Is Peanut Butter and Jelly Healthy (Is this healthy?)

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on cutting board

Is peanut butter and jelly healthy?

That question might not always be the best one to ask. Because answering it isn’t as simple as a yes or no. Context matters and what’s healthy for one person might not be for another.

Sure, we can all probably agree that certain foods are healthier than others. For example, vegetables are healthy but I’m also certain there are some wack-a-doo (I see you carnivore people) that may argue they are not.

Sometimes, when we only focus on “healthy,” we might miss out on important stuff. Like, if you eat all the right foods but are afraid to dine out with friends because you can’t get “healthy” enough options. Or if you eat something, “not healthy” and hate yourself for doing it moments later.

There are also a number of things that can influence how healthy we can eat.

  • where we live
  • our family dynamics
  • socio-economic status
  • sleep or lack thereof
  • our personal food pallet

Trying to be too healthy can actually make us not-so-healthy. Imagine if you only ate “healthy” food all day, every day. That might sound great but there’s a good chance you may be miserable. We need a mix of things to be truly healthy. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally… Is that a word?

So, instead of just asking if something is healthy, it may be better to ask this.

How was a feeling before this meal (starving, bored, tired, lonely, stressed, not hungry but thought I should eat, etc…)

Did I enjoy this meal?

Does this meal help me move closer to, further away, or neutral to my goals?

Is peanut butter and jelly healthy?

Yes.

No.

The answer doesn’t really matter.

Do you like peanut butter and jelly? If yes, it can be a part of a healthy diet.

If you don’t like peanut butter and jelly, cool. You don’t need to eat it to be healthy or not healthy.

Are you allergic to peanut butter? Um, definitely not the best choice.

Like most things in life, it falls on a nutritional spectrum. You can make peanut butter and jelly more or less healthy.

Is peanut butter and jelly good for weight loss?

Peanut butter jar, spoon, and drooling

Peanut butter and jelly are neither good for weight loss nor bad for weight loss.

Weight loss happens when you create a consistent calorie deficit over time. This means that peanut butter and jelly can fit into anyone’s weight loss diet.

If your body requires 2,000 calories to maintain its weight and you eat a 500-calorie peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day and eat 1,000 calories of other foods that would be 1,500 calories. This 500-calorie deficit repeated over time should lead to weight loss.

If your body requires 2,000 calories to maintain its weight and you eat a 500-calorie peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day and eat 2,000 calories of other foods that would be 2,500 calories. This 500-calorie surplus repeated over time should lead to weight gain.

If you like it and want to have a PB&J with your kids from time to time, cool. You should be good to go. If weight loss is your goal, learn more about how much of it you’re eating. Think about throwing that peanut butter and jelly on a food scale.

Is peanut butter and jelly a good snack?

If you like it, yes. If you don’t like it, no.

If it makes sense for your goals, then yes. If it doesn’t make sense for your goals, then no.

But let us dive a little deeper.

  • 2 tablespoons or 32 grams of peanut butter is around 190 calories with 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of fiber
  • 2 tablespoons or 32 grams of jelly is around 112 calories with 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein, and 30 grams of carbohydrate.
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread is around 162 calories with 2 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, 28 grams of carbohydrate, and 4 grams of fiber.

When measured properly you’re looking at a snack that provides you with roughly 464 calories, 18 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, 65 grams of carbohydrate, and 6 grams of fiber.

I’d love to see the protein a little higher but not a bad option at all. Depending on your goals and needs this snack may need to be adjusted.

And that’s what it most likely will always come down to. What are your goals?

If your goal is to have a better relationship with food and to stop overly restricting food groups then this could be a healthy option. If your goal is to lose body fat then this could also be a good option for you with portions adjusted based for individual needs.

How to make peanut butter and jelly a part of your diet.

Step 1: Choose a peanut butter and jelly you actually like

If you like natural or organic peanut butter, cool. Choose that one. If you like, Skippy. Cool, choose that one. We could argue back and forth until our faces turn blue if all-natural is healthier or not but I’d say it’s fairly insignificant. Because most of the clients I work with want to eat a little healthier and lose a little body fat it won’t matter much which one you choose.

The same goes for, Jelly. Choose the one you like. If you like sugar-free jelly or are trying to lose body fat and a sugar-free jelly is lower in calories it may make sense for you. But if you don’t like sugar-free jelly just use the regular kind. You can also fit regular jelly into a fat-loss diet.

Step 2: Choose a bread you like

If you want to do a little bit better here choose a bread that provides a few grams of fiber per slice. Personally, I like this one.

Step 3: Portions that make sense for your goals

We are notoriously bad at estimating portions (1)(2) and peanut butter may be the hardest food to estimate of all time. Ain’t nobody ever estimated 2 tablespoons of peanut butter correctly in their entire life? Use a food scale to help with this.

Adjust the amount of bread, peanut butter, and jelly you need to fit your calorie and protein needs for the day. Because a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is most likely going to be higher in fats and carbs and a little lower in protein you may have to adjust at other meals to get some extra protein in.

Step 4: Add some veggies on the side (or a little protein bump)

I totally get it. Chips go pretty damn well with any sandwich. If you want to do a little bit better add some veggies like like carrot sticks or sliced bell peppers. Or add some Greek yogurt to increase the protein content of the meal. Not on the sandwich though. That would be gross. Another idea would be a protein shake mixed in your favorite low-calorie liquid to increase the protein of the meal, and so you don’t choke on it.

