8 June 2022
Probably most of us have enjoyed more than a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our lives, and indeed passed the joy on to our children. Have you ever questioned the nutritional value? Here are some interesting pieces of information about the perennial favorite and some ideas about how to you can make it healthier.
Actually peanut butter is high in protein, vitamins, minerals (magnesium, zinc), and lots of healthy fats. This makes it a good choice for any age, but especially for children and seniors. The niacin and folic acid helps digest food, which is important at both ends of the age range.
It all depends on the type of bread you start with. White bread, with its highly processed elements and additives, may not be the best choice if you are trying to stay healthy. Whole grain, on the other hand, is the best choice. It is higher in protein and fiber which help you feel full longer and actually slow the absorption of the sugar.
Other choices can include Ezekiel bread for its digestibility and high Vitamins E and C. Sourdough is also okay with its lower glycemic index. Foods with lower glycemic index levels support overall health. Sourdough does not have the high fiber and protein as a whole grain.
Peanut butter is actually a good source of both proteins and healthy fats, as well as fiber. The majority of the fats in peanut butter are unsaturated, which may lower cholesterol. For kids, fats are necessary to absorb Vitamins A, D, E, and K, which help support immunity and brain health.
Compare labels and you might be surprised that traditional jarred peanut butter has about the same sugar level as natural peanut butter. As you are reading the label, be sure there are ingredients besides peanuts. There may be more salt in the traditional.
If you store your peanut butter upside down and in the fridge, you will find that it is less likely to separate the oil. If it does separate, just give it a good stir before spreading.
Just to clarify, jelly is made with fruit juice; jam is made with fruit juice and pulp; preserves start with whole fruit. Even without the addition of more sugar, all are pretty high in sweetness. If you check out the ingredients on store labels look for glucose, sucrose, dextrose and fructose.
The average peanut butter and jelly sandwich has about 665 calories. Read the labels (again) and calculate your own version.
While PB&Js are not awful, they can be improved by using some swaps.
- Whole grain breads instead of white
- Natural peanut butters or alternatives like almond, sunflower seed, or pumpkin seed butters
- Preserves over jams over jellies. Find the ones with fewer added sugars or opt for the all-fruit versions.
- Add some slices of fresh fruit, like bananas or strawberries.
- Include some crunch like sunflower seeds or slivered almonds or some trail mix.
- Substitute local honey for the jelly.
- If you are feeling decadent, add a slice of cooked bacon.