The other day we were discussing “junk food”. Someone brought up how bad a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made on white bread was. Now, dietitians tend to see foods differently than most folks. Ask dietitians about “junk food” and most of us will agree on foods such as those with “empty calories” (think soda, candy, cookies, donuts and the like) and high fat fried foods (fast food hamburgers, French fries, commercial fried chicken, etc.). However, most dietitians say: “There are no bad foods; some are better for you than others, and in moderation.”
Take candy, for example. Chocolate is a candy, but multiple studies have shown that chocolate bars with at least 60% cocoa help with weight and waist loss, better heart health and is naturally soothing. It also works as a laxative.
Even milk chocolate has health benefits. The trick is to eat one or two squares, about an ounce, daily; not a pound, just a couple of squares. Pizza can be great because it has all the food groups on it, but when eaten too often or too much, it has been shown to increase the potential for obesity. A slice of pizza eaten with a salad and fresh fruit is filling, balanced, and HEALTHY; whereas, eating three to four slices of a meat lover’s pizza is going to be too high in fat, salt and calories for most people.
As for the lowly peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, again, it depends. White bread is not considered to be as healthy as whole grain bread, but has the same fiber content as most whole wheat breads, which most people think is healthier. Surprise!
The type of white bread that I use for the hospital is actually made with whole grain wheat, which has more nutrients than normal whole wheat bread and the patients like it. What is this magical bread? Sara Lee, but there are other brands out there that do the same. Wonder Bread can be part of a normal diet because it can hold up the nutritious lean meat or cheese, lettuce and tomatoes used for sandwich. Ezekiel bread is one of my favorite whole grain breads, but saturate it with butter or mayonnaise and it loses the benefit for which it is known. Like much of life, food falls on a continuum, a line on which you will always find something better and something worse.
Peanut butter can be deadly for someone with an allergy or with kidney disease, but otherwise in one to two tablespoon portions, it is a good source of a healthy fat and protein. In addition it is inexpensive.
One warning is to watch the amount of sugar that is in it. Different brands have different amounts of sugar; look for the lowest.
Any food can be considered to be a junk food if it is not good for the person eating it or if it is eaten in excess. It isn’t the food’s fault, just the mouth that eats it.