Fresh takes on an old standby

My kindergartener used to eat lunch at school everyday, but because of the Coronavirus school closures, those days are gone. Now I find myself trying to come up with ideas to keep lunch interesting while still using what we’ve already got in the house. Because my son is also picky, this limits our options even more. I decided to get creative and brainstorm some ways to make one of his standby lunches – peanut butter and jelly – compelling again. Here’s a list of 15 ways to make peanut butter and jelly a unique meal option.

Peanut butter and jelly

The list: 15 ways to make peanut butter and jelly seem new again

1. Try different bread products.

This could be using bagels, English muffins, baguettes, bread thins, etc. Mini bagels or bagel thins are a more appropriate portion size for younger kids.

2. Try different types of bread.

Experiment with whole grain and multi-grain breads if you usually use white. Conversely, it’s okay to have white bread if you’re always having whole wheat. Other types of breads to try include cinnamon raisin, sourdough, or brioche.

3. Cut bread into different shapes with a knife or cookie cutters.

It’s funny how much more interesting this can make lunchtime. In our house, we sometimes cut the bread into rectangles to make the letter “M”, the first letter of my son’s name.

4. Get crazy and make PB&J out of French toast slices, waffles, pancakes, or even banana bread.

This is not just a lunch, it’s a sweet treat and a culinary adventure.

5. Use any one of a variety of crackers.

In our house we call them by their shape (e.g. “circle cracker”, “rectangle cracker”, etc.). Somehow switching to a different shape of cracker makes my son think this old food is new again.

6. Vary the flavor of jam or jelly.

If you usually use grape, try switching to strawberry. Or maybe try blueberry or raspberry. It’s a simple swap, but it really can make a difference.

7. Or switch up the type of nut butter you’re using

Besides peanut butter, you can try cashew butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or soy nut butter. These all have distinct flavors that will make a nut butter sandwich taste unique.

8. If you’ve got fresh fruit, use that instead.

Some ideas for this are strawberry or banana slices. Very thinly sliced apple looks beautiful and tastes great too.

9. Try dried fruit too.

Try dried cranberries, blueberries, or raisins drizzled with agave or honey.

10. Make your sandwich open-faced. (You can even add a smiley face with dried fruit.)

This works especially well with thicker bread items like bagels.

11. Swap the bread out for a fruit or vegetable.

Think: celery, carrots, or apples. You can either cut up the fruits/vegetables and have the peanut butter on the side, or make a sandwich using the fruit as the bread. Here’s a super-cute example from delish.

12. Use tortillas to make peanut butter and jelly “quesadillas” or pinwheels.

Just spread the peanut butter and jelly on the tortilla. Fold it in half to make a “quesadilla.” Or roll up the tortilla and cut it into thin strips to make pinwheels.

13. Or use flattened bread to make “taquitos” or pinwheels.

This is a great way to use up leftover bread heels. Just roll the bread slice flat with a rolling pin. Spread the peanut butter and jelly on the heel side, then roll it into a tube. You can either keep it as a tube for a PB&J “taquito”, or cut it into thin strips to make pinwheels.

14. Make peanut butter and jelly snack balls.

Here is a gluten-free, vegan, no-bake version of this recipe from the Minimalist Baker. I do recommend omitting the protein powder if you are serving this to children. This is also a great recipe to make with kids, since they will enjoy helping your roll up the balls.

15. Go for the whole foods version.

Pair shelled peanuts with fresh strawberries or grapes. Eat this with a side of whole wheat crackers, like this version from Wasa. These crispbreads have only 3 ingredients (whole grain rye flour, yeast, and salt), and those ingredients are all easy to identify and pronounce. Fair warning though, they have a heavy whole-grain taste, so they may not go over well with picky eaters.

I hope this has given you some ideas for freshening up your peanut butter and jelly offerings.

Want some more recipe ideas for the foods in your house? Click below!

Yours in good health,

Helena Ramadan, MS, RDN

While Helena is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), she is not providing Medical Nutrition Therapy on this website. Anything found here, including downloads and other content, should not be construed as medical advice. The information provided by her is general nutrition/health/fitness information, and is not individualized to your specific medical condition. Helena is not liable for any losses or damages related to any actions you take (or fail to take) as a result of the content presented herein. Please note that the information presented here is not intended to diagnosis or treat any health conditions. Talk to a qualified health professional, such as a doctor or a registered dietitian, about your specific health questions or concerns. 

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