How to make a Healthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich!

peanut butter and jelly sandwich
by Beachbody

I’ll be honest. If I were stranded on a desert island and I could choose one food that I had to eat for the rest of my life, it would probably be peanut butter. Just, plain, old-fashioned peanut butter. I grew up eating it by the spoonful and sometimes I still do (just with a touch more moderation). The trouble is, peanut butter is calorically dense. One serving (2 Tbsp.) is about 188 calories and 16 grams of fat.

Combine your average peanut butter with jam or jelly, which is almost always made with insane amounts of sugar (I’ve made jam many times before and you would not believe how much sugar goes into it) or honey or high fructose corn syrup (avoid jam or jelly that contains HFCS at all costs) and you have something that resembles dessert. But, there are some ways to make it a touch healthier.

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Here are some tips for a healthier peanut butter sandwich:

Find a jelly or jam that is made with fruit juice instead of added sugar. One option is Polaner’s All Fruit spread. Careful, though, some of their other products contain HFCS. Also consider cutting up strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries and using those instead. They’ll add a delicious texture and more fruit flavor.
Use whole grain bread. Better still, use sprouted grain bread like Ezekiel.
Pick a nut butter that is minimally processed. It’s best if you grind your own at the store, but if you can’t, most major supermarkets sell natural nut butters that feature just the nut (sometimes just the nut and salt – sea salt is best if you can find one flavored with it).

Skeptical about all-natural peanut butters, especially that business about having to stir it? Here’s a trick I use: I stir it once when I first open it using a butter knife, and then I stick it in the fridge. That seems to prevent it from separating.

Another way to think about peanut butter sandwiches – other than dessert – is to use them as fuel if you’re training for something really intense – like a marathon or a triathlon or a century bike ride. Nutrition Expert Denis Faye explains: “Technically, it’s the carbs that you need, not the fat. A little bit of protein (from the nuts and the bread) is good because there’s research showing a little protein in a hard workout promotes recovery. It’s dense fuel and if you’re working out for 6+ hours, you’ll digest it and use it eventually. As for timing, I’d say starting between one and two hours into your ride/run, I’d take in 100-200 calories every 30 minutes. So make a thick sandwich and cut it into quarters. Salted NB is good here. You need the sodium. Avoid eating it before a big exertion like a hill climb. It’ll slow you down.”

Here are some of the rest of the team’s favorite nut butters:
Basically, the closer you get to ‘nothing but crushed nuts’ the healthier the product. A little salt is okay. If you can find a NB with sea salt, that’s a better choice. Personally, I use almond butter because almonds are an amazing nut. My go-to PBJ, which I only ever eat when I’m riding in excess of 50 miles, would be almond butter (no sugar, yes salt), raw, local honey or peach preserves my parents send me from Georgia, on sprouted whole grain bread. – Denis Faye

Trade Joes almond butter. The only ingredients are almonds and sea salt. It’s pretty tasty. – Wynne Nord

I add chiaseeds to both almond and peanut butter, and there’s a brand out now that does this for you, so I guess that one counts (although they also have a chocolate version that is nothing short of dessert). – Steve Edwards

I like the grind-your-own nut butter bar at my local Whole Foods, and I choose raw unsalted almonds or cashews. Trader Joe’s makes one with Spanish peanuts and flax seeds, or I get their sunflower seed butter (though that one has added sugar). – Kirsten Morningstar

My current favorite is Big Spoon Roasters’ Peanut Pecan Butter. Ingredients: Peanuts, pecans, wildflower honey, and sea salt. It’s also expensive ($9/jar), so that helps keep me from devouring it in one sitting.

What nut butters and jams are your favorites?

Be sure to check out other healthy recipes right here and snack ideas!!

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