The Anatomy of a Healthy Sandwich

Cooler temps, a nice breeze, kids going back to the classroom -- fall is officially coming! As we return to the daily grind, it can be nerve-wracking to try to stick to your diet and difficult to come up with healthy lunches when you won't be feeding your family at home every day. In an effort to get creative and perhaps out of fear of carbohydrates, people tend to shy away from the classic sandwich. But with the right choices, you can get a delicious, healthy, no-fuss meal. You just have to be smart about what goes into it. Here are some guidelines to making the most out of this brown bag staple.

The Bread

Before you quiver in fear and run for the solace of the salad bar, let me explain. Following a healthy eating plan doesn't mean that you can't eat bread. Although I have a book called Bread is the Devil, I'll be the first to say that not all bread is bad.

Ciabatta, pumpernickel, rye...the possibilities are endless! The main thing: no matter how you slice it, whole wheat or rye is the best option. You'll also have to forgo anything bigger than a typical piece of bread. There is no reason a sandwich should be named after a submerged sea vessel. I like Ezekiel Breads or Canyon Bakehouse 7-Grain Break (a favorite among the gluten-free crowd!). Don't be fooled by the enticing allure of wraps. Most are nutritional wannabes, racking up 300-500 calories full of refined grains and oil. But there are some trustworthy options, like  La Tortilla whole wheat mini soft wraps or Damascus Flax Roll-Ups. 

Sandwich Spreads

Aioli, chipotle mayo, and pesto are not your friends. Despite these condiments being offered on every sandwich menu known to man, they equal major calories -- as much as 200-400! I love a tasty schmear as much as the next girl, but there are smarter choices than these sinful spreads. Opt for items such as mustard, relish, pickles, or hot sauce. If you're still craving a creamy addition to your sandwich, use a vegan alternative to traditional mayo, Vegenaise. Or a Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge can do the trick. They come in varieties such as queso fresco chipotle and sundried tomato basil, which give your sandwich instant flavor for only 35 calories.

In Between the Bread

Most would say this is the part that really matters. There are so many things that you can make a sandwich out of, it's easy to get deterred. Applegate makes great organic deli meats like chicken, turkey, ham, etc. Though it doesn't have to stop at that. Try roasted vegetables (such as eggplant and zucchini) that have been marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar, topped with one slice of Alpine Lace Swiss cheese.

Spice up your typical tuna or chicken salad sandwich by making a low-fat tuna melt or use leftover healthy breaded chicken and add Cucina Antica tomato sauce and organic shredded mozzarella for a healthy chicken parm. Or change it up with mixing canned salmon (did you know it's always wild Alaskan?) with Vegenaise, celery seed and chopped onions. It's a top-notch alternative to typical tuna or chicken. And who can resist a classic PB&J? When spread on GG Bran crackers with Justin's Nut Butter, you have a healthy alternative to a lunchroom standard.

Bottom Line

Sandwiches can still be a part of your life and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. Just make smart choices for what goes in, on and around your sandwich and you've got all the protein, carbs and healthy fats to keep you full and satisfied all day long. A great option whether at home or bringing a brown bag lunch on-the-go! 

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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