Get sandwich savvy with these tasty tips

Imperial, California - Call it "grab-and-go" or "fast food," the sandwich is the original take-and-eat fare. Sandwiches have gotten a bad rep, though. Just look what we've done to them. We've supersized the bread (foot-long) and protein (half pounder), reduced the fiber and piled on high-calorie toppings. In fairness, we've occasionally added healthy veggies like a lettuce leaf, slice of onion or tomato.

I argue that the sandwich can be the foundation of the perfect meal. Its combination of food groups can meet the three fundamentals of healthy eating: balance, moderation and variety.

Balance means inclusion of basic foods: grains, vegetables, fruits, protein and dairy. Moderation means a sensible amount — not super-sized — and not too much fat, salt or sugar. Variety means that you're eating different things from each food group — so over time you get the benefits from many types of foods.

Below are ideas to restore the sandwich to its rightful place in a healthy diet. The options suggested will inspire you, and the amounts listed will help you right-size your sandwich, and cut down on fat and salt.

  • Breads. Amount: 1 or 2 moderate slices, small bagel, bun, wrap or pita (6-inch diameter). Choose whole grains. If you can find whole-grain ciabatta, focaccia or flat bread, fine — otherwise have these less often. Or think outside the box, and use large leafy greens as wraps.
  • Spreads or relish. Amount: 1 tablespoon at most. Choose low-fat mayo, low-fat dressing, mustard (regular, hot or sweet), cranberry relish, honey, hummus, pesto, BBQ sauce or fresh salsa. Or try dipping (low-fat dressings) or drizzling (balsamic vinegar).
  • Proteins. Amount: 2 to 3 ounces. Choose lower fat, lower sodium turkey, chicken, roast beef, tuna or cheese. Go meatless with tofu, lentils or beans. Remember peanut butter? An occasional egg salad fits into a healthy plan too.
  • Toppings. Amount: No limit. Sweet or hot pepper slices, chopped celery, sliced radishes or onion, dark leafy greens (spinach or slivers of kale), sliced apple, pear or grapes. Roasted veggies can be a topping or be a meatless option. Don't forget to sprinkle with herbs or even a few chopped nuts.
  • Preparation. Explore options such as wraps, pita pockets and open-faced sandwiches. Don't forget that sandwiches can be toasted or baked instead of fried.

Here are a few combinations to get you started:

  • Whole-wheat wrap surrounding a mixture of chopped chicken, grapes, sliced almonds, basil and low-fat mayo.
  • Hearty whole-grain bread (toasted) sandwiching old-fashioned peanut butter (or other nut butter) and slices of banana.
  • Whole-wheat pita spread with a bit of hummus and stuffed with chopped cucumber, tomato and radishes, and topped with a low-fat Greek-style dressing.

Try your skills at making sandwiches from the above suggestions. Share some of your favorites. Enjoy!

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