Misguided Media


As is typical in our house, my husband and I try to catch one of the morning shows. A difficult task, but something we seem to manage to do in bits and pieces at least 3 mornings a week as we give our kids breakfast, get them dressed and thankfully occupy them with some form of play. Chaos at its best! Quite sometime ago, I caught a segment on “healthy breakfasts”. A moment of brief relief as I thought to myself—perhaps there are some media outlets working to educate our nation about healthy eating. Then, as I am listening to the nutrition expert speak about whole-wheat pita with peanut butter I see a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter flash across the screen. Are you &$#@%$& kidding me? Now this was before Skippy offered their “natural” version. So, let’s look at the ingredients of this nutty spread:

  1. Roasted Peanuts
  2. Sugar
  3. Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (also known as trans fats)
  4. Salt

Sugar is the second ingredient and the third is hydrogenated oils. Now we know (because we see it in the media everyday) that we scarf down too much sugar, and that consuming hydrogenated oils (trans fats) is clogging our arteries more than good ‘ole fashioned saturated fat. And we also know (again because we see it in the media) that both have infiltrated our food supply and have contributed greatly to the health crisis of our nation.

That being said, why is the media equating healthy breakfasts with Skippy when there are many other brands to choose from? There are countless better for you alternatives including Smucker’s Natural (and now even Skippy Natural), Arrowhead Mills, Maranatha, Justin’s and more. In fact, you can also make your own peanut butter at many grocery stores these days.

However, to answer this question very simply (as this is most often the case), the person talking about the product (the nutrition/health expert) has a relationship with the company (big industry) that produces the product—a sad statement on our values here. The dollars are more important than dignity perhaps? This paradigm has and will continue to put our health on the back burner.

Peanut butter is simple—it’s ground peanuts. So the ingredient list should ideally say: Peanuts (and maybe, salt). Yes, the healthier brands cost a little more and may be less accessible in local markets (except for Smucker’s Natural and now Skippy Natural). Regardless, in my opinion it is the nutrition professional’s job to educate the consumer. Perhaps the segment could have gone something like this:

A great breakfast choice is whole-wheat pita with peanut butter. Your best option for peanut butter is a natural brand. One simply made with peanuts and salt rather than added sugars and hydrogenated oils. It may cost more upfront, but in the end it will cost less because your health won’t suffer. If you can’t find in your local market, you can buy through the Internet.

That is the TRUTH! People need the right education about food. Knowledge is power and with that knowledge people will be able to reshape their health. With the media outlets producing segments like this, they are taking this power away from the people and putting it in the hands of the food industry: (1) People will think Skippy is healthy because it was “highlighted” in a TV segment on healthy breakfasts; (2) People will go out and buy Skippy; (3) Sales will increase on product; (4) And ultimately the food producer will get what they want—MONEY! The power belongs to industry and will remain there if the media doesn’t help to change it. And shame on nutrition professionals who perpetuate this problem!

I believe it is a nutrition professionals’ responsibility (and priority) to help people navigate through the maze of foods and food products to ultimately support their health (that means avoiding the bad stuff like Skippy). And that media should be calling on these people as their experts rather than the ones who are in bed with big industry thus married to promoting the company’s unhealthy products.

I did contact this morning show via email and phone several times to state my complaint but I never received a response—go figure! I am not going to throw my hands up. I am going to persist in getting my voice heard. As my intern Jarett says, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” For many, the media is our source of baseline information. We need to demand the right information from them when it comes to matters as serious as the food we ingest. We are what we eat!

Let’s keep this conversation going. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear from you!