Monday, July 23, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Never underestimate the PB&J. When made with quality ingredients, it's a nutritious snack or meal for the kids. And you, too. Here are my rules when making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich:

1. Whole grain bread, wrap, etc.
2. Natural peanut butter
3. Organic real fruit spread

Whole grain bread is easy to come by and Jif or like brands are not natural peanut butter. They commonly contain sugar, molasses, hydrogenated vegetable oil, mono and diglycerides. Even the "Natural Jif" is not natural peanut butter. It contains sugar, palm oil and molasses. Pick one that contains just peanuts or just peanuts and salt. There is no need for anything else. You can read an earlier post about peanut butter here for a little more detail.

Now for the jelly/jam/preserves/fruit spread/conserve. Like peanut butter, they are not all created equal. Some are full of artificial ingredients, color and preservatives. Here are some examples:

Smucker's Strawberry Preserves:  Strawberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid.

Smucker's Simply Fruit Strawberry: Fruit Syrup, Strawberries, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Fruit Pectin, Red Grape Juice Concentrate Added for color, Natural Flavors.

Smucker's Low Sugar Strawberry: Strawberries, Sugar, Water*, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid, Locust Bean Gum*,  Potassium Sorbate Added As a Preservative, Calcium Chloride*, RED 40*.  *INGREDIENTS NOT IN REGULAR PRESERVES.

Market Pantry Strawberry Preserves: Strawberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid.

Trader Joe's Fresh Strawberry Preserves: Fresh Strawberries, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Pectin, Citric Acid

Dickenson's Strawberry Preserves: Strawberries, Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Pectin, Citric Acid

The ingredients in your jelly/jam/preserves/fruit spread/conserve should be as minimal as possible. Pectin and citric acid are common ingredients in store bought preserves, which is fine for me but so are artificial color, corn syrup and/or high fructose corn syrup, which are not fine for me. Look for preserves with a short ingredients list. Like:

Happy Girl Kitchen, Co Strawberry Jam: Organic Strawberries, Organic Cane Sugar

Santa Cruz Organic Fruit spread: Organic strawberries, organic sugar, fruit pectin, organic fruit and vegetable juice (color), citric acid

365 Organic Strawberry Conserve: Organic strawberries, organic cane sugar, natural fruit pectin, ascorbic acid, citric acid

In my experience you may or may not pay more for a better quality jelly. The prices seem to be comparable with the exception of the big brand organic spreads, they're terribly over priced. Trader Joe's, although not used as an example in the good list, has some affordable options (read the labels though to avoid the one/s with corn syrup) as well.

And, of course, if you or your children have a peanut allergy, seed or other nut butters make a yummy substitute for peanut butter. My favorite is Sunflower Seed Butter. So go ahead, make a PB&J for you and the kiddos, it's nutritious, affordable and fast!

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