Make a Healthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Whole grain bread for a healthier peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
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The typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich is made up of a couple of slices of white bread, a big blob of peanut butter and two or three spoonfuls of jelly. It’s maybe not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, but it’s really not all that bad. I mean, peanut butter is a good source of monounsaturated fats and minerals. The main problems are the overall high calorie count and the lack of fiber from plain old refined white bread.

But, with a couple of swaps you can enjoy a nutritious PB&J that won't wreck your diet.

Start With Bread That's a Whole Lot Better

Every sandwich starts with some kind of bread, including the PB&J. Standard store-bought white bread is made with refined flour, which means the wheat is stripped of its bran and germ before it's made into flour. Bread made with refined flour lasts longer than whole wheat bread and has that soft light texture so many people love, but white bread suffers a major loss of nutritional value due to refining because a lot of good things are removed in the process. Although some of the nutrients are added back in by ‘enriching’ the flour, it isn’t as good for you as bread made from whole-grain flours.

If you think about it, about all white bread does is hold the sandwich together and it really doesn’t have a lot of flavor of its own. If you swap out your old white bread for 100-percent whole grain bread you'll add a nice nutty flavor to your sandwich.

 

Most grocery stores carry several varieties of whole grain bread so you can opt for regular whole wheat bread, delicious spelt bread, or choose a loaf made with a flavorful mixture of whole grains including barley and oats. If you're not into gluten you can find some fine tasting high-fiber loaves made with interesting ingredients.

I know that some pickier eaters just don’t like whole grain bread of any kind, but that doesn't need to be an issue because you can buy white bread that is still whole grain bread. Whole grain white bread is made from a type of wheat that is lighter in color and has a milder flavor, and it’s just as healthy as ‘brown’ whole wheat flour.

Go Beyond Peanut Butter

Once you've picked out your bread, it's time to examine the peanut butter. All in all, peanut butter is a good wholesome product as long as you choose a brand that doesn’t have added sugar. After all, peanut butter is already delicious, so it doesn’t need any sugar. Style doesn't matter as far as nutrition, smooth or chunky peanut butter are the same, so pick whichever type you prefer. 

Another option is to use something like almond butter. There’s not much difference between the two nutritionally speaking, but almond butter has a pleasant flavor that goes well with whole grains. You can also find cashew or soy butter in most grocery stores.

Peanut and nut butter are nutritious, but also high in calories, so if you’re watching your weight, it’s important to keep an eye on your serving size. And if you've been told to avoid sodium, go for a brand that doesn't add any salt.

Jack Up Your Jelly

A typical store brand jar of jelly is made from fruit juice, sugar, and pectin. Nutritionally speaking, you’re mostly just getting calories from the added sugars, and there’s no fiber or anything else. It probably doesn't taste all that great either unless it's a high-end brand made.

What’s a better idea? Use reduced sugar jam instead of jelly. Preferably a healthy fruit spread made with just the fruit and no added sugar. The fruit spread is still deliciously sweet and not adding sugar helps cut the calories a bit and you even get one fiber. Actually, with a high quality fruit spread, you taste the fruit rather than goopy sugar.

You could skip the jelly altogether and add fresh or dried fruit to your sandwich. Of course it wouldn’t technically be a PB&J anymore, but a sliced banana is delicious with peanut butter, or you can top your sandwich with raisins or even thin apple slices.

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