Looking for nutritious lunch sandwich ideas for work or healthy sandwiches for kids? You're in luck, because here are lots of sandwich ideas for work and school (including easy sandwiches for lunch and quick sandwich recipes for dinner), plus the best sandwich fillings that are actually healthy!
I still remember the best sandwich I've ever had. It was in 2009 in Salzburg, Austria. I was with my British friend Sam on a summer day, and the two of us stopped at a small deli that didn’t sell pre-made sandwiches—because everything was made to order. I requested a vegetarian sandwich and let the shopkeeper determine what that meant. What I ended up with made my tastebuds sing: a freshly baked baguette stuffed with homemade mozzarella and fresh sun-dried tomatoes.
Perhaps this meal stands out because I don’t eat sandwiches often. When I do, I want them to be delicious, with unexpected flavors meshed together. It seems that no road trip is complete without a sandwich stop, and I love the sandwiches that my local bodega puts together. Did you know that on any given day, about half of Americans are eating a sandwich? Indeed, a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that almost half of Americans eat sandwiches in an average day. That's a lot of sandwiches! Use the tips that follow, including a list of the best sandwich fillings, to make a healthier sandwich.
Why Making a Healthier Sandwich is So Important
Whether you're making a sandwich at home or are ordering one at the deli counter, research in Public Health emphasizes why sandwich eaters should make smart choices about what they eat between the bread. Here goes: About a fourth of daily calories and a third of total fat, saturated fat, and sodium intake comes from sandwiches! This is a lot. And in the study, having a sandwich was linked with a daily increase of 99 daily calories, 6.8 grams of fat, and 268 milligrams of sodium—as well as a small decrease in vegetable and fiber intake.
So you can see why making a healthier sandwich is so important. And it's really not all that difficult to accomplish. All you need is a little knowhow, which I'm about to give you.
The Best Sandwich Fillings That are Actually Healthy
Here are some of my favorite healthy sandwich ingredients to recommend for adding in between the bread. These are some of the best sandwich fillings for saving calories and making your sandwich healthier.
Ask for Lots of Veggies!
I love adding spinach, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, red onion, mushrooms, and other vegetables to my sandwiches, such as in my breakfast Panini. Even if you're not making a sandwich at home, you can ask for veggies to be added to your sandwich. For example, McDonald's charges just $.50 to add some tomato slices to an egg sandwich.
Embrace Low-Cal Condiments.
Spread on mustard, hummus, or a yogurt-based spread. These condiments are wonderfully creamy and contain a lot less calories than mayo. A teaspoon of Maille Old-Style Mustard, for example, is packed with flavor but only contains 10 calories. Sriracha is another great low-calorie flavor addition.
Use Low-sodium Meat and Sandwich Fillings.
When it comes to cold sandwich ideas for work and beyond, deli meat is often a go-to. And yes, there is a such thing as healthy sandwich meat. You may just need to make a few swaps. Consider utilizing lower-sodium ingredients. For instance, swap deli meat for grilled chicken breast.
Add Fat in Moderation.
Healthy fat like avocado, olives, and olive oil are delicious on a sandwich. And they offer heart-healthy fats that help keep you fuller for longer. But choose just one to include! That means about a third of an avocado, about 10 sliced olives, or two to three teaspoons of olive oil.
How to Make a Low-Sodium Sandwich
In the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study, researchers found that sandwich consumption makes up a huge chunk of our daily sodium allowance. This sodium allowance is no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) daily for most Americans and less than 1,500 mg daily for people ages 51 and older or people who are African-American or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Typical sandwich intake makes up 21% of the typical woman's daily sodium allowance and 39% of a man's, per the study.
Of course, you can absolutely create a lower-sodium sandwich. Just consider making swaps for lower-sodium ingredients. Try these, recommended in another study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- Have cooked, fresh meat, not deli meat: Save 463 mg per 2 ounces (oz).
- Have sardines, not anchovies: Save 953 mg per 1 oz.
- Have whole-wheat bread, not rye bread: Save 95 mg per 2 slices.
- Have low-sodium cheese, not natural cheese: Save 341 mg per 2 slices.
- Have cooked, fresh hot peppers, not canned hot peppers: Save 853 mg per pepper.
More Easy Changes for Healthy, Yummy Sandwiches
Have an open-faced sandwich.
Save calories by using just one slice of bread as a base. This tweak will cut at
least 80 calories from your meal! You can also choose to use a lighter bread with less calories, such as
Dave's Killer Bread 21 Grains Thin-Sliced.
Sprinkle on low-calorie spices.
Many extremely flavorful spices and herbs add a ton of flavor for almost no calories. These include oregano, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic. You can go with either fresh or dried varieties, as both types add a big flavor punch.
Opt for lean proteins.
These include turkey breast, salmon, and even tofu. It may be difficult to skip the cheese, but if you have protein in your sandwich already you don't really need it. If you feel like you can't give up the cheese, swap in a slice or two for your healthy fat such as avocado.
Choose toasted over Panini style.
At least, do this in a restaurant! Panini sandwiches tend to be basted with oil or butter to help with the grilling at most restaurants. Even if you're ordering a grilled or toasted sandwich, it's a good idea to ask about how it's prepped and to request that minimal oil or butter be used.
Pick a healthy pairing.
This article was updated in January 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
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I'd love to hear from you! Which of these nutritious sandwich ideas for work are you going to try first? Do you have any healthy sandwich lunch box ideas to add to this list? Comment below, and tag @amydgorin on Instagram and Pinterest and @amygorin on Twitter and Facebook.
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