Smucker’s Uncrustables: Too Good to be Food?
“Reduced Sugar Peanut Butter & Strawberry Spread on Whole Wheat bread”, “contains 50% less sugar than prior ones”, and provides a “good source of fiber”. The trusted Smucker’s brand gloats these buzz terms across the box of the trusted classic PB&J sandwich. They would grab the attention of any health-conscious Mom; this product certainly sounds good! For all those frantic mornings when one kid’s shoe has disappeared, and last night’s homework is magically missing, is packing their lunchbox with one of these Smucker’s Uncrustables a good idea...or are they Too Good to Be Food?
What’s in it:
BREAD: UNBLEACHED WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, WHEAT GLUTEN, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOYBEAN OIL, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, DOUGH CONDITIONERS (DISTILLED MONOGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, DATEM, ENZYMES [WITH AMYLASE, LIPASE, ASCORBIC ACID, CALCIUM PEROXIDE, AZODICARBONAMIDE, WHEAT STARCH]), YEAST.
PEANUT BUTTER: PEANUTS, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), SUGAR, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SALT, MOLASSES.
STRAWBERRY SPREAD: SUGAR, STRAWBERRIES, WATER, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: FRUIT PECTIN, CITRIC ACID, LOCUST BEAN GUM, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE), CALCIUM CHLORIDE.
● Unbleached whole wheat flour: Unlike refined white flours, with whole wheat you get the nutrient benefits of the entire grain, which means fiber, B vitamins and iron. When reading labels, look for the word “whole”. This can be tricky; if a label says “wheat flour” it is not necessarily a whole-grain – you must see the word “whole.”
● Water: A harmless addition but this doesn’t mean this counts towards your 8 glasses of water per day.
● Wheat gluten: Added as a source of protein, wheat gluten provides structure and elasticity to bread and is commonly found in packaged products.
● High fructose corn syrup: This sugar alternative is one of the worst offenders to be found on ingredient lists. HFCS has been shown to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
● Soybean oil: Extracted from soybeans, this oil helps create a tender bread and improve mouthfeel by adding moisture to the product. Because it is inexpensive, it is widely found in food products. Low in saturated fat, this oil is a good source of omega-3s.
● Salt: Salt acts as a natural preservative and is often added for flavor, but we know to tread lightly here as most packaged foods are loaded with it. One Uncrustable has 170 mg of sodium.
● Distilled monoglycerides: This ingredient is added for a fluffy and airy consistency. It is a form of fat used as an emulsifier (food binder and texture smoother) to combine oil and water.
● Sodium stearoyl lactylate: Emulsifier and preservative commonly used in manufactured bread and baked goods.
● Datem: This is an emulsifier (yep, another one!) and preservative commonly used in manufactured bread and baked goods.
● Amylase: We naturally produce this enzyme to help breakdown starch into sugars for energy. Even though we have our own, it’s added in products that contain yeast in order to "pre-digest" the starch, enhance yeast performance and increase the volume of the product. It also helps maintain stability and improve the storage life of breads.
● Lipase: an enzyme produced in our bodies to digest fat and cholesterol, is used here for dough improvement and to achieve an even, light-colored crust and a soft texture.
● Ascorbic acid: The science-y term for vitamin C, ascorbic acid acts as a preservative, while boosting the vitamin C content.
● Calcium peroxide: The oxidative properties make calcium peroxide a good bleaching agent for flour. It is also used to improve the elasticity and texture of baked products. Although there are no proven negative health effects, China has banned the use of this ingredient in bread because it was found to be no longer necessary with the improvement in flour quality. Besides, how elastic and texturized can this product get?!
● Azodicarbonamide: Don't try saying this one with a mouth full of bread! This is a controversial food additive that has been approved for use in the U.S. but has been banned in other countries due to potential carcinogenic effects. Need I say more?
● Wheat starch: Added as a thickener and extender, creating a cohesive and copious bread products.
● Yeast: The most common leavening agent, since breads need yeast to rise.
● Peanuts, fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar, mono and diglycerides (we’ve already talked about this no-go), salt and molasses (more sugar!). While I’m usually nutty about peanuts, actually a type of legume, because of their healthy fats and the antioxidant resveratrol, any food that has been hydrogenated is typically a no-go. While trans fats in partially-hydrogenated products are the biggest concern due to an association with health problems and obesity, that doesn’t mean fully-hydrogenated products are good for you either. Aim for healthy saturated fats from all natural nut butters. The fewer ingredients, the better - all you need in the ingredients list is: peanut butter.
● It’s called “strawberry spread” but with sugar listed first, it contains more added sugar than actual strawberries! The fruit pectin, citric acid, locust bean gum, potassium sorbate and calcium chloride are all ingredients used to give jelly its consistency and long shelf-life. Nothing harmful, but nothing really great either!
Fluffy bread, creamy peanut butter and sweet jelly. Yum! As a busy Mom, I can relate to how easy grabbing one of these Smucker’s Uncrustables could be. You simply take one out of the freezer in the morning, and by lunchtime voila! perfectly softened and ready to eat. But I’m exhausted after reading through that long list of ingredients and additives. Although it may be nutritionally better than its white bread predecessor, this product is an overly processed food that contains a laundry list of no-go ingredients. A PB&J sandwich shouldn’t be that complicated, right? Aside from the bread, it should contain two ingredients: peanut butter and fruit. The bread can be tricky - try to find a whole grain option - and top it with natural peanut or almond butter (without those hydrogenated oils) and fresh fruit. If you do use jelly—only use a thin smear, or find ones that are made from only fruit (like Smucker’s Simply Fruit or Polaner’s All Fruit). As a mom of two, I know busy, but we’d all be better off ignoring this shortcut and taking the few quick minutes to make a PB&J from more wholesome and natural ingredients. It really doesn’t take that long. Sorry, Smucker’s, this is definitely Too Good To Be Food!
1 sandwich (58g)
Calories from fat: 80
Total Fat: 9g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Trans Fat: 0g
Total Carbohydrates: 22g
Dietary Fiber: 3g