Remember the days when you were a kid and mom made you a PB & J? Even as an adult, I find myself craving a good old fashioned peanut butter and jam sandwich! Many parents still do send their kids off with the old standard in their lunch box (unless the school has a peanut allergy ban), but I’m here to tell you to beware that the PB & J of today may not be what it used to be! (but we can turn back the clock!)
Let’s look at a PB & J using current average ingredients that most people would buy without a second thought.
Constructing the sandwich using white bread, ‘normal’ peanut butter and ‘average’ jam.
Starting with the white bread – we find no real nutritional value; the flour has had all of the good ingredients removed, and then some cheap vitamins put back in.
Most white breads list sugar as the second ingredient after white flour and water, and also include soybean oil, which is looking more and more to be a bad nutritional choice. Next, we examine the peanut butter looking at your average smooth or creamy variety.
Most commercial brands have the first ingredients as peanuts, sugar, lard and icing sugar.
The lard makes the peanut butter spread easier and adds a ton of saturated fat. Finally, we look at today’s average strawberry jam which has ingredients as strawberries and then four different kinds of refined sugars.
This makes the average 2000s PB & J sandwich with 350 calories, most of which come from the 28 grams of sugar (about the same as a milk chocolate bar) and the saturated fat.
There is very little fibre and only 14 grams of protein. This will leave you or your child with a massive sugar spike and feeling hungry right after lunch, because the sandwich didn’t provide solid nutrition to stabilize blood sugar.
There is good news however! We can go back to a better PB & J like mom or grandma used to make, back when ingredients were homemade, or less full of junk food. All it takes is a little label reading. We can even look into the future and improve it!
Start by using sprouted grain bread with good ingredients and if sugar is present, make sure it is way down the list (ingredients are listed in order of most to least).
Buy real peanut butter, the kind with the oil on top and one ingredient: peanuts.
Yes, you will want to take the peanut butter home and turn it upside down on the counter for a few hours, then open it up and use a butter knife to stir it.
Then you must store it in the refrigerator (REAL food is worth the effort and so are your kids!) Finally, we need naturally sweetened fruit preserves or even homemade fruit preserves (it’s not that hard!)
By taking these steps, we can save the PB & J from the realm of junk food! A sandwich like this can even help stabilize blood sugar and provide great nutrition while being a tasty favourite! The best of both worlds!
Two slices sprouted grain bread (Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery is available easily around here).
Two tbsp. natural peanut butter (read the label – look for one ingredient: peanuts. nothing else except maybe salt).
Two tbsp. natural fruit spread (no added refined sugar or corn syrup – look for organic cane juice instead). Your best bet here is to find some Pomona’s Universal Pectin and follow the simple recipe to make your own low-sugar jam.
Nutritional analysis: calories: 440; sugar: nine grams; protein: 22 grams.
Now we’re talking! We added 100 healthy calories, dropped the lard and the sugars and increased the healthy protein! Now this is a sandwich we can all live by!
Looking in to the future and my fitness brain, we have a little recipe I made up a few years ago.
1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese
1 tbsp. natural, no-sugar peanut butter
1 tbsp. sugar-free jam
Blend in a Magic Bullet or food processor for a creamy amazing spread! It will keep in the fridge for a week too! You can spread it on sprouted grain bread, or corn or rice crackers. (285 cals. 19.5g prot. 27 carbs. 9 fat).
Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.