I admit it, I love a good PB and J sandwich and recently have been eating one most days of the week! According to a recent article from ESPN, so do many NBA players! Click here to read the original article! Now wait a minute, I know what some of you are thinking, PB and J can't be healthy right? White bread, processed sugar and fatty peanut butter? Wrong. How about unprocessed whole grain bread (Food for Life, the Breadery etc.), natural peanut butter (the kind with the healthy oils floating on top in a jar or just crushed peanuts from the health food store), with a natural preserve jam or jelly? I say, the right PB and J is a highly nutritious, power packed meal (add some non starchy veggies to round it out) to fuel your work day, workout, or weekend! Simple to prepare, easy to eat on the go, and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner (if you're into that kind of simplicity for dinner), and works great for travel! Ok, let's check it out what's in a healthy PB and J:
1. Whole grain bread- on average has 80 cal per slice (or 40 per slice for some low cal breads). Should have the following ingredients (one or more whole grains such as wheat, barley, oats etc.) yeast, a little salt (or not), water and that's about it! Check out the ingredients from this Flax bread from Food for Life. This bread adds some wheat gluten as well, but they do make gluten free breads as well.
2. Natural peanut butter- 1 tablespoon is 100 cal. A good sandwich has between 1-2 tbsp IMO. Ingredients should say, 'Peanuts,' and maybe 'salt' if you want it. Are peanuts healthy? You bet! A good source have healthy monounsaturated fats, a moderate amount of plant protein, and no cholesterol (plants don't products cholesterol).
3. Jam, preserve, jelly, fruit spread to name a few or a banana- To complete the meal, a fruit or fruit spread is needed. There are a large variety to choose from and average about 30-50 cal per tablespoon or about 50 cal for a 1/2 sliced banana. I'd say, one tablespoon or two max is about right for a spread, but everyone is different. I enjoy many varieties but Crofters is one that I like, among others. Check out the previous link and scroll down for the ingredients and nutrition facts. Some are concerned that jelly or jam is all table sugar which are 'added' sugars and not naturally occurring such as found in fruit. Not true for all. Some have more added sugars than others and some not at all. Unfortunately the nutrition facts label will not differentiate between 'naturally occurring' sugars found in fruit and 'added sugars' from processed table sugar. The label just says, 'sugars.' If you look at the ingredients listed, Crofters did not have 'sugar' listed, as it's sweetened with fruit and fruit juice, so that let's us know that no processed sugar was used in the spread. Another option is a PB and banana sandwich which isn't quite as sweet, but can work well in a pinch!
What's the final calorie count? 350 calories = 160 cal- 2 slices bread, 1.5 tbsp PB- 150 cal, 1 tbsp jam- 40 cal = 350 calories. Not too high or too low. If you need more calories, aim for 2 tbsp's of PB, or if less, aim for 1 tbsp PB.
All in all, PB and J with the right ingredients is a good source of healthy carbs for energy, protein, and healthy fats, all in moderation to provide the fuel you need to power your day!
Yours in great health!
Kevin Grodnitzky, MS, RDN, CDE, LDN Registered Dietitian Nutritionist