Healthy Sandwiches: Seven Simple Steps for Super Sandwiches
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Today’s post is a comprehensive guide to making healthy sandwiches from a fellow fitness coach and food lover, Ben Johnson of bentrained.com. If you’re looking for top-notch information on being a fit food lover, you’ll definitely want to follow him on Instagram. All right, to the healthy sandwiches guide.
You’ve been swindled by sandwiches.
We all were, honestly. Back on January 1st 2000, Subway launched a new ad campaign that positioned their sandwiches as a healthy option.
Anybody that lived in the early 2000s saw the ads. The slimmer spokespeople worked like a charm. Before long, sandwiches became a go-to meal for health-conscious eaters everywhere.
But here’s the thing: Sandwiches aren’t inherently some sort of magical health superfood.
They’re just sandwiches. Delicious, and sometimes nutritious.
When they’re not nutritious, some sandwiches can be downright unhealthy.
- Packed with unnecessary calories.
- Loaded with carbs and fat.
- Devoid of nutrients.
- Keeping you from the fit and healthy life you work so hard for.
The literal opposite of what we’d expect from a supposedly healthy lunch. Like I said, we’ve been swindled by sandwiches.
There’s good news, though. There are a few simple steps that you can use to build yourself a superior sandwich. Simple steps to make the most of the classic lunch staple. And simple steps that’ll allow you to enjoy delicious mile highs without packing extra inches on your thighs.
And that’s exactly what I’m about to show you.
Healthy Sandwiches: Seven Simple Steps for Super Sandwiches
Next time you’re having a sandwich, follow these steps to build yourself a super sandwich.
Best part? You don’t have to make it yourself for the steps to work. You can (and should) use the seven steps for super sandwiches in your own kitchen, at chain restaurants, or your favorite mom ‘n pop sammich shop.
Step 1: It’s Okay to Eat Bread
Bread is a lot more than mere temptation. For one, it’s delicious. And anything Oprah loves is more than good enough for me.
The tricky part with bread—especially sandwich bread—is picking which kind of bread. As anyone that’s wandered the bread aisle at the local grocery store can tell you, not all bread is created equally. Not even close.
There’s a massive range that spans from the simplest of white breads to whole-grain options to fancy breads that have more seeds than a grandmother’s garden.
So which bread is best?
It can be confusing (especially from a health and fitness perspective).
Let’s clear one thing up immediately: There is no universally “best” bread. You’ll find different things taste better in different situations. Plus, different breads will lend themselves to different goals. Both personal taste and goals are completely individual.
For example, if I’m making a classic PB&J I think it tastes better (and more nostalgic) on simple white bread. Breakfast sandwich? Sourdough’s the move. And I like hearty, whole grain options when I’ve got a bunch of meat and veggies. But that’s purely based on taste.
Fitness goals matter too. Like we touched on, it’s okay to eat bread. It’s also okay to eat carbs and calories. In the right amounts, none of these will negatively affect your progress. But too much of anything can bring your results to an abrupt halt.
It’s okay to eat bread. But it can be a problem when that bread’s got too many calories.
And here’s the interesting thing with sandwich bread: The healthier it seems the more calories it usually has.
That “healthy” loaf with sprouted seeds and nuts might wind up having twice as many calories as a basic white bread. It’s important to keep this in mind and select a bread that works with you goals, not against them.
Yes, sometimes that’ll mean less nutritious white bread. But we’ll more than make up for that lost nutrition in the next step.
MW Note: Check out Joseph’s Pita Bread for a great nutritional breakdown. I use these in my healthy cheesy gordita crunch recipe.
Step 2: Veggies for Variety, Vitamins, and Color (See Step 7)
In the world of super healthy sandwiches, veggies are the spice of life. They can bring all kinds of different flavors and textures to a sandwich. Just think of how different it is sinking your teeth into a juicy tomato vs a crisp cucumber.
The texture. The flavor. Both different. Both delicious.
But veggies do a lot more than merely mixing things up. They give you the chance to pack a sandwich with nutrient-dense foods.
Vitamins. They’re important. Odds are this isn’t news to anybody. What can be, however, is just how important they are to leading a healthy and fit lifestyle.
