Love Sandwiches? You Might Be Hurting Your Health More Than You Think, New Study Says

Love Sandwiches? You Might Be Hurting Your Health More Than You Think, New Study Says

But wait, there's good news in here somewhere.

By Aly Walansky

Visions of juicy burgers and stacked club sandwiches make us salivate every time. Admittedly, few things in life (or at lunchtime, anyway) are as satisfying as an awesome sandwich—but it turns out that giving into this craving too often may be doing more damage than we realize. 

A new study published in the journal Public Health cites the whopping statistic that on any day of the week, more than half of Americans (52 percent) can be found eating a sandwich. But here's the clincher: People took in an average of 100 calories more in a meal when they ate a sandwich, as the researchers who did the study at the University of Illinois found. The subjects also consumed more sugar and fewer vegetables when they ate sandwiches, which were often stuffed with cold cuts, burgers and other delicious (but fat-sodium-calorie-jammed) ingredients.

“The study found that people who ate sandwiches for lunch consumed an average of 99 calories, 7 grams of fat, 268 grams of sodium and 3 grams of sugar MORE than those who didn't consume a sandwich for lunch, Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian with Top Balance Nutrition, told The Feast. One question, Turoff adds, is "What are people putting on their sandwiches" to rack up these high numbers?

Sandwiches can be healthy and light, as long as you choose the right ingredients, but the options can be deceptive. “Wraps are tricky: They seem like less bread, so many people assume they'd be lower in calories, but your average whole wheat wrap actually contains around 300 calories, 9 grams of fat, 600 mg of sodium, and 52 grams of carbohydrates!" says Turoff.

"The same goes for spinach or tomato wraps, which are really just colored white wraps. A better choice would be to go for two slices of rye bread, which would clock in at around 165 calories, 2 grams of fat, 400 mg sodium and 30 grams of carbohydrates," Turoff says, adding that an open-face sandwich or a lettuce-leaf wrap is an even better choice.

And never underestimate the importance of those veggies. “Sandwiches fill us up, but all too often don’t give our bodies the nutrition they need. One thing we can do to boost the nutritional value of sandwiches is to simply add superfoods; specifically microgreens,” Danielle Horton, CNC of Urban Produce, told The Feast. 

"Micro versions of cilantro, kale, cabbage, and broccoli are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E and K.  In fact, a recent study conducted by The University of Maryland shows that microgreens have four to 40 times the nutritional density than their fully grown counterparts. Simply sprinkle them onto any sandwich for added flavor and a big boost of nutrients," Horton says.

if you're making your own sandwich (or ordering one at the deli counter), go easy on the mayo, limiting it to one teaspoon max. Turoff advises using Greek yogurt or Dijon mustard instead. "One tablespoon of mayo contains 90 calories and 10 grams of fat, whereas an equal amount of mustard contains only 9 calories and 0.6 grams of fat," she adds.

Consider other spreads too, but don't go crazy: "Hummus also makes a great sandwich spread, but portions should be kept to 1-2 tablespoons. Avocado works as well, but aim for no more than 1/4 of an avocado to keep the calorie and fat content down. If using cheese, aim for a 1/2 ounce portion; ask them to slice your cheese very thin and just use 1 slice. If you're going to be adding another source of fat such as avocado or mayo, opt for a reduced fat cheese,” says Turoff.

What about the meat? Your best bet is to go for low-sodium turkey or chicken breast."Preferably, get it from the deli counter rather than the pre-packaged kind. Roast beef and ham are also not bad choices. Four ounces of protein on a sandwich is appropriate, or even six ounces if one slice of bread is being omitted," Turoff notes. What to avoid? Chicken salad, tuna salad and egg salad, which pack in the most calories. all that? The good news is, we can have our sandwich and eat it too. And that's what we wanted to hear.

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