{Nourish} Build A Better PB & J

Build a Better PB & JThe Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich has been a long-time lunch staple for both kids and adults and this isn’t without reason. Inexpensive and easy to make, the PB&J is a well-balanced meal combining energizing carbohydrates from bread and jelly with satisfying protein, fiber and healthy fats from the nuts (or in the case of the peanut butter, legumes). Yet, this tried and true sandwich can easily land in the hall of shame if you are not mindful of the ingredients you use to build it. Here are my tips for creating a super healthy sandwich with recipes to boot!

{What’s in your nut butter} When is the last time you read the ingredient list on your nut butter? You may be surprised at what you find. If you think about it, your nut butter should contain only one ingredient, nuts! There is no need for all the other stuff like added sweeteners, hydrogenated fats and hard-to-pronounce additives and preservatives. Chose a brand that contains nuts and, well, that is all. Did you know it is really easy to make you own? Simply add a few handfuls of your favorite nut(s) to your food processor and give it a while. Don’t get discouraged–it takes almost 10 minutes for the nuts to become butter. After a few minutes they become powder like than they form into a dough-like ball. Keep scraping the sides as you go and be patient!

{Try this Chocolate Hazelnut Butter}

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{Choose fruit over sugar} The jelly/jam aisle can be very confusing—claims like “natural”, “organic”  and “no high-fructose corn syrup” can convince you to grab a seemingly healthy option but buyer beware—the ingredient list is the best place to look when deciding on a healthy choice. Avoid products that list sugar as the first ingredient which you will find happens often–even with organic varieties. Look for products that list fruit FIRST (the real thing, not fruit juice or concentrate) and are low in sugar or contain no sugar at all! Tait Farms, which is local to my Phildadelphia readers, makes an all fruit, low (or no) sugar preserve–plus, you can order on line.

Healthy Swap: mash fresh fruit onto your sandwich or use sliced apples, bananas or pears instead of jelly.

{Try this Strawberry Chia Jam}

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{Which bread is best?} Not all breads are created equal and that goes for the whole wheat/whole grain and organic varieties as well. Your best bet, buy freshly baked bread, have it sliced and freeze it. Freshly baked breads are often lacking in preservatives and additives that shelf-stable breads often contain. It is not natural for your bread to remain fresh on the counter for weeks. If you purchase a shelf-stable bread, read the ingredient list and choose a brand that boasts the basics—whole wheat flour (or another whole grain flour), water and yeast (maybe a few nuts or seeds). Avoid brands that use artificial flavors, colors, additives and preservatives. To ensure that your bread is actually whole grain, check out the fiber on the food label and choose a loaf with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Now that you have mastered the traditional PB & J, here are a few delicious variations to try:

  • Homemade Peanut Butter + Strawberry Chia Jam + Cinnamon
  • Almond butter + banana slices + raisins
  • Cashew butter +mashed fresh raspberries + hemp hearts
  • Tahini (sesame seed butter) + mashed wild blueberries + cardamom + honey
  • Sunflower seed butter + apple slices + unsweetened dried cherries
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Butter + Coconut Manna + banana slices
  • Walnut butter + fig slices (or dried figs) + honey

What is your favorite variation on the lunch staple?

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