It’s simple, really. Without the right nutrients, your body can’t properly function. That means everything from weight loss to gym performance, mid-day energy to sleep quality can take a hit.
A variety of veggies—heck, even fruit—on your sandwich is the remedy. They’re loaded with all kinds of nutrients that’ll keep you feeling and functioning your best.
My general vegetable suggestion is to enjoy a variety of colorful veggies.
Doing so tends to offer a wide variety of the nutrients you need. Fun fact: Similarly colored vegetables tend to be rich in the same vitamins. So yeah, greens are great. But so are yellows, reds, oranges, and purples. Ideally, you’ll get a little bit of everything for well-rounded nutrition.
Quick recap. Veggies offer you…
- Variety in taste and texture. Yum.
- The nutrition your body needs to properly function and feel fantastic. Yes, please.
- And gorgeous, eye-catching color. They say we are what we eat. May as well make it beautiful, right?
Oh, and that color is especially useful when it comes time for super sandwich step seven. But more on that later.
Step 3: Have Your Way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A
And by “have your way,” I mean take it out of your refrigerator and toss it in the trash.
Bologna does not belong in a super sandwich. Do this instead…
Step 4: For Healthy Sandwiches, Pile on the Protein
Health and fitness professionals talk about protein a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But for good reason. Protein is the universal enabler of health and fitness goals.
Want to lose weight? Shed fat? Sculpt lean muscle? Look good at the beach? Recover from an injury?
Protein can help with all of it. It can also help you feel full and stay full between meals, which is an absolute godsend for anyone that’s trying to drop a few pounds.
Unlike carbs and fat, which usually get restricted on a diet, it’s actually beneficial to eat more protein.
This is why bologna doesn’t belong in a super sandwich. It won’t offer the protein-packed punch that you want—need. So what does?
Lean protein. This can include everything from roast beef and ham to turkey and chicken. And honestly, if you’ve got the calories to spare, not-so-lean protein is great too. (Think: shaved beef or shredded pork.)
Once you’ve picked your protein, pile it high. You want to make it a focal point of your sandwich so that it comes with a heaping helping of protein—ideally, something in the ballpark of 25–35 grams (at least).
Step 5: Make Your Own Healthy “Mayo” (Takes Like 2 Seconds)
Sandwiches need moisture. Because balance. Mayonnaise offers that much-needed moisture. But there are a couple problems with traditional mayo…
- A lot of people just think it’s gross.
- It’s got a lot of calories—completely unnecessary calories.
Due to personal preference and health consciousness, a lot of people are leaving mayo off their sandwiches. But sandwiches still need moisture to balance out the dryness of your bread and high-piled protein.
Enter this simple DIY healthy mayo.
It serves the same purpose as mayo on your super sandwich, but doesn’t have any of the potential grossness or unnecessary calories. Plus, it’s even got some extra protein. (Score.)
And making it couldn’t be simpler.
All you’ve gotta do is add a pinch of salt to bit of plain Greek yogurt. That’s it. In about two seconds, you’ve got creamy deliciousness that gives your sandwich much-needed moisture for a fraction of the calories. And thanks to the added salt, that tart yogurt flavor is essentially nonexistent.
Here are a couple important notes for making your healthy mayo…
- Mix it in a small bowl. It really makes a difference for even salt distribution. A randomly tart zing can feel like a weird flavor clash on a sandwich.
- Ideally, avoid fat-free Greek yogurt. Remember those nutrients we talked about back in Step 2? Well, some of them need fat to be absorbed. Specifically, fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. They need to be consumed with fat to be optimally absorbed by your body. So make sure you’ve at least got some fat in your healthy mayo.
Step 6: Just Like Those Old Science Safety Videos, Always Add Acid
Okay, always might be a bit of a stretch. But adding something acidic (vinegary or briny) to your sandwich can do a lot for balance and overall flavor.
And the best part? It has little to no caloric impact.
In other words, you’re left with a better tasting sandwich without adding extra calories. Double win.
Brief side note: I totally understand that some people can’t stand the taste of pickled anything. My sister is one of those people. She simply cannot enjoy pickles, meanwhile I’ll eat them straight from the jar. If adding acid makes you hate what would otherwise be a tasty super sandwich, don’t.
