There’s more to healthy lunch than just sad desk salads. 
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Credit: Antonis Achilleos

Sandwiches are a lunchtime classic, but they’re not always the healthiest choice. In many cases, sandwiches can contain tons of extra calories, sodium, and sugar — and they’re not always great about including fruits and veggies. To ensure your go-to lunch is a healthier meal, follow the below tips to cut down on the unwanted extras and emphasize essential nutrients with satisfying flavor. 

1. Choose a better bread

We all know that refined grains, like white bread, are not the best choice — they can lead to a major sugar crash and don’t keep you as full as whole grains will. However, many store-bought whole wheat breads can contain high-fructose corn syrup and other unwanted sugars and additives. To steer clear of those unnecessary ingredients, try shopping in the freezer section. Frozen breads are often preservative-free, and there are great options available. Look for a bread with minimal ingredients that are easy to pronounce. A sprouted grain bread makes a great choice, as well as preservative-free sourdough, which can benefit your gut health

2. Try open-faced

If you’re looking to cut down on carbs but don’t want a lettuce wrap, try serving your sandwich open-faced. Skip the second slice of bread to reduce the carbs and calories, and feel free to really pile on the healthy toppings. The sky’s the limit when you’re eating your sandwich with a fork and knife!

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

3. Watch out for deli meats

It’s not just salamis and sausages that pack in the sodium. Many cold cuts are full of salt and added preservatives, so be mindful of your portion sizes (a 2-ounce serving is standard) and get them fresh from the deli when you can. If you want to go a step further, you could use home-cooked meats, like roast chicken or turkey, that haven't been cured. Otherwise, organic, preservative-free meats are your best bet. 

4. Add in the veggies

We’re not just talking about lettuce and tomato! Fresh cucumber, avocados, peppers, arugula, or grilled mushrooms all make great sandwich toppings and pack in the nutrients. Use the “rainbow” rule of thumb here — try to add as many colors to your sandwich as possible. Pro tip: avocado makes a great mayo substitute, so try it out next time you need a creamy spread! 

5. Get creative with condiments

Mayonnaise and other spreads can be full of unwanted ingredients, so try using mustard, hummus, pesto, baba ganoush, or a squeeze of lemon juice instead. Additionally, fruits like fresh apples or bananas can add natural sweetness (and a healthy crunch!). For example, a sandwich with one portion of fresh turkey, a slice of Cheddar cheese, sliced apples, and mustard on whole-grain bread will be satisfying and filling without the excess calories and fat. You can also turn to ingredients like olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and jalapenos to boost flavor without significantly increasing the calories. 

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6. Use plant proteins

Sandwiches don’t have to include meat and cheese. Instead, you could make a bean-based sandwich (like hummus topped with veggies and sprouts) or use a natural nut butter. Many schools and workplaces don’t allow peanut butter for allergy reasons, so almond or sunflower butter might be a better choice. For a healthier, lower sugar PB&J, try sunflower butter with sliced strawberries and banana on sprouted bread. 

7. Get eggy with it

An egg can be so satisfying on a sandwich, whether there’s meat involved or not. Add a fried egg to a sandwich for a creamy runny yolk, or slice up a hard-boiled egg to get a protein boost. 

8. Load up on the pickles

A good sandwich is full of crunch, and that often comes from an unhealthy side of chips. However, you can swap the chips for pickles to add crunch, flavor, and fiber. Plus, they’re low in calories! Try making your own to customize them to your taste.