Peanut Butter and Jelly: Taste Bud Rejuvenation

An American classic, and definitely a kid favorite, it’s the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.  Perhaps our love for PB and J comes from it’s ease to whip up in a hungry hurry, it’s delicious salty and sweet flavor combination, or that it can be a good source of all three macronutrients; carbohydrate, protein and fat.

So how could something so wonderful, ever go so wrong? The magic is in the ingredients. Let’s examine a traditional homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich classic to show you what I mean.

Standard Recipe: 
Standard White Bread (2 Slices), Jif Creamy Peanut Butter (2 tbsp), Smucker’s Strawberry Jam (1 tbsp).

Nutrition Summary: This sandwich contains; 380 calories, 18 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein.


*This photo is almost identical in nutritional value and sugar to the standard american recipe above.

The Good from this Recipe: Other than providing some protein (and by opinion potentially tasting good), not much.

The Not-So-Good from this Recipe: White bread or enriched wheat bread lacks real nutritional value. Even bread that appears healthy, because it is fortified with vitamins and minerals, is misleading. The reason bread needs to be fortified is because it has been processed and stripped of it’s original nutritional value, therefore companies will add the nutrients back in to the bread.  Why not just leave the grains alone in their perfect original design? Generic brand peanut butter, although providing the bulk of protein in this meal, commonly contains added sugars as well as hydrogenated oils (Trans Fats) which are horrible for your overall health. Fruit jam can contain added sugars as well and commonly in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is not easily metabolized by the liver and negatively affects the body’s overall ability to function. Overall this meal contains 18 grams of sugar which is equal to 5 cubes or packets of sugar!

A Healthier Recipe:
Dave’s Killer Bread (2 slices), Justin’s Natural Peanut Butter l Almond Butter (2 tbsp), Thinly sliced Organic apple, pear, banana or strawberries (whole fruit in place of jam).

Nutritional Summary: This sandwich contains; 430 calories, 16 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 17 gram so of protein.

The Good from this Recipe: So much! It tastes fantastic, is high in protein, fiber and overall vitamins and minerals.

The Bad from this Recipe: Although this recipe has more calories than it’s classic competitor, calories aren’t everything. Nutrition and ingredients are more important than calories, especially for kids and young adults who are still growing and developing. The protein, carbohydrates, fat and sugar from this healthier sandwich are all natural ingredients and sources. Which means your body and your hungry belly will thank you!

Not so sure this healthy sandwich will be a hit? Here are some common questions and concerns I hear.

“I am not sure if my kids will eat whole grain bread.” Whole grain bread may be quite sophisticated for children (and always be careful about added nuts and seeds). However, children when hungry will eat, and if they are continually offered a whole grain bread and especially if they see mom and dad enjoying whole grain bread, will in-turn grow to love and accept the hearty loaf.

“Natural Peanut Butter has a strange oil that rises to the top, that is a lot of work to stir.” Here is a quick tip. Let the jar sit upside down in the pantry for a few hours before stirring. The oil (which naturally rises to the top) will make its way to the bottom of the jar and when you flip over, the oil will be more easily dispersed throughout the jar, ready for a quick stir before spreading.

“My spouse and kids think natural nut butter tastes horrible!” Sadly, most American eaters are so used to food being pumped up with extra ingredients such as sugar, to enhance the sweetness, that we no longer appreciate or enjoy food in it’s natural form. Don’t give up! It takes 3 weeks to develop a new habit. Continue to offer natural nut butter to your family and yourself, and you will soon grow to enjoy it, and the generic sugar and fake-fat-laden brand you use to cherish, will no longer taste appealing. I’ve seen this scenario play out dozen’s and dozen’s of times with my nutrition coaching clients, and they all eventually come around and fall in love with the real deal.

1.2.3. Make it fun!

  1. Grill it! Grilled PB & J is delicious! Spread 1 tsp of coconut butter on the outside of each peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then cook on stove top pan on low-medium heat, until crisp and melted. It’s like grilled cheese sandwich, but better!
  2. Fun Shapes! Use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes into your sandwich such as stars, hearts and circles. Check out these cute critter cutters from
  3. Mini Chef! Have your little one(s) help make their own sandwich! It may get messy but they will feel more ownership over their own meal and more likely to eat it. Encourage them to experiment with different fruits (thinly sliced by an adult) to add to their sandwich in place of jam. The farmer’s market is a great place to bring kids and let them pick out any fruit they want to take home for their own sandwich creation. Or bring a blanket to the farmers market and have a PB and J picnic!

For nutrition and health related questions please contact:

Megan Roosevelt, RD, LD at or visit

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