Sandwiches like a classic peanut butter & jelly feel like comfort food for me as they bring back memories of fun school days or lazy Saturday afternoons.
The PB&J is still a convenient and inexpensive snack or lunch accompaniment that can pack a nutritional punch – when it’s made with quality ingredients. You’ve got protein and fiber plus some folic acid, which helps convert food to energy. A healthier PB&J has a fairly low glycemic index score (which indicates how quickly food affects blood sugar).
How do you pack more nutrition into your PB&J?
My favorite healthier PB&J these days is on dense wheat bread, sometimes subbing almond butter. I either skip the jelly or add bananas or a jam that’s made of only fruit.
- Use dense sprouted-wheat or sprouted-grain bread. I like Ezekiel or Dave’s Killer Bread. Expect that it will cost a little more than plain sandwich bread but, again, you’re packing in more nutrition.
- Most store-bought bread is usually processed, high in sugar, and high in simple carbohydrates – which can contribute to weight gain, heart disease, and other issues. And, a big problem with wheat is that we eat too much of it as part of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
- Characteristics to look for when you buy bread: sprouted grains, no sugars (including high fructose corn syrup), at least 2 grams of fiber per serving, stay away from ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- If you haven’t already done so, switch to PB with no additives. Or, mix it up by trying another kind of nut butter like almond, sunflower seed, or cashew.
- The healthiest peanut butter is one with the least amount of ingredients. Specifically, just peanuts and maybe a little salt. Many brands add other unnecessary (and unhealthy) ingredients. Even a popular brand name peanut butter that says “Natural” on the front has added sugar and oils. Read your labels.
- Wanna try to make your own? All you need is a blender and raw peanuts or other nuts. Here’s a recipe.
- Again, read your labels and look for jam that consists of fruit only.
- Or, skip the jelly jar and add thinly sliced bananas, whole blueberries or pomegranate. Ok. A favorite of mine is a more savory peanut butter and pickle sandwich.
- This recipe for the PBJ has an easy, healthier, homemade jelly component that includes strawberries and chia seeds.
In general, consider reflecting upon how much quality food you’re putting into your body. Subbing those empty calories (food that has no nutritional value) for simple, rich, nutritionally dense food is especially important as we age.
What empty calorie foods might you swap for nutritionally-dense ones?
How can I eat more nutrient dense foods? (American Heart Association)
Make every calorie count with nutrient dense foods (Mayo Clinic Health)
Characteristics to look for in a healthy bread