When it comes to sandwiches, anything goes. They’re basically blank canvases waiting to be adorned with your favorite fixings and toppings. In turn, you can easily experiment with different ingredients—and enjoy all of them in every bite.
There’s just one catch, though: If you’re not careful, those very ingredients can turn your sandwich into an energy-dense meal. After all, much like carbs and fats, all sandwiches are not equal.
Luckily, it’s possible to make one that’s low in calories and full of flavor. It comes down to replacing traditional sandwich fixings with lighter, more wholesome ingredients. Before you know it, you can have your sandwich and eat it, too.
1. Use hummus instead of mayonnaise.
Mayo might be a sandwich staple, but it’s also high in the calorie department. Just one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has 94 calories! Needless to say, it alone can ruin an otherwise healthy sandwich.
Try hummus instead, which has just 36 calories per tablespoon—almost a third of mayo. Plus, as a stellar source of plant-based protein and fiber, hummus will keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day.
2. Choose whole-grain bread instead of white bread.
For an easy sandwich swap, use whole grain in place of white. It’s a simple switch that will cut out refined carbs, one of the best things you can do for your health. Fueling up on complex carbs instead will power you through the day, plus you'll see the caloric load of your sandwich drop as well. And as for the calories you do eat? They’ll be more nutritionally dense, thanks to the fiber, vitamins and minerals in whole grains.
3. Reach for a bread replacement.
Yes, your mother always made your sandwiches with Wonder bread with the crusts cut off, but bread is not your only option. If you want to keep the focus on the flavorful ingredients, opt for a high-fiber, whole-grain tortilla instead. Tortillas are especially useful for holding together "loose" ingredients—like beans or peas—and messier fillings, such as avocado egg salad.
For an even lighter option, grab a leafy green to use as a wrap. They’re not only low in calories, but full of vitamins and minerals, too. What more can you ask for? Try Swiss chard, collard greens or kale for a sturdy base. You can even use smaller leaves to make mini “sliders.” If you need some inspiration, check out this tasty sesame chicken lettuce wrap recipe.
4. Substitute portobello mushrooms for deli meat.
Ditch the processed deli meat for “meaty” veggies like portobello mushrooms. This simple swap will not only help you cut back on calories, but you'll also be avoiding the preservatives and sodium that hide in deli meats.
All it takes is some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices to dress up portobello mushroom caps. Then, just roast them in the oven or throw them on the grill before popping them on your sandwich (grilled portobello burgers, anyone?) and allowing them to be the star of the show.
If you’re not a fan of mushrooms or have an allergy, try vegetables like eggplant and cauliflower.
5. Add flavor with spices.
While condiments can elevate a sandwich, they’re often jam-packed with calories and sodium. Some sauces, like ketchup and barbecue sauce, are also hidden sources of sugar.
Reach for spices and herbs, instead. With the right combination, you can add low-calorie flavor to your favorite sandwich. For example, if you love ranch dressing, make a homemade ranch seasoning mix. You’ll need spices like parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, chives and black pepper. Sprinkle it on your sandwich fillings or mix with olive oil and add a light drizzle. If you love tomatoes on your sandwich, adding some basil leaves the mix will add an extra burst of complementary flavor. Mix and match and experiment until you find the combos that you love.
What’s your go-to sandwich hack? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle writer, editor and author. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition and is currently based in New York. Kirsten spends her days writing articles and dreaming up healthy recipes.
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