First published in USA Today
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich dates back to a 1901 recipe. A PB&J can have 12 grams of protein, 18 grams of sugar and 390 calories. Experts say the sandwich can be part of a healthy meal, depending on how it's made.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches do it all. The sandwich has maintained its popularity for decades. It's spurred on the creation of products like Uncrustables, a circular, freezable version of the sandwich without – you guessed it – the crust.
According to "Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea," written by Andrew F. Smith, the first reference to the sandwich was a recipe written by a woman named Julia Davis Chandler in 1901.
Since then, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have maintained their place as an iconic part of many American school lunches. The protein-rich peanut butter makes it a parent go-to, and kids love the sweet taste of jelly.
But just how healthy is this American classic? We asked experts.
Let's talk nutrition
The three ingredient sandwich seems fairly straight forward, but great debate surrounds the PB&J. Crunchy peanut butter or smooth? Grape jelly or strawberry? Crust on or crust off?
Because of this, the exact nutritional details will depend on how you make your PB&J.
For argument's sake, let's breakdown the typical sandwich.
Two slices of white bread have about 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of sugar. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain about 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One tablespoon of grape jelly has 12 grams of sugar. In total, a run-of-the-mill PB&J has about 12 grams of protein and 18 grams of sugar, coming out to around 390 calories.
How to make your PB&J healthier
Making this signature snack better for you can happen with just a few substitutions, especially when it comes to the most sugary part.
"Healthy would be a small amount of a low sugar jelly or better yet not jelly at all but perhaps a banana instead," said Dr. Natalie Muth, a pediatrician, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Making smart choices when it comes to which bread is used is important, too.
Choosing a whole grain bread can contribute more protein and fiber.
As for the "PB," choosing a natural peanut butter is just as important as the amount you put on the sandwich.
And for those allergic to peanuts or other types of nuts, sunflower seed butter can be a healthy and safe alternative.