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How to Build a Healthy Sandwich

A sandwich has so much potential as a healthy, satisfying and delicious lunch choice. Think beyond the basic (and boring) turkey on white bread to take your sandwich from humdrum to healthy. These four tips make brown-bagging it better than ever.

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Photo: Fourth Exposure

Find Fiber-Rich Bread

Every sandwich starts off with the bread. Use the highest-quality bread you can find (it really makes a difference for both texture and flavor), and make sure it's 100 percent whole grain. Many breads that say simply "whole grain" or "wheat" are not, in fact, made from 100 percent whole-grain flours, so make sure to check the ingredient list. If you're trying to save calories, you have two options: Either get the bread sliced super thin or use just one slice and make an open-faced sandwich, also called a tartine. If you prefer wraps, look for a smaller (8-inch) wrap to keep calories in check, and go for one that's 100 percent whole grain, such as Ezekiel sprouted-grain tortillas.


By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

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Use Power Proteins

Most lunchmeat is high in sodium, so put homemade leftovers to use instead. Roasted chicken, turkey and lean roast beef are classic fillings. If you prefer to go the store-bought route, look for low-sodium varieties and stick to 3 ounces of meat in your sandwich. Lighten up a tuna or egg salad by using a combination of yogurt and low-fat mayo, and use lots of chopped up veggies to give the salad crunch as well as added nutrition. Smoked salmon is another good option. Going veggie? Whole chickpeas add a good texture to your sandwich, and a lot of fiber.

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Photo: Renee Comet

Try Sensational Spreads

Think beyond mayonnaise and mustard, which offer added calories and sodium, respectively, without any healthy nutrients. Give your sandwich flavor and keep it moist with hummus, tapenade, low-fat ricotta cheese, bean spread (like hummus but made with different beans) or mashed avocado. Some spreads, such as hummus, ricotta or nut butters, double as proteins.

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Photo: Matt Armendariz ©

Bulk Up with Veggies

Lettuce and tomato are classic sandwich toppings, but there's no need to stop there. Watercress and arugula add a peppery bite, sliced avocado adds a creamy layer along with healthy fats, and grated carrots and sliced cucumbers and radishes add crunch. Packing your sandwich with vegetables will also add bulk to the sandwich (and increase the fiber content), without adding a lot of extra calories, so you'll stay full longer. If you feel like a sweeter sandwich, sliced fruit is a great alternative to jam on a nut butter sandwich.

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