Diet Proof Your Sandwich

by Charles Platkin, PhD

But nowadays, sandwiches have become an art form, as well as a nutritional minefield. Here are some clues to help you make the right sandwich decisions:

If you talk to most sandwich makers (I used to make sandwiches for a living), you know that the bread is the key to a sandwich’s success. And even with the popularity of the Atkins diet these days, bread lovers are still eating their sandwiches, albeit clandestinely. Remember, all breads are not created equal. For instance, a 6-inch Italian (White) Bread from Subway has 200 calories, whereas 2 slices of Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread have only 100 calories.

  • Choose whole grain breads for maximum nutrients, including fiber, which helps you stay full. But don’t be fooled by a brown, healthy-looking appearance! Make sure to check the ingredients list. Whole grain flour should be the first ingredient (for example, whole wheat, whole rye, whole oats, etc.). Watch out for labels boasting multi-grain, seven-grain, unbleached, stone ground, or just plain wheat — these are not necessarily made with whole grains. Pick “light” breads to save calories. Compared to the typical 80-100 calories per slice, they generally contain only 40 calories per slice.
  • Wraps and tortillas make for a good sandwich, but not when they’re fried. A large (10-inch) tortilla has 218 calories and 5g fat when it’s just baked, but has 286 calories and 15g fat if it’s fried.
  • Pita bread is typically a low-fat, low-sugar sandwich holder, but be wary — it may not necessarily provide calorie savings over regular bread. Check the package label if possible.
  • At cafes and bakeries, avoid the croissants — they’re rich, doughy and loaded with calories. A large croissant contains 272 calories, 14g fat, and 31g carbs.
  • Bagels are low in fat, but may contain as many as 400 calories, depending on size — and that doesn’t even include the spread. To save as much as half the calories, hollow out the bagel, or have an open face sandwich. You can do this for large rolls as well.

Choose leaner cold cuts like turkey, chicken, roast beef, and ham. On average, these contain no more than 110 calories and 5g fat for a 2-ounce serving.

  • Subway 6″ Ham: 290 calories, 5g fat, 46g carbs
  • Blimpie 6″ Roast Beef (regular): 388 calories, 7.5g fat, 49g carbs
  • Schlotzsky’s Deli Dijon Chicken (small): 329 calories, 4g fat, 49g carbs

Avoid higher fat meats like bacon, bologna, salami, pimiento loaf, and sausage. Steer clear of anything called “Monte Cristo.” While this description varies from restaurant to restaurant, it typically has cheese and is dipped in egg and fried in butter.

  • Subway 6″ Southwest Turkey Bacon: 410 calories, 16g fat, 48g carbs
  • Cousins Subs Italian Sausage: 478 calories, 22g fat, 50g carbs
  • Blimpie Ultimate BLT Wrap: 831 calories, 50g fat, 60g carbs

And what about the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s the peanut butter you’ve got to watch carefully. Just 1 tablespoon contains 95 calories, 8g fat, and 3g carbs.

  • Panera Bread Peanut Butter & Jelly on French: 440 calories, 16g fat, 64g carbs

Cheese is a great source of calcium and protein, but it’s also a source of excess calories and fat — primarily saturated fat. One ounce of regular cheese usually contains about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat, of which 5 grams are saturated. Delis typically add 3 to 5 slices of cheese per sandwich, which sends the calorie and fat content of your sandwich skyrocketing.

  • Schlotzsky’s Deli Ham & Cheese Original (large): 1423 calories, 50g fat, 158g carbs
  • Einstein Bros Ultimate Toasted Cheese with Tomato: 870 calories, 51g fat, 73g carbs
  • Au Bon Pain Chicken, Ham & Cambozola: 1140 calories, 31g fat, 140 g carbs

Rumored to have come from the large sandwiches served at country clubs, the club sandwich generally contains three slices of toasted bread layered with bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and some type of meat. With the exception of Subway’s club sandwich, these trimmings don’t typically add up to a trim waistline.

  • Subway 6″ Club: 320 calories, 6g fat, 46g carbs
  • Schlotzsky’s Deli Turkey & Bacon Club (regular): 834 calories, 35g fat, 79g carbs
  • Au Bon Pain Smoked Turkey Club: 760 calories, 34g fat, 62g carbs

Although this sandwich on rye is grilled, the high fat meats, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing put the calories over the top.

  • Schlotzsky’s Deli Pastrami Reuben (regular): 944 calories, 41g fat, 83g carbs
  • Einstein Bros Turkey Pastrami Reuben Deli: 660 calories, 19g fat, 83g carbs

Vegetables add flavor, crunch, nutrients and fiber to sandwiches. Besides the traditional lettuce and tomato, try these favorites: red onion, bell peppers, roasted red peppers, spicy jalapeno peppers, carrots, celery, spinach, arugula, cucumber, zucchini, yellow, squash, eggplant, etc. But watch out for the extras added to veggie sandwiches — specifically cheese, salad dressings and mayo. Again, Subway has a low calorie version, but take a look at the high calories in some of the others:

  • Subway 6″ Veggie Delite: 230 calories, 3g fat, 44g carbs
  • Panera Bread Garden Veggie: 570 calories, 24g fat, 74g carbs
  • Au Bon Pain Mozzarella, Tomato, and Pesto: 820 calories, 43g fat, 67g carbs

Also, skip salads mixed with mayo such as tuna, chicken or egg salads — unless they’re made using light or fat-free mayonnaise. The fat and calories in the mayo can turn a relatively healthy food into a dieter’s nightmare.

  • 7-11 Big Eats Tuna Salad: 550 calories, 22g fat, 56g carbs
  • Au Bon Pain Southwestern Tuna Wrap: 690 calories, 28g fat, 69g carbs
  • Panera Bread Chicken Salad on Sesame Semolina: 690 calories, 23g fat, 39g carbs

As you’ve been told time and again, mayonnaise, oil, and full-fat dressings add unwanted calories and fat to your sandwiches. To get that creamy texture for less fat, try a slice of avocado (about 1/8 of an avocado) for only 45 calories, 5g fat, and 2g carbs. Other relatively innocuous add-ons include: mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, horseradish (not horseradish sauce), salsa, and balsamic vinegar. Fat-free mayonnaise comes in exciting flavors like wasabi or chipotle that make you forget you’re missing the fat. Try light or fat-free salad dressings, cocktail sauce, teriyaki sauce, or low-fat honey mustard.

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