By Cristina Pessegueiro, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
No picnic basket is complete without tasty sandwiches. They are easy to prepare, carry, and share. But how do you build a sandwich that won’t pack on the pounds? The key to a healthy sandwich is to have a good balance of all the food groups. Including the right carbohydrate, protein, dairy, fruits (yes fruits!) and veggie choices in your sandwich will keep you full and prevent spiked in your blood sugar. Let’s breakdown the building blocks of a wholesome sammie.
The foundation of a good sandwich is its bread. Choosing whole wheat bread over white won’t save any calories but is definitely the healthier choice thanks to an additional 3 grams fiber (varies among brands) and extra 1 gram of protein. Not to mention all the vitamin and minerals that comes with hearty whole grains. Choosing half of a wheat pita bread or a light sandwich wrap/tortilla can also save a few calories depending on the brand and help you rack up fiber and protein compared to plain white bread. Always look for whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredient.
No matter what you choose for the core of your sandwich, steer clear of fatty cuts of meat that usually tend to be higher in sodium like roast beef, bacon, and salami. Switch to leaner varieties like chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, or turkey bacon. Opting for last nights roasted chicken breast over traditional cold cuts like ham, salami, and bologna will save you 20 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 200mg of sodium per ounce.
Going vegetarian on your picnic? No problem! Eggs are excellent sources of protein in an egg salad sandwich. Swapping out one egg white for one ounce of roast beef and save about 20 calories and 100mg of sodium. Peanut butter and jelly is another classic meat-free option. Be sure to pick sugar free jelly to save 35 calories while keeping sugar spikes at bay and a natural peanut butter to avoid any hydrogenated oils and added sugars.
Whether you’re going for an all cheese sandwich or adding a slice to your sammie, cheese can add lots of calories and fat before you know it. An average 1oz slice of a full fat version is about 100 calorie. Picking provolone or swiss instead of cheddar will save you just about 10 calories and about 1gram of fat per slice. Choosing part skim or lower fat varieties of your favorite cheese is your best bet at keeping your calories and saturated fat in check. For example picking reduced fat cheddar saves you 30 calories per slice and a whopping 5 grams of fat compared to the regular variety.
Fruits and veggies are the best way to “bulk” up your picnic sandwich. Loading up on these adds fiber, vitamins, minerals and even antioxidants to your meal. While there are no bad fruits or vegetables, shoot for vibrant colors for more nutrients like bright green spinach over pale boring lettuce for four times the vitamin K and folate. If adding cooked vegetables try grilling instead of cooking them in oil to save calories. Watch out for avocado however, one serving, 1/8 of an avocado, has about 50 more calories than other servings of veggies.
If you’re thinking, fruits in sandwich?! Fruits can add a nice crunch and flavor to your lunch. Swapping out one slice of cheese for a half a small apple or pear cut into slices saves 60 calories! Try using strawberries instead of jam in a PB&J or adding grapes to a tuna salad sandwich.
If life isn’t complete without a little mayo, opt for a light version to save 60 calories per tablespoon and 7 grams of fat. If you’re looking for a little kick choosing mustard over mayonnaise will save you 80 calories per tablespoon and almost 10 grams of fat! Using salsa adds a nice kick without the calories too. If you love BBQ sauce they taste even better in a sandwich just be sure pick one with less sugar or that is sugar free.
Making chicken or egg salad for sandwich? Use half the amount of mayo you would use and add mustard instead. An even better option is to use a little greek yogurt or hummus for mouthwatering flavor and added protein to keep you fuller longer.
Take a look at your sandwich swaps below. Happy healthy sandwich building!