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  • Writer's pictureSusie Csorsz Brown

Lunch options: PB&J deconstructed

I still firmly believe that homemade lunches are the best choice, even if it means we have to add task to the never-ending list of things that need to happen each weekday. My kids are now old enough to do this for themselves, but I still need to be responsible for getting the ingredients in the house in order for them to make it happen. Here's the thing: PB&J is a classic for a reason, and we all know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I mean, how many have we eaten in our lifetimes, right? Of COURSE we know how to make it. If you think about it, though, it really is just a formula, and if you fall into the make-lunch-everyday rut, you might forget that there are enough variables on this formula/sandwich that you can make it every day and no one will notice they are essentially getting the same thing over and over. Really!

Let’s look at it, layer by layer.

The bread:

You have your regular sliced options and a plethora of grain options. Pitas. Flat breads. Tortillas. Chapati. English muffins. Bagels. You can go high-brow with croissants. Try graham crackers or whole grain saltines. Rice or popcorn cakes. You can even use breadsticks and mix the smearables and accoutrements together for a dip. Whatever bread option you use, be sure to mix it up. My suggestions would be to try to go whole grain and/or higher fiber because fiber helps keep stomachs full longer. Trust me, your teachers will appreciate that. A hungry kid is an ornery kid.

Bonus points: toast the bread option before making the sandwich. Not only will this make the sandwich last longer (read: not get soggy), but it will also change the flavor of the bread, adding those nice toasty notes.


Friends, you can not go wrong here. You can try something simple like plain butter (yes, butter. I give my family the real stuff; I am a firm believer in being able to pronounce what goes into our food, as often as possible. God bless our innovation and ability to make oils solid, but if I can’t pronounce it, chances are my body isn’t going to know what to do with it). You can try cream cheese, or spreadable cheeses. Laughing Cow. Plain Jane peanut butter. Any sort of nut butter. Any sort of seed butter. Chocolate nut butter. (I’m a big fan of Justin’s spreads as they are lower in sugar than other options. There’s even a white chocolate option.) You can go savory with hummus, pate or spreadable savory cheeses. Feta. Goat cheese.

Try different options because chances are, your kids will like it. Okay, so it is possible that maybe they won’t, but you won’t know until you try, right? And they’ll be gone at school all day, so you won’t have to hear their wingeing for a few more hours. The thing to remember that this is not only the glue that holds the sandwich together - literally - and "waterproofs" the bread, this is also the source of the healthy fats that is going to keep your kiddos feeling full, and with energy throughout the day. Choose wisely.

Bonus points: spread really does help keep the other ingredients from water-logging the bread. Spread the fatty spread to the very edges of both bread pieces.


The world is your oyster. You have fresh fruits (bananas, strawberries, other berries, apples, pears, mango, etc.); dried fruit and berries and freeze dried crunchy fruit and berries.

You have veggies (especially things like carrots which can go either way, or on savory/meat/cheese spreads things like peppers, tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried), cucumbers, thin slices of celery, and leafy veggies like spinach and lettuce.

You have meat, cheese and even chips and pretzels. Just remember that it's good to have contrast between your smearable(s) and your accoutrements. So, for example, you have a sticky/sweet peanut butter, add in something tart like cranberries or dried cherries.

Some favorite combinations: peanut butter + bananas + dried cherries, cream cheese + dessicated coconut + dried mangoes, hummus + sun-dried tomatoes + shredded carrots, feta + sun-dried tomatoes + cucumbers ...

Have fun. Think outside the box. And if you opt for an old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly, do your best to use a hearty whole grain bread, a tasty unsweetened peanut butter (I’m a big fan of Crazy Richard’s and Smart Choice), and really good jelly or jam (we love Bonne Maman, especially their cherry jam).

Bon appetit, friends.

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