This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pb&j is a popular combination of ingredients. How healthy is pb&j and is it good for weight loss?
Important to note is that your selection of ingredients will have a big impact on how healthy your pb&j sandwich is. For each of the ingredients there are differences depending on which brand or kind of bread you choose.
Both the best and worst case scenarios will be discussed.
Important components of food for weight loss
Before the specifics of the best and worst case pb&j sandwiches can be discussed you need to know why certain components are important for weight loss. This way you understand why different pb&j’s have a different impact on weight loss.
Micronutrients in food
The first thing to look at is the amount of micronutrients in your potential weight loss food.
Micronutrients are a group of nutrients your body absolutely needs to survive and thrive. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. These are involved in basically every aspect of your health, including weight loss.
Sometimes food also contains other substances that can benefit weight loss like for example caffeine.
Fiber in food
Another very important factor for weight loss is the amount of fiber in your food.
Fiber has multiple benefits. First of all, it feeds your microbiome, the microbes that live in your intestines. The health of your microbiome influences your body’s health and weight. Feeding it well is usually not a bad idea.
Fiber also helps you feel less hungry without adding a lot of calories to your diet. Hunger and cravings can be a big pitfall for people trying to lose weight, so avoiding this is a big plus.
If you eat foods high in fiber you can reduce the time you spend craving for food.
Protein in food
Another part of food that can help you with your weight loss journey is the amount of protein in it. Protein is considered to be the most filling of the 3 macronutrients.
Eating enough protein will also help you prevent muscle loss. Since muscle helps you burn extra calories throughout the day this is a big plus for protein for weight loss.
Do keep in mind that overdoing it with protein isn’t good either.
Calories in food
Finally you also want to know how much energy, measured in calories, there are in food. Gaining weight happens because of absorbing more calories than you burn. Your body stores these excess calories for later use in the form of body fat.
To lose weight you need to get in a calorie deficit in one way or another. This involves absorbing less calories than you eat. One way to do this is eating less calories.
You do have to keep in mind that different calories have a different impact on your body. You need to look at the whole picture. A food high in calories can be good for weight loss if it has a lot of fiber and if the calories are the right kind.
Now you know this important information you can learn how each of the ingredients of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich does on these factors.
Peanut butter for weight loss
Unfortunately, most peanut butter brands also add all kinds of sugars, sweeteners, and vegetable oils to the mix. These will be bad for your weight loss efforts.
Best case peanut butter
If you buy the right kinds of peanut butter, or make it yourself you can expect these nutrient contents (1).
Micronutrients in good peanut butter
100 grams of peanut butter provides you with approximately:
- Manganese: 73% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Niacin: 67% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 45% of the DV
- Magnesium: 39% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 36% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 27% of the DV
- Copper: 24% of the DV
- Sodium: 19% of the DV
- Zinc: 19% of the DV
- Folate: 18% of the DV
And the list goes on. There are a lot of vitamins and minerals present in big amounts. If you combine peanut butter with a healthy diet it will be hard to even come close to certain micronutrient deficiencies.
Fiber in good peanut butter
Peanut butter contains around 8.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This is an enormous amount compared to most other foods. And this is a great thing for weight loss.
Protein in good peanut butter
Peanut butter contains about 25.8 grams of protein per 100 grams. To compare, this is more than the 25.4 grams per 100 grams in salmon (2). This makes peanut butter and peanuts in general a great source of plant-based protein.
Calories in good peanut butter
There are about 567 calories per 100 grams in peanut butter. 65.3 of these calories come from the carbohydrates (16.1 g per 100 grams of which 8.5 g fiber).
It’s possible to fit in peanut butter on a low carb diet.
The calories in the right kind of peanut butter are mainly from good sources but it’s still a decent amount. A small amount every day is okay but you need to make sure you don’t overdo it.
Worst case peanut butter
To find the worst-case peanut butter I compared some options for peanut butter in the USDA food database (3). It’s close to impossible to go over every peanut butter brand ever so the choice is just an example of how far it can go (4).
“Bad” peanut butters have a lot of added sugar, other sweeteners, and oils.
Micronutrients in bad peanut butter
There was no accurate information on the vitamins and minerals in this particular peanut butter. In theory this should not be too different per 100 grams compared to good peanut butter.
Fiber in bad peanut butter
This peanut butter brand contains around 6.2 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This is less than plain peanut butter but still a large amount compared to most other foods.
Protein in bad peanut butter
This peanut butter brand contains about 21.88 grams of protein per 100 grams. That’s about 20% less than plain peanut butter. A big decrease for such an important nutrient.
