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A Healthy Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

By ShandyTorain, RD

Peanut butter and jelly may remind you of your school days or it may be a part of your current eating regimen. You've probably wondered whether this childhood favorite can be a part of a healthy diet as an adult. If you choose wisely, peanut butter and jelly can be a nutritious and enjoyable part of your dietary habits.

Peanut Butter Options on the Market

According to Roberta Larson Duyff, author of "Complete Food and Nutrition Guide," peanut butter is simply made by roasting peanuts and grinding them into a paste according to the desired consistency. Different manufacturers sell peanut butter in several varieties: chunky, crunchy, smooth, no-added salt, natural or organic. Ingredients may be added during the manufacturing process such as sugar, hydrogenated oils and salt, based on the label and brand. These additives can assist in the stabilization of the product, prevent oil from separating and add flavor.

Choosing the Right Peanut Butter

Sugar and hydrogenated oils are commonly added during manufacturing to help make peanut butter solidify at room temperature. Because of this, there are specific types of healthier peanut butters to choose that do not contain these ingredients. Consider choosing "natural" peanut butters. According to L. Kathleen Mahan and Sylvia Escott-Stump, authors of "Krause's Food and Nutrition Therapy," hydrogenated fats are also known as trans-fatty acids and they can have a negative effect on human health. Clinical studies suggest that higher intakes of trans-fatty acids are associated with increased risk for chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease and cancer, Mahan and Escott-Stump state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends limiting intake of trans-fatty acids and saturated fats to as little as possible and limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories. Therefore, it may not be a problem to have the occasional--as in once or twice a month--serving of peanut butter containing partially hydrogenated fat and added sugar. As a regular peanut butter consumer, it can benefit you to learn to properly read the labels to avoid unhealthy ingredients. Ingredients to be wary of are partially hydrogenated palm oil, sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Nutrient Information on Peanut Butter

Two tablespoons of peanut butter supplies about 190 calories, 16 g of fat, 6 g of carbohydrates and 8 g of protein, according to the "Complete Food and Nutrition Guide." Peanut butter is a good source of niacin, manganese and vitamin E, and it contains the types of fat that are good for the heart such as monounsaturated and omega-3 fats. Peanut butter is not a complete protein because it is not from an animal source. If combined with another food group such as grains, however, its protein can be better used within the body.

Jelly: Facts, Figures and Solutions

Jelly is the perfect compliment to peanut butter because it adds the right amount sweetness. Most jellies, jams and preserves may contain up to 3 tsp. of sugar per serving. The best ways to make a healthier choice for preserves is to choose those that are made from 100 percent fruit, labeled as reduced sugar and to measure out how much you are using. A product with 100 percent fruit preserves has a slightly sweeter taste and provides fewer grams of sugar than regular preserves. Reduced-sugar preserves are made with artificial sweeteners and often have the lowest grams of sugar per serving. A tablespoon of the average regular jelly contains about 80 calories and 12 g of sugar. There are 4 g of sugar per teaspoon of jelly. The average 100 percent fruit jelly provides 40 calories and only 8 g of sugar per tablespoon, the difference being that this type of sugar comes from the fruit itself.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: Best Combinations

The ultimate combination of peanut butter and jelly is in a sandwich. A great way to make a sandwich healthier is to use whole-grain bread such as whole-wheat bread. Pay careful attention to labels because a package of bread may state that it is multigrain, but it not be whole grain. To find the best bread, look for one in which the first ingredient on the label reads "100 percent whole-grain flour." Sprouted grain breads are also on the market, which are flourless and are even less-refined than regular bread. Another option is to put peanut butter and jelly on whole-grain crackers. Healthy recipe versions such as peanut butter and jelly muffins and cookies are also available to experiment with.

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