Is My PB&J a Healthy Meal?

How healthy is your peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  This is a question that I think about almost everyday, as I tend to enjoy a PB&J almost everyday.  While most people think of the classic sandwich as a midday staple, I can enjoy one for breakfast or dinner just as much as I enjoy one for lunch.  Sometimes I’ll have one as a replacement for dessert or a midnight snack.  On days when I’m feeling especially lazy – or I just don’t have much food in the pantry – I’ll even eat two in a day!

Which leaves me wondering, am I fueling my body  with healthy goodness, or am I just filling up with sugar and carbs?  So i decided to do a little research, and here’s what I came up with.  Maybe this will help you decide if it’s time to reunite with your childhood favorite, the PB&J.

Just so we’re all on the same page, I’ll define my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I use regular store-bought peanut butter, grape jelly, and italian white bread – all from major labels.  Nothing fancy.  I don’t use organic, low-fat, low-sodium, or any other stipulation that could adversely affect the full richness of flavor I expect from my PB&J.  If I’m going to make it, I say full speed ahead!

There are, of course, myriad combinations of flavors, brands, and sodium, sugar, and fat reductions that are available, as well as endless choices of bread, but I keep my sandwich very straightforward, so this analysis will be similarly narrow-focused and not at all comprehensive.

A serving size of peanut butter is listed as two tablespoons on my plastic jar with the greenish-blue cap.  While that’s rich in fat, it’s mostly unsaturated fat, which is the good kind, and zero trans fat (which we all learned from Mayor Bloomberg is bad, right?).  It has 150 milligrams of sodium, which accounts for six percent of your recommended daily allowance (not terrible), it’s low in sugar, and has decent amounts of both fiber and protein.

A serving size of my grape jelly is one tablespoon.  This is where I steer off the healthy path.  In my full-sugar, name brand grape jelly, the only nutrional value is 13 grams of sugar, probably due to the ingredient list being dominated by corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.  Luckily, ingredient numero uno is grapes, so that’s something, right?

As for my bread, the only thing it’s high in is sodium, at a whopping 240 milligrams per two slice serving.  That sodium intake makes up ten percent of my RDA, and when combined with my PB, that’s 16 percent of my recommended daily intake of sodium, all in one sandwich.  Yikes!

So I have some thinking to do about my old standby any-time-of-the-day meal.  On the one hand, I’m getting some good fats, some protein, and vitamins from my peanut butter, my jelly and bread choices aren’t adding much value for me.  I think I can throttle back from full speed ahead a couple notches until I find a healthier, yet just as satisfying, grape jelly and bread.


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