It doesn’t have to be a much to be good. And too much can ruin the very balance you’re trying create in your super sandwich. The goal is to simply brighten, not bludgeon, with acid.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to do it:
- Banana peppers
- Pickled jalapeños
- A light drizzle of red wine vinegar
All of these can do a ton for flavor without costing you many (if any) calories. So as you put the finishing touches on your super sandwich, take a note out of those old science safety videos and always remember to add acid.
MW Note: A little apple cider vinegar goes a long way. Check out my high protein sloppy joes recipe for an example of a sauce with added acid.
Step 7: Post About Your Healthy Sandwiches on The Gram. Because If We Don’t Post About Our Food on Social Media, Did We Even Eat?
Yes, we all know that calories without captions still count. But all jokes aside, I’m not kidding about posting pics of your super sandwich on social media.
Listen, we’ve all been swindled by sandwiches at some point or another. They’re associated with health. But the unfortunate truth is that they’re not always that healthy.
Most people don’t even realize it. But now you do.
That’s why I want you to #SendFudes and share your super sandwiches with the world. Plus, the food lover in me can’t wait to see what you come up with.
BONUS: Here Are a Couple Classic Sandwiches I’ve Turned into Super Healthy Sandwiches
The PLT: Protein, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich
What you’ll need:
- 2 slices of bread
- ~4–6 ounces pork belly (roughly 1/4 inch slices with trimmed fat)
- Lettuce or other leafy greens (to taste)
- Sliced tomato (to taste)
- ~2–4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Brown pork belly over medium to medium-high heat; flipping occasionally.
- While the pork browns, mix Greek yogurt with salt and pepper in a small dish.
- Spread the yogurt—now a protein-packed pseudo mayonnaise—on both slices of bread.
- Don’t forget to check on the pork belly. Flip if needed.
- Pile lettuce and sliced tomato on one slice of bread.
- When the pork belly is browned and crisp to your liking, remove from the pan and pat dry.
- Finish off the sandwich with the protein, top with the second slice of bread, and serve alongside fresh veggies. (I like something crunchy.)
PB & Jealous (Read: Jelly)
What you’ll need:
- 2 slices of bread
- 1 cup of fresh or frozen strawberries or raspberries
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ~1 teaspoon lemon juice
- flax seeds (optional)
- Peanut butter or PB powder
- ~2–4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (if using PB powder)
- Liquid stevia (optional)
- Heat berries in a saucepan over medium-high heat, mashing the fruit to your preferred jelly/jam consistency.
- Add chia seeds, lemon juice, and stir to incorporate. Taste and add stevia to sweeten if you’d like.
- Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes to cool. Sing and dance along to whatever music you’re listening to while the super-absorbent chia seeds work their magic and thicken your jelly. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP.
- While the jelly continues to cool, mix Greek yogurt and PB powder into a spreadable, peanut butter. Optional: You can mix flax seeds into your peanut butter to make it more healthful and nutritious.
- Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread.
- Spread “jelly” over the other slice of bread (you should have some left over) and complete your super sandwich version of the classic PB&J.
- For added nostalgia, remove crusts and cut diagonally 😉
Looking for more goodies surrounding food for fitness? Be sure to check out Ben’s Instagram and show him some love for putting this awesome guide together for us.
Oh, hello. I’d say I’m sorry that you caught me mid bite, but I’m not actually sorry… – Because, well, food’s kinda my favorite. And I’m 100% unapologetic about enjoying delicious flavor. ? In life, and especially in fitness. – You can eat your favorite foods and be fit. In my opinion, it’s silly not to. ? And yet, so many people feel like they have to avoid this and can’t eat that. It’s unnecessary. – That’s why I do what I do. I help food lovers be fit. – Know a food lover wants to keep fit while enjoying deliciousness? Tag em in the comments ⤵ . . . . . #fitnessforfoodlovers #fitness #fatloss #fit #fatlosstips #strength #strengthcoach #food #foodie #foodies #foodlover #fitfood #fitfoodie #fitfoodies #fitfoodlover #diet #dietplan #diettips #nutritioncoaching #boston #bostonfitness #bostonfoodie #bostontrainer #bentrained