?” the tweet asked. Am I supposed to care about that? I really wondered. I should be eating natural-only, I deduced.

And, for the most part, I do go au natural with my peanut butter now; I like the taste better, and don’t think peanut butter needs sugar. But I’m not allergic to sweetened peanut butter. I’m not afraid of it. I’m not going to sit and debate whether or not to eat it in my head for ten minutes while my stomach growls and my mind is so tired from moving that it can hardly process a coherent thought, anyway. I’m not going to let Orthorexia pipe back up–as it is wont to do in times of stress and fatigue—and tell me that I’m a bad dietitian, or human, for eating sweet peanut butter. I’m just going to spread it on thick and dig in.

It didn’t make or break my day, or my breakfast, or my dietetic career. But stressing over it just might have.


  1. December 12, 2017

    I don’t think the added sugar would concern me but the hydrogenated oils are what send me running personally.

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