Peanut Butter Kid - ©

Fun With Food: Nifty Ways To Upgrade Your PB&Js!

The PB&J. An indisputable a classic. And it’s only fallen out of favour among young families lately because snooty nutritionists and dieticians have labelled it nutritionally ‘thin’. But I have some suggestions to boost its appeal and nutritional value….

Decadent PB and J - © simplyunbeetable.comA decadent, stacked PB&J hot off the grill!

Yes. I have to agree with the professionals that the traditional Peanut Butter and Jam/Jelly sandwich has a lot to answer for in terms of ‘nutrient density’. ‘Nutrient-dense’ is what they label optimal foods to include in your diet: “Nutrient-rich (or nutrient-dense) foods are low in sugar, sodium, starches, and bad fats,” explains. “They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and [relatively] few calories. Your body needs vitamins and minerals, known as micronutrients. They nourish your body and help keep you healthy. They can reduce your risk for chronic diseases. Getting them through food [rather than supplements] ensures your body can absorb them properly.”

Nutrient-dense foods include, “fruits and vegetables […] lean meats, fish, whole grains, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds.” True, Peanut Butter is made from Peanuts, and Jam is made from fruit. But the key word in any discussion of nutrition is ‘variety’.

The problem

…Is that your basic PB&J is just PB and J on plain white sliced bread is a nutritional disaster, at first glance. The bread alone is enough for some folks to disqualify the classic PB&J from consideration. Both PB and J contain a lot of sugar. PB also includes a fair amount of salt.

On the up side, Good PB contains mainly Peanut Oil, which is a healthy, non-saturated fat. On the down side, cheap PB probably contains cheap, saturated fat. Bad, Bad, Bad. Bad enough to cancel out any goodness you might get from the peanuts themselves.


A Toronto Star article from 2021 reveals that a peanut butter sandwich may be better for you than you thought.

“[R]esearchers at the University of Michigan crunched the numbers on 5,800 common foods to see which were healthiest and promised to extend our lifespan, and which ones were the least healthy and threatened to snatch minutes away from us. And, in terms of nutritional value, the hotdog placed dead last. For every one we eat, we risk losing 36 minutes of ‘healthy’ life. And, if a little over a half-hour doesn’t seem like much time to lose, consider that 40 hotdogs could cost you a full day.

On the other hand, the Michigan U. Team discovered that a lowly peanut Butter Sandwich could, “gift us an extra half-hour.”

PB&J sammy facts…

The New York News reported on a poll by Peter Pan Peanut Butter which revealed:

  • The average American, “will devour a whopping 2,984 PB&J sandwiches in their lifetime — that stacks up […] taller than the iconic Statue of Liberty.
  • The average adult eats three PB&J sammys a month.
  • Nearly half of all Americans eat PB&J regularly.
  • The average American consumes their first PB&J sandwich at age 4.
  • 53 percent of those polled said they prefer a 50/50 ratio of PB to J.
  • 59 percent prefer creamy over crunchy.
  • Grape is by far the preferred Jelly for PB&Js.

National Peanut Butter Day is January 24.


I have sourced and concocted some recipes that I think elevate the classic PB&J to new esthetic and (in some cases) nutritional heights.

I preface the list with admonition that the healthiest ones swap out the jelly/jam for something else…

PB&J French Toast

Do you really need instructions for this one?

Grilled PB&J

Again, do you really need instructions?

Peanut Butter & Lettuce

Healthier than PB&J, maybe, but still troubled by the presence of saturated fats. This was my high school go-to for a late night snack, or to accompany an ice cold beer. Toasted whole wheat bread (or other whole grain bread; light rye is fabulous!), butter (in both inner surfaces), peanut butter on one slice and and a fair amount of cold, crisp Iceberg Lettuce on the other. Compounded crunchiness, and great flavour. If you ever tried peanut butter on celery, you’ll have some vague idea of the delight this sammy portends. Lettuce is 10 times better a partner for PB than celery, and the whole grain bread rounds out the whole meatless, yet umami experience.

Peanut Butter & Pickles

Lightly toast the bread. Lightly coat the inner surface of each slice with PB. Spread out Sweet Bread & Butter Pickle rounds over one side and place the other slicde, PB side down, to close. Even if it sounds crazy, you owe it to yourself to try this one at last once.

You might also like to try PB with sliced olives…

Peanut Butter & Cheddar Cheese

Just peanut butter covered with shredded Cheddar Cheese. A great, though u8nexpected flavour combo. No so bad for you, especially if you use healthy bread. You can stick it under the broiler for a moment to melt the cheese. The PB will sink into the air holes in the bread. That effect will be amplified if you lightly toast the bread first.

Peanut Butter, Bananas & Bacon

Otherwise known as ‘The Elvis’. This is an open-faced version, built on crispy-crusted Italian or French bread (not a Baguette). Layer peanut butter, thin banana coins and crumbled crispy bacon top. Just enjoy once a month or so, and don’t even think of the nutritional profile.

Peanut Butter, Nutella & Rice Crispies

Another open-faced one… Toasted whole grain bread – Light Rye preferred – peanut butter, and then Nutella on top of that. Sprinkle with enough Rice Crispies to cover in a single layer.You don’t need a lot of either spread to get max enjoyment of this sammy. A really bad one nutritionally, but a great one esthetically. Once in a while won’t hurt…

Peanut Butter, Apple & Raisins

Apple and peanut are classic flavour pals. The raisins add some irresistable umami. Sprinkle a little Cinnamon on top.

Try peanut butter with fresh seasonal fruits such as strawberriers, bluberries, peaches and plums.

Peanut Butter & Pulled Pork with Sweet & Hot Peppers

Surprisingly healthy. More so if you ditch the Pork and go vegetarian. You can add pickled Jalapeños to taste for the hot pepper component, if you like. Otherwise, sprinkle with a little of your favourite Chili Powder blend.

Now, go forth and sandwichfy!

Later this week, I’ll bring you a list of peanut dishes from around the globe that have nothing to do with Grape Jelly, whatsoever…

~ Maggie J.