How I Stopped Eating Maple Syrup Like It Was My Job

Something crazy happened to me when I started studying nutrition: I stopped slathering maple syrup on my pancakes. As I learned about how our bodies metabolize sugar, the perils of sugar addiction, and how high-sugar diets correlate with obesity, diabetes, and possibly cancer, I began cutting sugar out of my diet. I poured my cherished Vermont-harvested ambrosia down the drain (and saved the maple-leaf-shaped bottles for crafts I’ll never actually do, obviously) and eschewed deceptive, “healthy” alternatives like maple-flavored agave nectar and imitation syrup. In light of the stunning scientific support of sugar as a delicious harbinger of slow-death-by-metabolic-syndrome, I considered my scorched-earth approach measured, rational, and informed. In reality, my Spartan low-sugar diet both compromised my sanity and alienated everyone around me who dared sample my experimental baked goods. I credit no shortage of anti-Big-Sugar proselytizing and an exceptionally disgusting batch of sugar-free cupcakes with my family’s enduring skepticism regarding my attempts at “healthy cooking”. Sad, naked pancakes were among the most noticeable consequences of my pledge to cut back on the sweet stuff. But everything changed that fateful morning I tried topping pancakes with peanut butter.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Peanut butter on pancakes is the best thing since Julia Louis-Dreyfus in VEEP Season 4. It’s best spread when the cakes are hot off the griddle, so it gets all melty, which in my opinion is the only acceptable consistency for pancake toppings. I don’t even miss maple syrup anymore. I find this works best with chocolate chip pancakes, unless you are a heretic like my father, who hates both the chocolate-peanut butter combination and eating peanut butter in the morning. I clearly dodged a genetic bullet there.

But wait, you’re thinking. You add chocolate chips and peanut butter to your pancakes in lieu of syrup? Isn’t peanut butter pretty high in calories, just like syrup? Doesn’t chocolate have quite a bit of sugar in it? Weren’t you just talking about reducing your sugar intake???

Um, yes, chocolate has sugar in it, but if you eat it sparingly, as in don’t add fistfuls (including tiny Trump-sized fistfuls, sorry) of chocolate chips to your pancakes, you’ll find that you’re consuming far less sugar than you would if you ate plain old pancakes with maple syrup. Also, a couple of years ago, I had a Lisa Simpson-esque realization that you can’t in fact, win friends with a no-sugar lifestyle and have since cooled it with the manic sugar avoidance. And yes, peanut butter is calorically dense, but it packs a ton of nutritional benefits. These include monounsaturated fats, protein, and potassium, whereas syrup is essentially sugar (as you’ll remember, roughly half of which is evil fructose) and water--a veritable liver bomb.

But wait, you pause again. Doesn’t peanut butter have added sugar in it, too???

Yes! Brands like Skippy and Jif and even our beloved HEB add sugar to nut butters during processing! Which not only foils our efforts to limit dietary sugar, it is also completely unnecessary, as peanuts taste great naked. So shop for peanut butter made without added sugar. The easiest/funnest way to buy no-sugar-added peanut butter is to make your own with those big grinders at the grocery store. It’s satisfying because using them makes you feel like a pioneer woman and also the peanut butter comes out of the machine in big grainy plops. Maybe that’s only funny to me. Oh well.

This recipe for Oatmeal Peanut Butter Pancakes provides a quick way to get a filling, healthy meal in to start your day, though I would be lying to you if I said I only ate them for breakfast. It uses oats instead of wheat flour, so it’s safe for gluten-free readers, and vegans can substitute the eggs with ground flaxseed.

Important final note!! If you’re allergic to peanut butter, never fear: almond and hazelnut butter are also great on pancakes. Just promise me you won’t buy Nutella. That stuff is just cleverly marketed cake frosting, not to mention a complete rip-off! Have you seen the way they taper Nutella jars these days??

Anyway, without further ado:

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Pancakes

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • ¼ tsp baking powder

  • 2 very ripe bananas

  • 2 eggs

  • To taste: cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

  • 2 tbs- ¼ cup milk (any kind of milk works. I use unsweetened soy)

  • Coconut oil

  • Peanut butter

  • Optional: blueberries, chocolate chips, other chopped fruit

Preparation

  1. Put the oats in a blender and blend until you get a flour-like consistency. It’s okay if there are some bigger chunks.

  2. Add the baking powder, bananas, eggs, and spices and blend until combined.

  3. Add the milk a little at a time and blend until the batter is thinned. If you like your pancake batter runny, add more.

  4. Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium and grease evenly with coconut oil or cooking spray.

  5. Pour about ¼ cup of batter per pancake and sprinkle in blueberries, chocolate chips, or other chopped fruit, if desired.

  6. Flip when the uncooked surface gets bubbly. Pancakes are done when both sides are browned. Or burnt, if you’re into that.

  7. Spread 1-2 tbs peanut butter on your stack and enjoy!
Molly Burkewellness, recipe