The perfect sandwich is a healthy sandwich that tastes good and makes you full longer. Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices of on-the-go Americans. They’re quick, delicious and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. If you aren’t careful, though, a few high fat ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories. So before you make that sandwich, make sure you know what hidden calories are lurking between those bread slices. If you make smart choices regarding the basic elements of a sandwich, you’ll be building healthier sandwiches in no time.
1. Select healthy bread.
- High-fiber whole wheat bread.
- High protein bread.
- Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories). Whole wheat versions are even better.
- Reduced calorie bread.
- Multigrain bread.
2. Find high-quality proteins.
Most (although not all) sandwiches benefit from tasty, high-quality protein. What is available and healthy to you may vary by region or supermarket. Keep in mind portion control–a serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of playing cards.
Consider the choices:
- Classic deli meats: Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef, corned beef and others without nitrates.
- Tip: Check the sodium in prepackaged and even deli-fresh meats; most products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium.
- Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini, vegetarian patties
- Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad.
3. Cheese. Although cheese can add a good deal of fat, it also contains a good deal of calcium.
- Harder cheeses, such as Swiss and Cheddar that usually have less fat.
- Softer cheeses (like Blue cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese.
- You can even use low-fat cheese in a sandwich.
4. Dressing. Sandwiches usually taste best with a little condiment added–but it is optional.
- Mustard, salad dressings, salsa and lowfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
- Avoid high-fat salad dressings, and regular mayonnaise in a sandwich.
5. Vegetables. A sandwich is a great way to slip in a lot of vegetables into a meal. Make sure they are fresh and crisp.
- Sliced tomatoes
- Cucumbers or pickles
- Onions: sweet or red
- Peppers: sweet or hot
- Bean sprouts
- Apples (especially good with ham)
- Sauerkraut (with corned beef is a classic Reuben Sandwich)
- Herbs (Basil tastes terrific in a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich)
Consider heating or toasting:
Heating or toasting a sandwich adds no calories and can greatly enhance the taste. Add lettuce after heating.
Sandwiches are even healthier with classic pairings like carrot and celery sticks, a bowl of healthy soup or a side salad.
A sandwich is a marvelous canvas to work with and while there are classic pairings (peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese on rye, grilled cheese, BLT, etc.) you can come up with a new favorites.
Here are a few ideas to start you off.
- 2 cups packaged shredded cabbage with carrot (supermarket coleslaw mix)
- 2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
- 2 tablespoons Thousand Island salad dressing
- 8 1/2 inch thick slices rye bread
- 8 ounces sliced, cooked low sodium turkey breast
- 4 slices provolone cheese (4 ounces) (reduced fat works just fine in this sandwich)
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- Pickle spears
In a medium bowl, combine coleslaw mix and Italian salad dressing; set aside.
Spread Thousand Island salad dressing on one side of each bread slice.
Place four of the bread slices, dressing sides up, on a work surface; top with turkey, cheese, tomato and coleslaw mixture.
Top with remaining bread slices, dressing sides down.
Preheat a large skillet sparayed with nonfat cooking spray over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Cook sandwiches, half at a time, for 4 to 6 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, turning once. If desired, serve with pickle spears.
Oven Fried Green Tomato BLT Sandwiches
Makes 4 servings
Green Tomatoes & Garnish
- 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg white
- 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 large green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 8 slices cooked bacon
- 4 lettuce leaves
- 4 hamburger buns
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 2 sweet gherkins, chopped, or 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
To cook tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a wire rack coated with cooking spray in a parchment paper-lined baking pan.
Whisk together buttermilk and egg white in a medium bowl.
Mix together cornmeal, salt, paprika and cayenne in a shallow dish.
Dip the tomato slices into the buttermilk mixture, then transfer to the cornmeal mixture. Gently turn each slice in the cornmeal mixture to coat.
Transfer the slices to the wire rack on the baking sheet. Lightly coat tomatoes on each side with cooking spray.
Bake the tomatoes in the hot oven until both sides are well browned, 18 to 20 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes.
To make remoulade sauce:
While the tomatoes are in the oven, combine mayonnaise, sour cream (or yogurt), horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, scallions, gherkins (or pickle relish) and capers in a small bowl.
To assemble sandwiches:
Place lettuce on the bottom halves of the buns. Top with tomato slices, remoulade sauce and bacon; cover with bun tops.
