Nutrition Advice

How to Build a Better Sandwich

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Sandwiches are a staple of many Americans’ daily diets, and it’s no wonder: Throwing one together makes busy mornings easier. Plus, a sandwich is an ideal way to package a meal’s worth of nutrition into one tidy bundle. A solid sandwich packs enough punch to easily serve as breakfast, lunch, or dinner – and a half-sandwich makes a perfect snack.

“Sandwiches are quick, convenient and they’re a seamless way to get a variety of flavors and nutrients in one bite,” explains Antigone Senn, RDN, who provides nutrition counseling through Henry Ford’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. But while some sandwiches are stellar nutrition-wise, others can devastate a diet as soon as you sink your teeth into them. (Grilled cheese and double meat, we’re looking at you!) Some kid-approved sandwiches, for example, are often loaded with sodium and void of veggies.

So, before you bite into your next afternoon delight—or pack that school lunch—read Senn’s 6 suggestions for better sandwich building:

  1. Go for the grain. When it comes to bread, whole grain varieties always beat white bread. Whole grains contain more nutrients and fiber than processed breads, so they are healthier and keep you feeling full for longer. Look for whole or sprouted grain, spelt, oat and rye bread, wraps or tortillas and check the label for sodium content.
    Quick tip: If you’re concerned about sodium and calories (both of which can be high in bread), consider serving your sandwich open-face with one slice. Or ditch the bread altogether and wrap your favorite fillings with a gigantic lettuce leaf instead.
  1. Choose innovative spreads. Rather than smearing your bread with mustard, ketchup and mayo, experiment with bolder-flavored and more nutrient-rich options such as hummus, guacamole, olive tapenade and tzatziki.
    Quick tip: Skip the spread altogether or opt for thinly sliced avocado and cracked black pepper instead.
  1. Focus on healthy fillers. Lean protein including chicken, low-sodium turkey breast and fish are solid choices. For vegetarians, nut butters, portabella mushrooms, tofu and tempeh are nutritious options.
    Quick tip: Watch the cold cuts. Even turkey can be loaded with fat and sodium. And ditch the cheese atop your lean protein, or at least tear the slice in half and pair the second half with a piece of whole fruit or raw veggies for a satisfying afternoon snack.
  1. Pile on the veggies. Fresh vegetables such as lettuce, tomato, peppers and cucumbers add color, crunch and texture to your sandwich – and deliver important nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants. A bonus: Most veggies are loaded with fiber, which help keep hunger pangs at bay. Quick tip: If you’re packing your sandwich in the morning, put veggies in a separate container or baggie and add to your sandwich at lunchtime. That way, you won’t have to bite into soggy bread.
  1. Add seasonal extras. Eating the identical sandwich most days? Avoid the same-old by selecting seasonal extras like thinly sliced apples in the fall, mushrooms in the winter, strawberries in the spring and nectarines in the summer. That burst of flavor and texture elevates an otherwise drab dish.
    Quick tip: Use fresh fruit instead of jam for peanut or almond butter sandwiches. Almond butter and sliced bananas or strawberries is a kid (and Elvis) favorite!
  1. Pay attention to portions. Most sandwiches are loaded up with spreads, fillers and other extras. To keep your sandwich from turning into a calorie bomb, aim for 3- to 4-ounce portions of protein (including meat and cheese) and go lighter on condiments.
    Quick tip: Slice your sandwich in half, especially if you’re purchasing your afternoon meal at a restaurant or deli where portions sizes are already over-the-top. Store the second half in the fridge and you’ll have ready-made meal the next day.

You can also read more nutrition and fitness advice in our EatWell and MoveWell sections, so subscribe to get all the latest tips and healthy recipes.

Antigone Senn is a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in nutrition counseling and health coaching at Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Looking for more info and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or email