I grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. They are fast, relatively inexpensive, don’t require refrigeration, and that combination of nutty, creamy, salt and sweet hits the spot.
Today, I had the taste for a PB&J lunch so, in line with my food philosophy, this is what was enjoyed.
I try to eat foods as close to the way God put them here – which means shying away from processed foods and ingredients. I also read labels – not for calorie, fat or carb counts – but for knowledge of what is in the food I am eating. If the ingredients list is a paragraph that sounds like a Chem 101 class – I pass. Fresh, simple ingredients create significantly more healthy and tasty plates.
Applying this to the PB&J lunch of my childhood yielded a PB&H Lunch with a few easy swaps. Natural peanut butter for conventional peanut butter and honey for jelly or jam. Here is why:
Peanut butter. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines peanut butter as a paste made by grinding roasted, skinned, and degermed peanuts. Straight forward and simple – right? But most regular jarred peanut butters contain much more. Additions include refined sugar (close to 1 tsp per serving), molasses, partially hydrogenated oil (i.e. trans fat), fully hydrogenated oil and salt. Here is a label from peanut butter market leader Jif.
These additions are good for the manufacturers, but not so good for my body. Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying from heart disease. Many regular peanut butter brands add close to 1 teaspoon of sugar in each 2 tablespoon serving – so not needed. Hydrogenated oils are man-made via chemical process for shelf-life and cost efficiency.20 years ago scientist began to discover how they negatively affect health and many medical experts recommend the ban of trans fats.
Instead, I choose and use natural peanut butter – ground roasted peanuts – that’s all. Natural nut butters can be easily made in in vitamix or picked up at grocers that allow you to grind your own. In my area, Whole Food Market and Rouses Market offer this option. I find the taste to be superior because the natural nuttiness is not covered with sugar. As the natural PB as no added salt, I sprinkle on a bit of sea salt (and sometimes cinnamon) after spreading it on the bread.
Jelly – Here is the label for a southern tradition Bama Grape Jam. Added to the grapes are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Other brands include sugar (sucrose – table sugar).
Table sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are all highly processed. There is much debate on if/how they affect health. About a year ago, after much study (and prayer because I have a wicked sweet tooth), I was lead to avoid refined sugars (and artificial sweeteners), opting for natural sugars instead. This commitment has been life changing! More in upcoming posts. Back to the sandwich – in this instance, I used honey. Aside from tasting amazing, honey has a long historical connection to medical benefits due to antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties – bonus. On this sandwich, a little bit goes a long way. The sticky liquid seeps down into the bread (yum) and it brings strong sweetness with light floral notes – (yum yum!). Quick safety note: Do not give honey to infants under the age of 18 months.
I also made two other quick swaps on this lunch.
High fiber whole wheat bread instead of white sandwich bread. (We gave up the Wonder years ago…)
A veggie slaw instead of chips on the side. Another base of my eating it to fill half my plate with fruits and/or veggies at each meal. A quick salad or slaw is an excellent choice. Right now I’m digging this cruciferous mix of shaved brussel sprouts, julienned broccoli stalks, chopped baby kale and swiss chard. This mix was tossed with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and a light poppy seed dressing.
It was a fast and delicious lunch. Truth be told, this PB&H sandwich doesn’t taste exactly like a PB&J sandwich – I think it tastes much better. The use of natural ingredients allow the flavors and textures of the base ingredients to come through.
Small changes can bring healthful (and delicious) results. Do you have any updated old standby meals?