According to Arizona Farm Bureau, it is estimated Americans eat on average 300 million sandwiches per day. What type of sandwiches do Americans eat the most? Of course personal preferences can vary, but plain ham sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly and BLT sandwiches remain some of the most popular sandwich choices for Americans.
While these may not be considered health foods, making a few tweaks to a traditional sandwich can still fit into a healthy diet plan.
The term sandwich can have a loose definition; basically, anything served between two slices of bread (or bread type) can be considered a sandwich. Therefore, the nutritional content for sandwiches can vary greatly.
How to make a healthy sandwich?
The good news is a sandwich can fit into a healthy eating pattern for weight loss. Weight loss is a combination of many factors including your overall food intake, not just one food.
When eating sandwiches, especially if you are going to eat them every day, choose healthy, nutrient dense ingredients and limit processed foods.
Choose whole grain bread
Bread provides a vehicle to hold sandwich components together. The type of bread chosen for a sandwich can make an impact on calories, fiber amount and influence total carbohydrate load to the meal.
Choosing whole grain bread sources is recommended to make sandwiches higher in fiber. Avoid white breads or other refined grains.
One sneaky way sandwiches may be contributing a lot more calories than you realize is if you are eating a sandwich as a wrap.
A wrap especially a vegetable flavored wrap may seem like a healthy alternative to bread for a sandwich. However, wraps can be high in calories because they are much larger than 2 pieces of bread.
If you are looking to slim down your carbs from a sandwich, you can opt for a whole wheat pita or even do a lettuce wrap instead of bread.
Avoid processed red meats – There are alternatives
The meat in a sandwich can provide a good source of protein which can increase the satiety of your meal. To make a sandwich diet friendly while using meat, opt for lean protein choices such as white poultry.
Even though ham is one of the most popular choices for a sandwich, limiting your intake of processed red meat is recommended.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and other governing health agencies suggest avoiding processed red meats such as: ham, salami, bacon, hot dogs and pastrami which can all be popular sandwich fillings.
If you want to include other red meat choices such as beef, lamb or certain pork cuts, keep in mind the AICR suggests limiting intake of red meat to less than 18 ounces of cooked red meat per week.
What if you don’t want meat on a sandwich but still want to include a protein source? You can also fill sandwiches with: tempeh, high quality veggie burger, cheese or a hummus spread.
You could also use egg salad for a high quality protein sandwich option. Using Greek yogurt in place of mayo can further bump up the protein amount.
Pile on the veggies
Traditional sandwiches are usually low in vegetables and mainly bread and meat. However, increasing the nutritional quality of a sandwich can easily be done by piling on vegetable toppings.
Lettuce is often a go to for a sandwich, but you can also add: tomato slices, cucumbers, peppers, beets, sprouts, shredded carrots or any other vegetables you like.
The USDA recommends making vegetables and fruits fill up half your plate at meal times. If you are eating a sandwich, you should have a decent amount of veggies to not only increase the nutrient value but to also to increase the volume of food you eat.
Increasing the volume of food you eat by increasing the vegetable and/or fruit amount is a sneaky way to bump up the amount of food you’re eating without significantly bumping up your calorie intake.
Choose low calorie condiments
Condiments can be a sneaky way a sandwich may be sabotaging weight loss efforts. Piling on the mayo or other heavy dressings can bump up the calorie content of your sandwich.
If you want condiments on a sandwich, stick with low calorie or nutrient dense options such as: whole grain mustard, hummus, plain Greek yogurt or a dash of olive oil and vinegar.
What’s with your sandwich?
Eating a healthy, nutrient dense sandwich may not be the problem with eating a sandwich every day: it may be what you’re consuming with your sandwich.
A common side with sandwiches is chips, fries, crackers or cookies. Be mindful of what you’re eating with your sandwich; instead of the usual sides choose nutrient dense options.
Ideas for smart sandwich sides include: fruit, veggie sticks, a small handful of nuts, a cup of low sugar yogurt or a side salad.
Avoid the temptation to drink a sweetened beverage with your sandwich especially if you are consuming one every day.
Sweetened beverages are a source of empty calories that can impede your weight loss efforts.
Portion size does matter
Lastly, it can be possible to lose weight while eating sandwiches every day, but as with any food, keeping portion size in moderation is key. Some sandwiches especially those from fast food establishments can be large in size.
Eating this everyday may not be the best choice for weight loss. Just because a sandwich is a 12 inch sub serving doesn’t mean you should eat the whole serving in one meal.
Also keep in mind weight loss almost always isn’t just from one food you’re eating. Weight loss is a sum of your total food intake, activity level, sleep, stress, genetic factors and other factors.
If you eat a sandwich every day, make sure it’s with nutrient dense ingredients.
Pay attention to what you’re consuming with your sandwich, and note weight loss can depend on your total food intake for the day.