Growing up you probably ate them all the time. In fact, some kids ate them every single day for lunch during the school year. Some kids had just one. Others had two. It was rare to go a day at school without at least one kid in the class having one in his or her lunch bag (or box). We’re talking, of course, about the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich gets a lot of flack as being a “slacker” lunch but it is also inherently comforting to many of us, which is why we still eat them. These sandwiches take less than five minutes to make and there are some days, even as adults, that we crave that comforting and easy goodness.
When we were kids, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich usually meant white bread and preservative and weird ingredient laden peanut butter and jelly. It doesn’t have to be that way today.
Today, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, when paired with some fruit slices or a small salad and maybe a cookie for dessert (Mrs. Fields coupons can help make this more affordable) is a perfectly healthy and acceptable lunch—but for some reason people tend to forego it in favor of things that are more complicated or that seem healthier.
To be sure, if you use the same ingredients your parents used for you, it’s highly likely that you’re coating your kids’ insides with high fructose corn syrup and other unwanted ingredients and additives. If you want to make this simple sandwich as healthy (and tasty) as possible, here is what to do.
1. Use organic peanut butter.
Most grocery stores, particularly those that specialize in organic and additive free foods (like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc) there is a peanut butter dispenser where you can grind up the peanut butter right there, yourself. Use that! Or, better yet, learn how to make your own peanut butter (it isn’t as difficult as you might think). That way you can control the ingredients!
2. Choose high quality jelly or jam
Check out your local food co-ops and farmers markets for good, locally grown and preserved jellies and jams. These will taste better and you can make sure that they are made only with ingredients that you approve of. You can also learn to make jam yourself. In a pinch, you can substitute homemade fruit leather.
3. The bread is important
Whole grain bread is the best bread to include in your child’s lunch. Obviously if you know how to make your own you’ll feel better about its ingredients. If you don’t have time for that (what with making your own peanut butter and jelly), choose breads that are free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients, etc. Choose something made with whole grains or oats.
To make your kids sandwiches taste as good as possible, choose flavors of bread and jelly that complement each other. For example, for a sweeter fruit like strawberry, a honey and oat bread is probably best.
Now the hard part! Don’t eat your kids’ sandwich yourself before you send her (or him) off to school!