Make Your Sandwiches Healthier!

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

You may not know it, but August is Sandwich Month. During the summer months when the heat and humidity decide to pair up and hang out in the St. Louis area, many of you may simply not feel like spending a lot of time over a hot oven or stove. Oftentimes, you turn to quick, easy, no-cook foods in the summertime. A staple summer food is the humble sandwich. Assembling a sandwich can be a great way to pack a plethora of nutrition into one item. However, they can also be loaded with excess calories and fat if you’re not careful about what you put in them. Luckily, there are some tips to ensure that your sandwich packs a healthy, flavorful punch without the paunch.

Type of Bread
First of all, a good sandwich begins with a healthy bread option. To be certain that you’re getting the most nutrition bang for your buck, you’ll want to choose a whole-grain option, such as whole-wheat bread. An alternative option is the 100-calorie sandwich “thin” or “deli flat” that many companies are now making. These work as great substitutes for the traditional bread slices.

Protein Option
For most people, the protein portion of a tasty sandwich is some type of meat. Of course, certain meats will provide a hefty dose of heart-clogging saturated fat (not to mention unwanted calories). Try to avoid salami, pepperoni, bologna, meatballs and anything breaded and fried. Instead, opt for lean meats such as roasted turkey or chicken breast, lean ham or lean roast beef.

Also, consider non-meat sources of protein such as hummus, marinated tofu slices or bean or lentil burgers. Additionally, seafood can be a lean source of protein. Tuna or salmon salad sandwiches can be a low-calorie protein choice if they’re prepared with light mayo and you add chopped veggies.

Beware of those Add-Ons
Frequently the sandwich staples that add unnecessary calories and fat are the condiments or add-ons. These might include regular mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, sauces or spreads. Try reduced-fat or fat-free versions of these items, or omit them altogether. Flavor your sandwiches with low-calorie options such as mustard, veggies, hummus, salsa or relish.

Don’t Forget to Add Some Veggies
Sandwiches make great vehicles for vegetable additions. Think beyond your typical tomato slice and measly iceberg lettuce leaf. Get creative with your veggie accompaniments – add on some sliced avocado, cucumbers, or zucchini or summer squash threads. Shredded carrots, radishes, cabbage or jicama also help bulk up a sandwich while adding a delicious crunch. Be adventurous with your veggie selection to create a lot of flavor with adding many calories.

Join Operation Food Search 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 28 at Modesto Tapas Bar & Restaurant on the Hill for La Tomatina – St. Louis Style! Modeled after Spain’s annual food fight festival where people throw tomatoes for fun, Modesto has decided to throw a happy hour fundraiser to fight hunger, featuring tomato-centric appetizers, Spanish wines and La Tomatinis! Tickets are $25. To make a reservation, call (314) 772-8272.