Calories in bad peanut butter
There are about 625 calories per 100 grams in this peanut butter. 112.5 of these calories come from the carbohydrates (28.13 g per 100 grams of which 6.2 g fiber).
The amount of calories is a lot higher and the composition of the calories is a lot worse.
Jelly for weight loss
The next ingredient of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich is jelly. Jelly is made by crushing fruits and heating it together with sugar and water. What’s left is a sugary spread.
It’s very hard to find a jelly brand that doesn’t add sugar. You can possibly make it yourself but that will take some work. Let’s say you use strawberry jelly for your pb&j sandwich.
Best case jelly
Let’s say you make your own strawberry jelly or you are able to find one without added sweeteners or sugar. It would take about 200 grams of strawberries to make 100 grams of strawberry jelly.
Micronutrients in good jelly
100 grams of good jelly provides you with approximately:
- Vitamin C: 196% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Manganese: 38% of the DV
- Folate: 12% of the DV
- Potassium: 8% of the DV
And some other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.
Fiber in good jelly
In theory, good strawberry jelly would contain around 4 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This is a decent amount of fiber compared to a lot of other foods.
Calories in good jelly
There are about 64 calories per 100 grams in the best-case scenario jelly. 54.4 of these calories come from the carbohydrates (14.4 g per 100 grams of which 4 g fiber).
In the healthiest possible strawberry jam there are not that many calories. You do have to keep in mind that these calories are from sugar so they are not very filling.
Worst case jelly
To find the worst-case jelly I compared some options for strawberry spreads and jams in the USDA food database (6). It’s close to impossible to go over every jelly brand ever so the choice is just an example of how far it can go (7).
Micronutrients in bad jelly
There was no accurate information on the vitamins and minerals in this particular jelly. It’s most likely very low.
Fiber in bad jelly
In the worst-case scenario, there isn’t any fiber left.
Calories in bad jelly
There are about 300 calories per 100 grams in this particular strawberry spread. All of these calories come from carbohydrates.
The amount of calories is a lot higher than the good jelly and the composition of the calories is a lot worse.
Bread for weight loss
The final ingredient of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the sandwich, bread. There are many different kinds of bread with many different nutrient compositions.
Best case bread
Ezekiel sprouted bread will be the example of a bread good for weight loss (8).
Micronutrients in good bread
100 grams of this brand of Ezekiel bread provides you with approximately:
- Manganese: 35% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Selenium: 25% of the DV
- Niacin: 15% of the DV
And a few other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.
Fiber in good bread
This kind of Ezekiel bread contains around 3 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This is medium compared to a lot of other whole foods.
Protein in good bread
This Ezekiel bread contains about 5 grams of protein per 100 grams. That’s not the biggest amount but a welcome addition anyway.
Calories in good bread
There are about 235 calories per 100 grams in this Ezekiel bread.
There are foods higher in calories but all things considered, this is a medium to big amount of calories compared to mode whole foods. Some of these are protein and fiber but it’s still not the most filling food out there.
Worst case bread
To find the worst-case white bread I compared some options for peanut butter in the USDA food database (9). It’s close to impossible to go over every kind of bread ever so the choice is just an example of how far it can go (10).
Micronutrients in bad bread
100 grams of this brand of bread provides you with approximately:
- Sodium: 20% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Iron: 6% of the DV
Fiber in bad bread
This peanut butter brand contains around 2.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This is less than the other bread but still decent.
Protein in bad bread
This bread contains about 7.89 grams of protein per 100 grams. Interestingly more than the other bread.
Calories in bad bread
There are about 289 calories per 100 grams in this peanut butter. 233 of these calories come from the carbohydrates (58 g per 100 grams of which 2.6 g fiber).
The amount of calories in this kind of bread is higher and the composition of the calories is worse.
Best-case vs worst-case pb&j sandwich
The ratio of the ingredients in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is about 2 slices of bread (2 x 34g), 30 grams peanut butter, and 15 grams of jelly.
Below you can find the nutrition info on the best-case and worst case pb&j. It’s possible to summarize the vitamins and minerals in 1 objective number.
|Nutrients per sandwich||Best-case pb&j||Worst-case pb&j|
|Calories||339.5 calories||429 calories|
|Protein||11.14 g||12 g|
|Fiber||5.2 g||3.6 g|
The ratio in your recipe and the choice of your ingredients matters but these are some general estimations of what you can find in your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Is a pb&j sandwich good for weight loss?
Even the healthiest version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not very good for weight loss compared to a lot of other foods. Even if you put in the effort to select the best ingredients a pb&j sandwich is not very healthy.
It’s true that there are worse choices but this sandwich is still high in calories and not that filling.
Like with all foods you can have some and still lose weight but if you want more results it’s better to stay away from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.