Build a better (and healthier) sandwich. Registered Dietitians Mary Simpson Creel and Jackie Newgent, CDN, show you six key ingredients that enhance both nutrition and flavor.
Health benefit: Even though it’s made with high-calorie ingredients like nuts, olive oil, and cheese, pesto is a healthful spread. One tablespoon supplies a reasonable 58 calories and five grams of good-for-you unsaturated fat.
"Pesto perks up milder ingredients," Newgent says. Spread a tablespoon on a baguette topped with grilled chicken and tomato (shown here). Or pair pesto with fish. Put a dollop on a grilled fish fillet, like halibut, and serve with lettuce on a Kaiser roll.
Health benefit: One-half red bell pepper supplies all the vitamin C and 80 percent of the vitamin A you need in a day.
Try it: “Red peppers are naturally sweet, and roasting them adds a smoky and savory accent,” Creel says. Add half a roasted red pepper to classic grilled cheese on whole-grain bread. Or line a flour tortilla with baby spinach leaves and sliced roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with diced garlic and basil feta cheese, and roll up burrito-style (shown here).
Health benefit: Avocados are high in fat, but 64 percent of it is the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety. They also offer other nutrients like vitamin E, cholesterol-controlling plant sterols, and potassium.
Try it: For a California-inspired suggestion, Creel recommends spooning tuna salad on an English muffin, then topping with sliced radishes, alfalfa sprouts, and thin slivers of avocado (shown here). Mild, buttery avocados are also a good complement to sharp cheeses.
Health benefit: Half a pear has three grams of fiber, the same amount as a slice of whole-grain bread. (Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system―aim for 25 grams a day.)
Try it: “Pears are the perfect sandwich fruit because they add sweetness and crunch without overpowering other flavors,” Newgent says. Place half a small, sliced pear into a turkey sandwich with mustard and Brie on hearty whole-grain bread (shown here). Or sauté pears to heighten their flavor even more, toss with feta cheese and lemon vinaigrette, and serve in a whole-grain pita.
Health benefit: Adding 1/4 cup of dried fruit (like cranberries, raisins, or figs) to your diet counts as one of the two to four servings of fruit you’re supposed to be getting each day.
Try it: Since dried fruit is more concentrated than fresh, it’s sweeter. Use it to satisfy a sweet craving healthfully by pairing dried cranberries with a savory chicken salad (shown here). “Stir in pecans for a little texture and crunch, and serve on a whole-grain hamburger bun with fresh lettuce,” Creel says.
Health benefit: Two tablespoons of almond butter provide 30 percent of daily magnesium needs and are a good source of calcium. This satisfying spread comes in two varieties, raw and roasted. Use raw for a subtle, sweet taste and roasted for more intense flavor.
Try it: Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons almond butter, topped with half a sliced banana and 1 tablespoon honey, between slices of toasted bread (below), Creel says. Newgent favors a savory option: “Spread almond butter on sourdough bread; layer with turkey bacon and thin apple slices.”