4 Ways to Make Sandwiches Healthier

Sandwiches make a great lunch option for moms on-the-go and fussy children. But, is your noon meal healthy? If you’re addicted to peanut butter and jelly or have a habit of adding layers of condiments to your lunch, it’s time for a meal makeover. Here are four ways to make your next sandwich healthier.

1. Bread Overhaul

The base of any great sandwich is the bread. Whether you choose a roll, tortilla, bread slices or a flat bun, opt for bread made from whole grains instead of enriched-bleached flour.

“It’s really important to make sure that when you are choosing a bread, you’re getting a whole grain option. The word “wheat” or “multigrain” does not mean that the food items is whole grain,” explains registered dietitian and certified health coach Sarah Nelson, RD, LD, from Hy-Vee Foods in Sioux City, Iowa. “To make sure you are getting a whole grain product, look at the ingredients lists for the word “whole.” When you eat whole grains, you get more nutrition for your dollar because you get more vitamins, minerals and fiber.”

Breads made from whole wheat, brown rice or quinoa contain more selenium, potassium and magnesium than refined flours, according to the Mayo Clinic. Choosing healthier breads also reduces your chances for heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Or, go carb-free. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests wrapping a cheese stick with lunch meat for a kid-friendly sandwich substitute.

2. PB&J; Reinvented

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple in many households. You don’t have to give up this family favorite. Instead, swap out peanut butter made with refined sugar for a healthier nut butter. With so many options on the market — from soy, cashew and almond — you have choices. Just make sure to peek at the label first.

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Choose a nut butter sweetened with honey, agave syrup or other natural sweeteners with a lower glycemic index than sugar, suggests Dr. Asquel Getaneh, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University, New York, in a Q&A; column on Everyday Health. Your blood sugar levels will thank you.

Making jelly or jam healthier is also easy.

“Boost the nutrition in a pb&j; by adding flax seed or chia seed to the jam or jelly before spreading on the bread,” Nelson suggested. “Chia seeds are nice because they don’t have any flavor and mix extremely well with a berry jam.”

3. Pile on Toppings

If your favorite part of making a sandwich is piling on the toppings, good for you. Next time, challenge yourself to create a rainbow. Add red tomato slices, orange cheese, yellow mustard, green romaine lettuce and purple slices of onion. Or pile on uncommon toppings suggests registered dieticians Jennifer Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky from the Mayo Clinic. Try cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich or roasted red pepper hummus on a chicken wrap.

Avoid toppings that don’t fit into the rainbow. This includes white mayonnaise, brown bacon or tan-colored fried onion rings.

I replace mayo with a healthy spread like hummus or avocado for heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber,” said Nelson. “You won’t even miss the mayo. Mayo has almost 200 calories per 2 tablespoon serving. Pesto and salad dressing are also high fat and calorie sandwich spread options racking in over 125 calories per 2 tablespoon serving.

She also recommends using low-calorie mustard or salsa to add a burst of flavor to a sandwich.

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4. Choose Lean Proteins

Are you tired of ham and cheese, or bologna sandwiches? Next time you create a sandwich, try using lean and uncommon protein sources. Sliced lentil loaf adds fiber and almost no fat to your lunch. An egg and cheese omelet on whole wheat adds protein without the high-levels of saturated fat found in some lunch meats. When in doubt, skip red meats and choose turkey, chicken, nut butters or legume spreads, such as hummus.

Make sure to avoid processed deli meats as much as possible (pepperoni, bologna, salami, bacon) because they contain more fat, calories, sodium and nitrates. Go for oven-roasted chicken or turkey deli meats instead of smoked (less sodium and nitrates),” Nelson advises.

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