|September 1998 U.S. Edition|
Between the Slices
By Bonnie Liebman & Jayne HurleyThere are only so many things you can put between two slices of bread. And sometimes it feels like you grew tired of most of them in the middle of the fourth grade.
Worse yet, you may actually miss some of your old favoriteslike egg salad or ham or peanut butterthat youve kept out of your lunch bag because you dont want too much fat or salt or cholesterol.
Dont despair. Well, despair if you want to. Just dont give in and settle for Lunchables for your kids or a Big Mac for yourself. Here are our suggestions for renovating the old standbys...and rustling up a few newcomers. At least we think theyre new. For all we know, youve been eating them since junior high.
A tuna salad sandwich with 700 calories? A chicken salad sandwich with half a days fat? Thats what we found three years ago when we analyzed sandwiches from restaurants like Wall Street Deli and Schlotzskys (April 1995, cover story).
A typical restaurant sandwich ranges from six grams of fat and 370 calories (for turkey with mustard) to 63 grams of fat and 975 calories (for overstuffed tuna salad with mayo on the bread). And no matter what sandwich you pick, expect at least a third to a full days sodium before you touch the pickle.
What are restaurants doing wrong?
Most havent discovered the low-fat luncheon meats and mayonnaises that crowd the aisles of just about every supermarket north of the Rio Grande.
Subway is the most notable exception. Its heavily advertised line of six-inch subs with no more than six grams of fat didnt get there with fatty meats (or with cheese or oil). And the chain uses light mayo in its tuna and other salads and always asks if youd like light or regular mayo on your sub roll. Nice goin.
Most restaurants compound the problem by trying to give you your "moneys worth." Translation: They stuff their sandwiches with far too much meat, mayonnaise-drenched salads, or other fillings. What ends up getting stuffed, of course, is your stomach.
Are people less generous when they make their own sandwiches? One can only hope. In our chart, we assumed that some folks pile on four ounces of meat or other filling when they pack a lunch (because thats what many sandwich shops do and we cant come to your kitchen to measure).
Heres how to turn a typical sandwich into a healthier sandwich. Youll find the recipes for all the sandwiches in bold at the end of this article (they are hyperlinked as well).
Never heard of a vegetable sandwich? In restaurants, the "veggie" is usually heavy on cheese or dressing.
You can make the most delicious Artichokes, Etc. sandwich by stuffing a toasted whole wheat pita (pocket) bread with chopped marinated artichoke hearts, red onion, and any other vegetables youre in the mood for. (Yes, the artichokes are expensive and the marinade has some oil, but the costto your pocketbook or waistlineis small if you only use three or four per sandwich.)
Be bold. Raw spinach, mushrooms, marinated red pepper, and horseradish inside the same pita? Check out our Horseradish Heaven. Cucumber and tomato in a garlic yogurt dressing? Try our Right-on Raita.
Unlike most sandwiches, our veggie versions supply at least a serving of vegetables and all the fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals that come with them. All for just 200 to 300 calories and less than seven grams of fat.
Unfortunately, youll still get quite a bit of salt. Two slices of most breads will cost you anywhere from 150 to 500 milligrams of sodium. Pitas generally run in the low 300s. Check the label.
Hummus is a Middle-Eastern spread made mostly of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Its easy to whip up your own with a food processor, but its easier to pick some up from your supermarkets refrigerator case.
A three-tablespoon shmear adds less than 250 calories, six grams of fat, and 450 mg of sodium to your pocket bread. For crunch, add chopped cucumber, tomatoes, and scallions or red onions. Thats what weve done in our Hummus Among Us.
Its cheap, requires no refrigeration, and kids (not to mention ex-kids) love it. But a sandwich with just two tablespoons of peanut butterits easy to use morewill run you 20 grams of fat, four of them saturated.
Most meat and cheese sandwiches are worse, but you could do better. You can get away with just one tablespoon of PB by spreading it thinner. And switching to a reduced-fat peanut butter cuts a quarter of the fat. As for the jelly: Try half a sliced (or mashed) banana instead. Our Nutty Banana has half a serving of fruit.
Cheese & Cream Cheese
It looks so innocent. But two ounces of almost any cheese means 16 grams of fat, ten of them saturated. Thats half a days sat fat. And if those two ounces are process cheese (three slices), you can count on 900 mg of sodiumtwice that of most other cheeses.
What to do? First, use less. If you add tomato, lettuce, onion, and other veggies, you could easily get away with one slice of cheese.
Second, try a reduced-fat cheese like Jarlsberg Lite or Cracker Barrel Reduced Fat. Thatll lop off at least a third of the fat...but none of the flavor.