Tuna Steak Sandwiches
- 2 tuna fillets, each 4 ounces
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat Caesar dressing, recipe below
- 2 whole-grain onion buns
- 2 lettuce leaves
- 2 slices tomato
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
Sprinkle the tuna fillets with pepper. Place the fillets on the grill rack or broiler pan. Brush the tuna with 2 tablespoons of the Caesar dressing while cooking.
Grill or broil until the fish is opaque throughout when tested with the tip of a knife, about 8 minutes. Just before taking the tuna off the grill, place buns on the grill or broiler pan to toast.
Place the tuna steaks on the buns. Top with lettuce and tomato. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Caesar dressing. Serve immediately.
Caesar Salad Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup.
- 1/2 small clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place garlic and salt in a medium bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste.
Add lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste (if using), and pepper; whisk to combine.
Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and whisk to combine.
The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Egg-Vegetable Salad Wraps
- 6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow summer squash or zucchini
- 1/4 cup shredded carrot
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
- 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh tarragon or basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon or basil, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 6 leaf lettuce leaves
- 6 whole wheat flour tortillas
- 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
In a large bowl combine eggs, cucumber, squash, carrot and red onion.
in a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, milk, tarragon or basil, salt and paprika.
Pour the dressing over egg mixture and toss gently to coat.
For each sandwich:
Place a lettuce leaf on a tortilla. Place 3 or 4 tomato slices on top of the lettuce, slightly off center. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the egg mixture on top of the tomato slices. Roll up tortilla.
If necessary, secure with toothpicks. Cut the tortilla rolls in half crosswise.
Mediterranean Chicken Panini
- Olive oil nonstick cooking spray
- 1 recipe Tomato-Pepper Spread, below
- 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces total)
- 4 slices whole wheat bread or multigrain ciabatta rolls, split
- 1 small zucchini
Lightly coat an unheated panini griddle, covered indoor electric grill or large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat over medium heat or heat according to manufacturer’s directions.
Add chicken. If using griddle or grill, close lid and grill for 6 to 7 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. (If using a skillet, cook chicken for 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning once.)
Cool chicken slightly; split each chicken piece in half horizontally and cut crosswise into 2-inch-wide slices.
Spread the Tomato-Pepper Spread on cut sides of the bread. Place chicken on bottom half of the bread.
Using a vegetable peeler, cut very thin lengthwise strips from the zucchini. Place zucchini strips on top of the chicken. Place bread tops on top of the zucchini, tomato pepper spread side down. Press down lightly. Lightly coat the top and bottom of each sandwich with nonstick cooking spray.
Place sandwiches on griddle, grill or skillet, adding in batches if necessary.
If using griddle or grill, close lid and grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until bread is toasted. If using skillet, place a heavy saucepan or skillet on top of sandwiches. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until bottoms are toasted.
Carefully remove saucepan or top skillet it may be hot. Turn sandwiches; top again with the saucepan or skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until bread is toasted.
Yield: 1/3 cup
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes (not oil packed)
- 3 tablespoons boiling water
- 1/3 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a small bowl combine sundried tomatoes and the boiling water. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Transfer undrained tomato mixture to a small food processor (if you have a larger food processor you will need to stop and scrape down sides occasionally).
Add roasted red sweet peppers, balsamic vinegar, oregano, garlic and black pepper. Cover and process until smooth.
Grilled Vegetable Pitas
- 14 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Dash salt
- Dash ground black pepper
- 1/4 of a medium yellow or red sweet pepper, stem and seeds removed
- 1/4 cup chopped tomato
- 1 large whole wheat pita bread round, halved crosswise
- 8 fresh spinach leaves
- 8 small fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
If present, remove and discard mushroom stem. If desired, remove mushroom gills. In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently brush half of the oil mixture over mushroom and sweet pepper.
Place mushroom and pepper on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly charred and tender, turning frequently.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining oil mixture and the tomato; toss gently to coat. Cut grilled mushroom and pepper into bite-size strips. Add mushroom and pepper strips to tomato mixture; toss gently to combine.
Open pita halves to create pockets. Line pita pockets with spinach and basil leaves. Fill pita pockets with grilled vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.
Grilled Steak Sandwich
- 1 (8- to 10-ounce) lean sirloin steak or 8 to 10 ounces leftover steak
- 1 baguette, cut into 4 (5-inch) pieces
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
- 2 cups arugula or lettuce
Preheat the grill. Lightly oil the steak and grill it for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes, then slice thinly.
While steak is resting, cut baguette in half horizontally.
In a small bowl combine mayonnaise and blue cheese.
Spread half the bread with the mayonnaise mixture; top with sliced steak and arugula. Top with remaining baguette half and divide into fourths.
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