Written by Natalie Sehi, MS, RD, LMNT, Extension Educator
Sandwiches, in my opinion, are one of the easiest meals to prepare. According to usfoods.com Americans eat close to 300 million sandwiches every day, which is about one sandwich per day. Sandwiches work well whether you are on the go or have the time to sit down and enjoy a meal with family or friends. According to Webster’s dictionary, the simple definition of a sandwich is two pieces of bread with something (such as meat, peanut butter, etc) between them. With all of the options available, a sandwich can truly be made to order from your own home. They can be as simple as a peanut butter and jelly or BLT, or as complex as a Deluxe Turkey Club or a Reuben.
Sandwiches are eaten at our house on a regular basis. They are quick and easy to make and can be made to fit the preferences of my whole family. I prefer lots of veggies, mustard, and hummus, and often toast my bread or grill my entire sandwich. My kids prefer grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly or a simple turkey and cheese…all on whole wheat bread, of course. My husband isn’t picky, so he’s willing to try/eat it all.
Often times, our sandwiches are made ahead of time. They work well for the kids to take to school for lunch, when we are on the go for a sports practice or family commitment, or for fun at a picnic or at the park. To prevent the inevitable smashed sandwich, consider using a plastic container that will accommodate the size of your sandwich. Some work well for a sandwich, as well as a few sides.
A simple sandwich can easily turn into a meal with a lot of calories and fat. Be mindful of the size and type of bread you are using, watch out for the condiments, and choose healthy sides like fruits and veggies in place of chips or French fries. Condiments like mayonnaise and salad dressing can taste good, but add extra fat and calories. Use the tips below to make your own sandwich or to keep in mind when ordering a sandwich at a restaurant.
- Choose whole grain bread. There are many delicious options at the grocery store and bakeries. Visit ChooseMyPlate for tips on choosing whole grain foods.
- Choose lean proteins. Choices such as turkey, chicken canned tuna, nut butters and hummus are great options. When choosing nut butters, try an unsweetened nut butter. They will often only contain the nuts, and occasionally salt depending on the variety. The oil will often separate at the top, simply stir together before consuming. If you prefer bologna or salami, choose them as an occasional treat on your sandwich, as they are usually high in sodium and fat.
- Read the Nutrition Facts Label. Choose lunch meats and condiments that are lower in sodium and watch the sugar content of jams and jellies.
- Add lots of veggies. Think outside the box. All sorts of veggies taste good and add more flavor and crunch to sandwiches. Consider adding cucumbers, bell peppers, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, avocado, onions, and anything else that tickles your taste buds. The more color the better.
- Add fruit. This is especially true if you are making a PB&J. Adding a few slices of fresh fruit can not only make your sandwich taste better, it can make it better for you. Try a few slices of strawberries or bananas in addition to or in place of your favorite jam or jelly. YUM!
- Consider calcium. Calcium helps build strong teeth and bones. To get more in your diet, add a slice of cheese. Depending on your preference, you can choose a stronger tasting cheese like sharp cheddar or blue cheese, or go with something more mild like mild cheddar or provolone (my personal favorites).
- Roll-up your sandwich. If you prefer a wrap, put the contents of your sandwich inside a tortilla shell and roll it up.
For tips on making and freezing sandwiches ahead of time, visit food.unl.edu/fnh/freezing-sandwiches.