Third, give a low-fat or fat-free cheese a whirl. To some people, theyre fine. To others, theyre anything but. You be the judge.
Cream cheese is a different story. Ounce for ounce, its fattier than regular cheese. Each tablespoon has five grams of fatthree of them saturated. And many delis smear it on their bagels like its going out of style.
Try a fat-free version. They arent as creamy as the real thing, but theyre not half-bad.
Eggs are loaded with cholesterol, something your arteries could do without. Make your egg salad sandwich with two eggs and two tablespoons of regular mayo and it could easily ring up nearly two days worth of cholesterolplus a third of a days saturated fat and half a days total fat. Solution: Can the yolks. Our Sort-of-Egg Salad sandwich has no cholesterol and just four grams of fat.
Tuna & Chicken Salad
Whats in a tuna sandwich? It depends on who makes it. Its not unusual to use 21/2 ounces of tuna (about half a six-ounce can after draining) and three tablespoons of regular mayo. And its not unusual for that to come to nearly 600 calories and 40 grams of fatsix of them saturated. So much for low-fat fish.
Cut the mayo in half and the fat will follow. Better yet, switch to two tablespoons of fat-free mayo. The calories drop to around 300 and the fat to a mere five grams.
Chicken salad is the same storytwo or three ounces of chicken breast is harmless until you dump in three tablespoons of mayo to moisten it up. Fat-free mayo can slash the fat. But dont stop there.
You can make chicken, tuna, or any other salad better by adding vegetables. Mix in some chopped tomatoes or cucumber or shredded celery or green pepper. With chicken salad, try chopped grapes, apples, or apricots. Youll get flavor...and phytochemicals.
Turkey & Chicken
If you want a low-fat sandwich, turkey breast or chicken breast is a safe bet. The processed slices have more sodium than slices of leftover roast turkey from last night. But even with a hefty four ounces of meat, the fat should stay at seven grams.
If your chicken or turkey breast is processed, cut back to two ounces to keep the sodium in check. Make up the difference with lettuce, tomato, and onion. If you need more oomph, use mustard, but each teaspoon will add anywhere from 50 to 130 mg of sodium.
Even two slices (usually two ounces) of bologna will run you 16 grams of fat. At most delis, of course, a two-slicer would be laughed out of the kitchen. Chopped ham, corned beef, and turkey bologna arent quite as fatty as regular bologna, but why bother with the usual stuff when you can get low-fat versions?
Your supermarket should have dozens of deli meats with no more than two or three grams of fat per two-ounce serving. Some are fat-free. And the meatless soy-based "deli slices" at your local health food store are also worth a roll in the pita.
Dont laugh. In just a few years, most soy-based bolognas, hams, and turkeys have gone from nearly inedible to much closer to the real stuff (just dont look too closely at their color). Slap them between two slices of whole wheat and you may be pleasantly surprised. (Well rate them in an upcoming issue.)
Just keep in mind that processed meats (or meatless deli slices) are loaded with sodium. So you cant just pile four or five ounces into your sandwich. Our advice: Stick to two ounces. Check the label to find luncheon meats (or non-meats) that have less than 500 mg of sodium. (Be careful. Some meats use a one-slice serving size. Be sure to doubleor triplethe sodium numbers before you figure out how much it will add to your sandwich.)
Or just stick with Healthy Choice. Any food with "healthy" in its name or on its label cant contain more than 480 mg of sodium per serving. Some of Oscar Mayers and Louis Richs meats can hit 700 or 800 mg.
Okay, so youre not going to pack a BLT "to go." The next time youre having lunch at home, remember to make it a TLTthat is, a turkey, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Start with just two slices of turkey bacon, use low-fat mayo on whole wheat toast, and load up on lettuce and tomato.
|Hold the Pickle
Many of the sandwiches in this chart were made with four ounces of meat or two ounces of cheese. Thats slightly less than what we were served in 1995 at sandwich shops in several cities. The amount of filling in each sandwich is in parentheses following its name.
All the sandwiches were made using large (1.4-ounce) slices of whole wheat bread or a whole wheat pita. (Check the label for lower-sodium breads.) Unless noted, they have no mayo, mustard, cheese, oil, or dressing.
The chart includes a handful of healthier sandwiches we created (theyre in boldthe recipes are located at the end of this article).
"Best Bites" () have no more than nine grams of total fat, three grams of saturated fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium. "Better Bites" () can have up to 1,000 mg of sodium (many are simply ordinary sandwiches with less filling).
Within each category, sandwiches are ranked from least to most saturated fat.
¹ average for the entire line.
The use of information from this article for
commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without written permission from CSPI.
The information for this article was compiled by Trish Treanor.
Sandwiches Linked in the Article