Building a Healthier Sandwich

Sandwiches are a quick and easy meal for busy families. You can customize them to your taste preferences. They’re portable, making them a favorite item in packed lunches for both kids and adults. In fact, on any given day about half of Americans eat sandwiches (which includes burgers, hot dogs, and breakfast biscuits). Unfortunately, the researchers found that people who ate sandwiches also ate more calories overall and sandwiches were a large source of saturated fat, sodium, processed/cured meats, and refined grains.

Variety of sandwiches made with healthy fillings

What kid wouldn’t want to try the smiley face peanut butter sandwich!

As with most foods, there are healthier choices for each part of a sandwich. And it’s simple to make healthy, low-cost, and tasty sandwiches with a little bit of creativity. Here’s a template for building healthy sandwich recipes.

Sandwich Base

Bread is the base of most sandwiches. For an instant upgrade, choose whole grain bread for more fiber and nutrients. For a more adventurous sandwich, switch it up and try a whole grain wrap or tortilla, a thin bagel, whole wheat English muffin, or whole grain pita. For a veggie-heavy option, try using butter lettuce leaves (go light on the filling or it will get messy fast!) or a leaf of your favorite dark leafy green like kale, swiss chard, cabbage (especially napa cabbage), or collard greens (blanch them and/or trim the stems for best results).

Sandwich Fillings

Once you have your base, next comes the filling. The sky’s the limit on what you can eat inside your sandwich. Here are some healthy options to choose from.

Protein Foods: The most popular sandwich fillings are cold cuts (lunch meat), burgers, chicken, and peanut butter. When picking protein foods, remember to watch the amount of saturated fat and sodium.

  • To lighten up your favorite burgers, try subbing lean (90% or more) ground beef, turkey, or chicken for your usual ground beef or try a new veggie burger recipe.
  • To lighten up chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad, cut back on the mayo and use low-fat plain yogurt or avocado instead.
  • Don’t forget to vary your protein choices. Try using more seafood, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds as sandwich fillings.

Fruits and Veggies: Fruits and veggies make great sandwich fillings. They add tons of flavor, different textures, and of course, extra nutrition. Lettuce, tomato, and onions are pretty popular options, but there are so many others you can try. Shredded carrots, coleslaw, cucumber slices, and bell peppers are all tasty additions to any sandwich. For a more exotic filling, try roasted eggplant, olives, sweet potatoes, corn, sliced radishes, or pickled beets.

And we can’t forget about fruit. Bananas are a perfect pair with peanut butter. Apples, grapes, pears, cranberries, and even pumpkin are all tasty additions to many recipe fillings. If you use canned or dried fruit, be sure to choose ones without added sugar.

Dairy: Cheese is tasty, but can add extra calories, sodium, and saturated fat. Try skipping the cheese for sandwiches featuring meat. For plant-based protein fillings, cut back on the amount of cheese. One ounce of cheese (1 pre-cut slice) or ⅓ cup of shredded cheese is all you need. Reduced-fat or part-skim cheese is a good choice to use. As mentioned earlier, plain yogurt or even low-fat cottage cheese is a great substitute for mayo in chicken, tuna, or egg salads.

Sandwich Spreads

Spreads or condiments add a lot of flavor to sandwiches, but also a lot of less healthy nutrients. Choose smarter options to cut back on calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.

  • For creamy spreads, try mashed avocado or herb-infused yogurt instead of mayo.
  • For sweet spreads, add sliced or mashed fruit in place of jelly.
  • For tangy spreads, try homemade salad dressing, salsa or mustard instead of ketchup or ranch dressing.

Has all this talk about healthy sandwiches made you hungry yet? Here are some quick, healthy recipes you can try with your family.

What are your favorite kinds of sandwiches? If you like this post, be sure to share with your online friends!

4 thoughts on “Building a Healthier Sandwich

  1. Scott

    I had never thought about using whole grain bread instead of regular white bread for more fiber and nutrients. After reading this, I can see why this would be the healthier choice. I’ll have to remember this the next time I am ordering a sandwich.

  2. Bernard Clyde

    These are some great tips for how to make a healthy sandwiches. I think that sandwiches along offer a fair amount of health benefits as they are. It’s important to expand your sandwich diet and find new subs that you like that are conducive to your current diet.


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