Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why is there no C, A, K and E in Muffin?

There are some who believe that the Americans invented the word “muffin” so they wouldn’t feel guilty about eating cake. Whether that’s true or not, the great American staple certainly is a culinary wolf in sheep’s clothing. It so easily passes itself off as acceptable: acceptable breakfast food, acceptable substitute lunch, acceptable coffee companion, and acceptable snack. But it’s barely even that. Lurking beneath its healthy and wholesome exterior lurks something (almost) completely devoid of goodness. But do people know this, and just assuage their conscience by opting for a muffin with grated carrot in it, or do they really believe that the most wholesome thing they eat on a daily basis is their breakfast muffin?

While we might be able to opt for a muffin containing grated carrot or blueberries, it’s not so easy to opt for one containing no flour, sugar, baking powder/soda, eggs, fat, and milk (not a proper muffin, anyway); these are the basic ingredients that make up the average muffin, as well as 430 calories and a total of 16 grams of fat (that’s what a blueberry muffin from Starbucks has, according to calorieking.com). Can you now see just how sharp this pretend sheep’s little teeth are…?

So if a Starbucks’ muffin has more calories and the same fat content as a McDonald’s McChicken Sandwich, why doesn’t it elicit the same raised eyebrows as the McChicken Sandwich does when eaten as a snack? In some ways it seems that the muffin has escaped the scrutiny of the healthy food brigade. And it shouldn’t have. The donut hasn’t; and yet an average-sized Dunkin’ Donuts’ glazed donut contains only 180 calories and 8 grams of fat (admittedly, half of that is trans fat, but then, as they say, if the cap fits…). But it does seem a little unfair that the donut is branded an unhealthy choice (or rather a suicidal one), when there’s little in it between the two in terms of their fat/carbs/protein make-up.

Where the donut might win out over the muffin as far as healthy eating -- or not so unhealthy eating -- is concerned, is in its size. Most commercially sold muffins are huge; donuts on the other hand tend not to be so big. So if you’re having just the one for breakfast or a snack, then you might be doing yourself a favor by making that one a donut. You at least know where you are with the donut: it isn’t masquerading as anything other than a push towards an early heart attack and obesity. It’s been outed for such a long time now it has nothing to hide behind. You could say it’s an honest food.

So the next time you’re waiting in line at your local coffee shop and suddenly remember you haven’t yet had breakfast, don’t be seduced into thinking that because the word muffin doesn’t have a C, A, K, or E in it then it’s healthy -- the word donut doesn’t either!

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