You’ve got veggies, meat, cheese and bread packed into a sandwich – sounds like you’ve got all of your food groups covered. But new research is warning that your so-called healthy sandwich is more likely a calorie-bomb.
New research from the University of Illinois suggests that when people eat sandwiches, they tend to consume 100 more calories, along with an extra seven grams of fat, 268 milligrams of sodium, and three grams of sugar compared to days when a sandwich wasn’t worked into their diet.
On sandwich days, they ate less fruit and vegetables, too.
These findings aren’t a surprise to Canadian experts either.
“A lot of the individual items people put on a sandwich can be healthy independently but you’re packing so much food into so little volume so it’s easy to overeat and not account for how much food is in there,” Susan Macfarlane, an Ottawa-based dietitian who specializes in weight management, told Global News.
“You have all the food groups but the proportion for each group is distorted,” Nicole Osinga, a registered dietitian in Courtice, Ont., explained.
A balanced plate would have a quarter portion of protein, a quarter of carbohydrates and 50 per cent of the plate would be covered in vegetables.
“With sandwiches all of that shifts. Half of what you’re eating is carbohydrates with a quarter as protein. There can still be room for sandwiches in our diet but we have to be careful,” she said.
The experts list five ways you may be sabotaging your diet and how to avoid these common traps:
Problem: You’re using too much processed meat
The study revealed that people tend to rely on cold cuts, hamburger patties and chicken. The trouble is processed meats and bacon are packed with sodium and other preservatives.
Three slices of ham comes with 130 calories, and seven grams of fat. But that portion is packed with 1,100 milligrams of sodium – nearly half of an adult’s daily allowance.
Low fat turkey breast might be lower in calories and fat, but three slices still make up 30 per cent of your daily sodium allowance, Osinga warns.
Solution: Wean yourself off of the deli meats. Instead, cook chicken breast or turkey and slice or shred the meat for your sandwich.
Try grilling tofu steaks or vegetables, too. Boiled eggs, beans or tuna are also healthier options, Macfarlane offers.
Problem: Too many condiments
You load up on butter, mayonnaise, sub sauce, and other dressings to pack flavour into your sandwich.
“People can overdo it on the condiments and most of them have a lot of fat, are high in calories or are sugar-based,” Osinga says.
READ MORE: Top 5 foods packed with sodium
One tablespoon of mayonnaise adds 100 calories to your meal. But Macfarlane said most people don’t just add a single serving either.
Solution: Choose one condiment or make healthy swaps. Spread avocado instead of butter, plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo, and rely on seasonings like basil for flavour.
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Problem: Too much bread
Carbs should make up only a quarter of your plate – your sandwich is heavy on the bread, though.
A single slice of bread contains 170 milligrams of sodium – that’s seven per cent of your daily intake. That’s not too bad until you have two slices of toast for breakfast along with a sandwich at lunch.
Solution: Make a half sandwich and pair it with a leafy green salad or a homemade veggie soup, Osinga says.
Opt for a low-sodium bread that’s made from 100 per cent whole grain or whole wheat flour or trade the bread for kale to make a lettuce wrap if you’re willing to forgo the carbohydrates altogether.
Macfarlane likes Ezekiel whole grain, low-sodium bread. It has 80 calories per slice.
Problem: Too much cheese
Three cubes of cheese clock in at about 170 calories with 14 grams of fat. If you’re piling cheese onto your sandwich, it’s an easy way to tack on the calories.
“Cheese is on everything. It’s impossible to find a sandwich that doesn’t have cheese on it, but it may not dramatically enhance the flavour of your sandwich,” Macfarlane noted.
Solution: Portion-control how much cheese you’re adding to your sandwich. With so many ingredients in the mix, you may not even miss it.
Problem: Not enough vegetables
You’ve got two slices of bread, smoked turkey and mayonnaise – with just a bit of lettuce and tomatoes. Veggies turn into a garnish when it comes to sandwiches.
Solution: Pile on the vegetables – add grilled zucchini or eggplant. Add shredded carrots or beets, sprouts, lettuce, onions or sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.
Pickled vegetables don’t count either. They’re soaked in a brine and sit in water, sucking away their nutrition.
(Michael Collins/Global News)