Reinventing the PB&J!

by Jennifer Boudreau on October 17, 2013

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Healthy childs lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwichThe peanut butter and jelly sandwich – it is a childhood classic and oh so yummy! If done right it can be packed full of protein, whole grains and fiber. On the flip side, it can be full of refined flours and sugars along with a variety of pesky chemicals. With that being said, I decided to show you how to reinvent your PB&J so your kiddos get the most nutritional bang for their buck!



You want to avoid breads where enriched flour, AKA “white flour”, is listed. The label may be sneaky and say “enriched unbleached flour.” Still run. Both are simply refined flours where the nutrients are stripped out during processing and then re-added…thus the word “enriched”.  Despite being enriched, enriched flours are still far from being healthy. Here is just a few examples of why you should avoid enriched flours:

  • A variety of chemicals are used during the refining process
  • Refined carbohydrates cannot be utilized by your body
  • Provides little or no fiber
  • Digests more quickly causing blood sugar spikes

Breads made with refined flours make you eat more and make you feel hungry more often. As a bonus, you are getting fewer nutrients and are at higher risk for diabetes. I’ll pass…I never even bake with this stuff anymore.

When choosing a bread, look for the word “whole” in the ingredient list. To be specific, you are looking for the word “whole” in relationship to the grain. As an example, look for breads where the world “whole wheat” or “whole grain” is listed as the FIRST ingredient. Even certain organic breads don’t use a “whole” grain! Don’t let the organic label fool you! Beware…you will also find breads where “whole wheat” or “whole grain” is listed first, then “enriched flour” is listed second. I would personally put it back on the shelf if that is the case.

Why whole grains? Whole grains have not been refined and all the nutrients are still in place as they were in nature. It is plain and simple. You get fiber without the blood sugar spikes too!

Your best option is to find a local bakery that makes fresh, whole grain bread without a bunch of extra ingredients. I will be honest, we have not done that yet and I am fully aware most people are not willing to either. Another great option is to try Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 bread, which is made with sprouted grains and has no added sugar. We are working on getting our kids to switch over to Ezekiel bread, but until then, we buy a brand called Simple Truth Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread. This is the label of the brand we buy.

Our Bread-Label

I think this bread is pretty good for a grocery store brand, and it’s kid approved. After all, when it comes to PB&Js, it’s all about the kids!

Peanut Butter

When shopping for peanut butter, there is one simple ingredient to look for, and that ingredient is “peanuts.” You may see a little bit of salt added, and we personally do not get too worked up over that. Unfortunately, sugar is often times added and sugar is one ingredient we do try to avoid in our peanut butter.

Now, let’s take a look at this label of Jif peanut butter…


First of all, it contains sugar. In addition, it has molasses and fully hydrogenated vegetable oil. Fully hydrogenated vegetable oil is a saturated fat and better than partially hydrogenated oil which is a  trans-fat, but that is not where my concern lies. There is a sneaky, sneaky ingredient lurking in here called “mono and diglycerides.” Mono and diglycerides are manufactured just like partially hydrogenated oils and contain dangerous trans-fat, but are not required to be listed as a trans-fat on the label. Say what?  You may need to re-read that sentence. My head starts spinning when we start talking about saturated fats and trans-fat, so I’ll move on. Bottom line – mono and diglycerides are bad, so avoid them…especially if you have to watch your cholesterol!

The extra ingredients are unnecessary. I recently did a post on peanut butter and I will admit, we have since made some changes based on the research I did.  Peanuts are one of the most highly sprayed crops, meaning they are heavily treated with pesticides. Come to find out, their shells are very porous and easily allow the pesticides to penetrate the shell. So, we have decided to make the switch to organic peanut butter. This is my new favorite, Santa Cruz Organic. The best part is, it only has one ingredient….peanuts! I picked this up at Kroger in the Natures Market Section.

Peanut Butter Santa Cruz


This is the toughest ingredient to find a healthy option for. I guess the best option is to make your own and can it, but there is a very strong chance you will never find me doing that. I have read that “preserves” are usually the healthier option than “jelly”, but our kids don’t like the big chunks. Who can blame them? I’m age 36 and I don’t like huge chunks of fruit in my jelly either.

So, once again I went out to find the best option that was kid friendly and available at our local grocery store. Since berries are another heavily treated crop and our oldest son eats jelly on his sandwich everyday, I want to buy organic. I also avoid jelly where the controversial artificial sweetener sucralose (AKA Splenda) is used. You will see this ingredient used a lot in “reduced sugar” jelly products.

I came across the Crofter’s Fruit Spread at Earth Fare and scanned it with the Fooducate app on my phone. It rated a B-, which is the highest rating issued for any jelly. It has 8 grams of sugar, which is not too bad. Also, don’t forget you can use raw honey in lieu of jelly. Our daughter loves honey on her sandwiches.

Jelly label

Gluten & Dairy Free Option

Our daughter can’t have gluten and can only have limited dairy. We often times make a batch of our Gluten Free/Dairy Free Pancakes, and use them instead of bread for her PB&J! Kids love pancakes and they taste great with peanut butter on them. Click here for the Gluten Free/Dairy Free Pancake recipe.

Nut and Peanut Free Option

I recently learned about a product called Sun Butter. The organic version has no sugar added, but the other versions do add sugar. This is a great option for anyone who has a nut or peanut allergy, or goes to a nut & peanut free school! I picked mine up at Earth Fare.

So, there you go! Hopefully you have a few nuggets of information to make some healthy changes to your PB&J!

Find me on Facebook and tell me if you like the changes.

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