Between Bread and Healthy Place
Pack in flavor and nutrition without packing on the pounds
The humble sandwich – it’s cheap to make, comes in a portable package and has an infinite number of flavors. From pastrami on rye to pork belly cubanos, this quintessential lunchtime repast has also enjoyed a Renaissance in recent years.
“People used to have a preconceived idea of what a sandwich could be, such as salami and cheese or peanut butter and jelly,” says Teri Gelber, coauthor of “Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever – from Thursday Nights at Campanile” (Knopf, 2005). “Then, chefs like Nancy Silverton in Los Angeles and Tom Colicchio in New York City gave it new life by using the bread as a plate to hold delicious ingredients.”
Some of the decadent options in Gelber’s book include an open-faced asparagus, poached egg, prosciutto and fontina cheese creation, a fried oyster sandwich, a combination of rare tuna, braised leeks, hard-boiled egg and olives topped with garlic mayonnaise and a version of the popular deep-fried Monte Cristo, layered with turkey and ham.
For those counting calories or simply concerned about good health, rest assured that a sandwich doesn’t have to be a fatty belt-buster to be full of flavor and satisfaction.
The first step in building a healthy and tasty sandwich is determining what will hold it together, says Bethany Thayer, director of Wellness Programs and Strategies at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Whole grain breads, bagels and English muffins are a good choice for their nutrients and filling fiber (make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain), while selections like lavash and pita pockets (which are thin but have a large surface area) can feel substantial for less calories. “Or for something really unique, try two crisp lettuce leaves,” Thayer says.
The next step is to add protein. Look for lean varieties of turkey, chicken, roast beef and fish (avoid fatty, salty meats such as bologna, salami and corned beef), and use non-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise in chicken salad or tuna salad. Vegetarian? Opt for low-fat cheese (grating or melting it can boost the flavor impact), try hummus, slip in a veggie burger (make it from scratch with lentils or black beans) or slice up a hard-boiled egg. Pick high-quality, well-seasoned and/or full-flavored ingredients so that a little will go a long way.
Then it’s time to pile on the produce. This will help drive flavor, nutrients and satisfaction, while keeping the calories down, Thayer says. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are all common, of course, but consider other vegetables and fruit, such as cucumbers, bell peppers, fennel, carrots, purple cabbage, arugula, apples, pears, kiwi, figs, strawberries, or chopped grapes or blueberries.
“One of my son’s favorite recipes is low-fat cream cheese, raisins, shredded carrots and a whole celery stick, all rolled up in whole grain lavash,” Thayer says. “And my mom’s favorite sandwich is whole grain bread spread with peanut butter and topped with carrot sticks and tomato slices.”
There are also easy ways to make a seemingly simple sandwich more interesting, says Gelber, a self-proclaimed condiment fanatic. Doctor a tablespoon of light mayonnaise with a dash of soy, mix it with steamed broccoli and serve it on wheat toast. Or add two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and one teaspoon finely chopped shallots to a half cup of light mayonnaise and spread a small portion on your turkey and Swiss. Add a punch with different mustards, pickles, hot peppers and fresh herbs, or toss capers or diced green or black olives into the sandwich salad.
All it takes is a little creativity to make a healthy sandwich that’s, well, the best thing since sliced bread.
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