Step 5: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack

PB&J for breakfast? Sounds good to me. Peanut butter and jelly for lunch? Ok ok. PB&J for dinner. I can get on board with that. Peanut butter and jelly snack? Giddy-up!

Peanut butter and jelly is acceptable to eat at any time of day. Adjust the portion sizes to help meet your calorie needs. Particularly if you’re using it as a snack.

Step 6: This is the peanut butter and jelly remix

Bored of peanut butter and jelly? I gotchu!

Almond butter and jelly. Cashew butter and jelly. Macadamia nut butter and jelly. Walnut butter and jelly. Grilled peanut butter and jelly. Use different types of jelly and bread as well.

Step 7: Don’t be about that life

I could probably eat peanut butter and jelly at every single meal and be content with my life. But I guess it’s a good idea to eat other kinds of food too. You know, in the name of health and all.

Keep your diet roster well-rounded with proteins, veggies, healthy fats, and all that good stuff. If you like PB&J like me sprinkle it in sometimes.

How do you eat peanut butter and jelly without bread?

Time to think beyond the loaf.

Option 1: The Dippables

Slice up crunchy veggies like carrots, celery, or bell peppers. Dive into that peanut butter and jelly mix like a champ. Dip and savor. Crunch and delight.

Option 2: The Parfait Play

Greek yogurt, meet PB&J. Layer them like a boss. Scoop a spoonful of peanut butter, add a dollop of Greek yogurt, then a drizzle of fruit spread. Repeat. It’s a parfait symphony of flavors and textures.

Option 3: The Smooth Operator

Blend it up. Toss your favorite fruits, a scoop of peanut butter, a splash of almond milk, and a touch of fruit spread into a blender. Voila – a PB&J smoothie that’s as smooth as your moves. Increase the protein content with a scoop of your favorite protein.

Option 4: The Open-Faced Adventure

Swap the bread for a sturdy base. Try rice cakes, whole-grain crackers, or even sweet potato rounds. Spread on the peanut butter, dab on the jelly, and you’ve got an open-faced masterpiece.

Option 5: The Fruit Fusion

Fruit and PB&J? Absolutely. Slice up an apple or a banana, spread on the peanut butter, and drop on the jelly-like a maestro. Sweet, crunchy, and a burst of deliciousness.

Option 6: The Nutty Twist

There’s a “that’s what she said joke in there somewhere but I will refrain from making it…

Peanut butter meets protein. Roll up some lean turkey or chicken slices with a smear of peanut butter and a hint of fruit spread. It’s a nutty, savory, and tangy delight.

Option 7: The Energy Bite

Make your own energy bites. Combine rolled oats, peanut butter, a touch of fruit spread, and a sprinkle of seeds or nuts. Shape into bite-sized wonders for a snack that’s both handy and delectable.

Option 8: The Overnight Oats

Stir peanut butter and fruit spread into your overnight oats. Let the flavors meld overnight. Wake up to a jar of peanut butter and jelly perfection that’s ready to fuel your day. For a bump in protein add a scoop of your favorite protein powder.

The PB&J, the possibilities are endless. Adjust portion sizes to make sense for your goals and you’ve got some winners.

Why healthy/best foods and unhealthy/worst food lists are dumb

I’d like to wrap up today’s article with a controversial opinion and explain my reasoning. 

One Size Does Not Fit All

What’s healthy food for one might not be for another. These lists oversimplify the complex relationship between our bodies and what we eat. Our nutritional requirements, digestive differences, personal preferences, and goals may suggest we eat more of some things and less of others. We may also have different socio-economic statuses, access to different types of foods, or ethnic traditions that ask us to eat certain things and avoid others.

Context Matters

Calling foods “best” or “worst.” “healthy” or “unhealthy” ignores the big picture. Imagine labeling a food as “worst” just because it has more calories. Maybe it’s packed with nutrients your body needs.

Learning how to eat a cookie without feeling guilt or shame may be something someone needs to work on. Labeling it as healthy or not healthy may not help much here.

Guilt Trip Central

I often feel healthy and unhealthy are good and bad in disguise.

Labeling foods as “bad” can turn into a negative spiral. I had pizza which is bad, therefore I am a bad person. Suddenly, you’re feeling like a diet criminal.

Creating a better relationship with all foods is important. A healthy relationship with food goes both ways. It’s not being overly positive about our body and food choices or body shaming ourselves and our food choices. 

It’s about taking advantage of meaningful opportunities with food, without getting food anxiety. You should be able to eat holiday cookies without freaking out. And be ok with ordering takeout because you were not in the mood to eat your prepped meal.

And it’s also being comfortable making choices based on your goals. You should be able to confidently diet, track calories, intermittently fast, and turn down treats or food gifts without feeling shame, guilt, or stress.

It’s being confident and comfortable with our choices around food and being honest about our goals and how we feel about our bodies. 

The Forbidden Fruit Syndrome

Telling yourself you can’t have a certain food? Hello, rebellion. Suddenly, that forbidden cookie jar’s looking awfully tempting. It’s like trying to stop a kid from touching a shiny red button – you just know they’ll push it.

However, this is a slippery slope. We all have those red-light foods. The ones that are harder for us to moderate than others. It may make sense that we don’t keep them in the house and possibly avoid them. While others we may have no problem moderating and eating portions that make sense for our goals.

It’s About the Big Picture

Focusing on single foods distracts from the big picture – how you nourish, move, and live day in and day out.

Well, that was the longest article about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of all time.

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Photo by Freddy G on Unsplash

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