Building A Healthy Sandwich
Making a sandwich is something most of us do almost automatically. A couple slices of bread, a little spread of some kind, some lunch meat and we're done. But if you think of ways to vary just those few components, you can create an almost endless variety of sandwiches - which can not only break the monotony, but can boost nutrition, too.
Let's start with the bread. If you're going the traditional sliced bread route, then opt for 100% whole grain breads. You'll reap the nutritional benefits of the whole grain, as well as getting some natural fiber. If you're not a fan of whole grain bread, there are now some varieties available that are made with flour called white whole wheat. It's lighter in texture, flavor and color, but it is whole grain and offers essentially the same nutrition as the darker, heavier varieties.
But there's a world beyond sliced breads. You can use whole grain hot dog buns to make kid-sized sub sandwiches, toasted English muffins as a base for an open-faced sandwich, whole wheat tortillas for a homemade wrap, or whole grain pita bread, which is great for stuffing. To change things up a little more, skip the bread altogether and use rice cakes or whole grain crackers. This option especially appeals to kids, who like to put their own little sandwiches together from some crackers and a container of filling, like tuna salad.
Sandwich spreads can add flavor and moisture, but they can also add a lot of fat and calories. If your sandwich calls for mayo, use it sparingly, or switch to a low fat version. Mustards are a great choice and come in a range of flavors and textures, from smooth and tangy to grainy and mellow. Hummus makes a good spread on sandwiches, so does mashed avocado, or plain Greek yogurt mixed with a little garlic powder.
When it comes to the filling, there's a world beyond the usual sliced deli meats, cheeses and peanut butter. Think of your sandwich as a salad on bread, and load up on the veggies. Pita bread and wraps make it easy to make a meal out of looser fillings, like a chopped salad with chicken, some bean salad, or leftover taco fixings. My favorite wrap is made from a spread of nonfat cottage cheese mixed with a little grainy mustard and some grated Parmesan. It's so good when it's rolled up with some sliced tomato and fresh or dried basil. The traditional lettuce and tomato add crunch and moisture, but you can also boost the nutrition and flavor with a variety of other veggies, like fresh spinach leaves, grated carrots, pepper rings or cucumber slices.
When you're home and have a little extra time, try grilling your sandwich for a change. Spray a pan with pan spray and heat it up over medium-high heat. When it's hot, I like to add a little fresh-ground pepper to the skillet - then grill the sandwich or wrap on both sides 'til it's nice and toasty. It takes just a couple of minutes, but it's a nice change of pace from the everyday cold sandwich and somehow makes lunch seem just a little more special.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.