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Categories > Diet and Nutrition > Weight management

Reading between the slices
Give your bread a boost
Fill up on filling
Light takes on old favorites

Brown bag checklist
Brown bag checklist

When packing your child’s (or your own) lunch, try to …

  • include a variety of foods from the major food groups.
  • keep calories in mind. Sweetened drinks, cookies and desserts are possible sources of extra fat and sugar.
  • use small amounts of high-fat foods, such as butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream and fatty meats.
  • include foods with dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads.

Have it your way
Have it your way

Here’s how to make your next fast-food lunch quick—and healthy:

  • Ask for mustard instead of mayonnaise.
  • Choose grilled chicken over fried chicken or a burger.
  • Go cheeseless.
  • Fill the sandwich with salad fixings like lettuce, tomato, onion and alfalfa sprouts. Remove some of the main filling if you have to make room for these healthy stuffers.
  • Ask for light mayo on your tuna, chicken or seafood sandwich.
  • Ask for a whole-wheat roll.
  • Say no to chips, cookies and other high-fat sidekicks.

Did you know the average American eats 193 sandwiches a year? That’s a lot of sandwiches, but unfortunately, it may not represent a whole lot of variety where it counts—between the slices. If you’re suffering from brown-bagger boredom, chances are you’re not getting the nutrients you need for optimal health.

But fear not. Here’s how to turn your same-old sandwich into a power-packed midday meal.

Give your bread a boost

Are you still hooked on white bread? If so, it’s time to explore other grains. Oatmeal, whole-wheat, rye and pumpernickel breads add extra fiber and nutrients to your sandwich. (Note: Before you grab the first wheat bread you see, scan the nutrition label. Many wheat breads contain mostly white flour; make sure wheat is the first and only flour mentioned.) To give your sandwich an ethnic flair, roll your filling in a tortilla or stuff it into a pita.

Fill up on filling

Granted, a sandwich isn’t much without the filling. But the most popular sandwich filling—deli meat—isn’t best for your body. Although convenient, a few slices can shoot up your sodium and fat intake. A 4-ounce serving can easily add 28 grams of fat and 1,200 milligrams of sodium to your lunch.

Low-fat and low-sodium luncheon meats will help keep your diet in check, but for a heartier, more satisfying sandwich, use whole chicken and turkey leftovers (cooked without the skin).

Now step outside the lunch box for a moment. What about a roasted veggie sandwich or a hummus and carrot pita? Be creative with your filling—remember, you can fit just about anything between two slices of bread. Here are some other examples:

  • fresh mozzarella and tomatoes
  • roasted carrots, onion and eggplant
  • tabouli
  • Caesar salad with chicken
  • black bean and veggie roll-up
  • spinach salad

If your sandwich is going to be sitting around all morning, wait until serving time to add tomatoes or dressings that might make the bread soggy.

Light takes on old favorites

  • Slimmer salads. Although tuna, chicken and egg salads can help banish the sliced-meat doldrums, prepared varieties can be heavy on the mayo. Instead of buying salads, make them yourself using a small amount of low-fat mayo, or try substituting reduced-calorie salad dressing. Add chopped apples, sliced grapes and chunks of celery to help boost your fruit and vegetable intake. And to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your egg salad, use one egg yolk for every three egg whites.
  • Peanut power. Whether you’re whipping up a PB&J sandwich for yourself or your youngster, try banana slices or raisins instead of jelly for added flavor—and fiber.
  • Better BLT. Turn your BLT into a TLT and dig in. Just use two slices of turkey bacon instead of the regular variety, pile on the lettuce and tomato and use just a dab of reduced-fat mayo.
  • Grilled with gusto. Try reduced-fat American cheese between two slices of light bread to turn the standard sandwich into a waist-watcher’s delight.
  • Bagel bites. Can’t get enough of those oversized bagels? Slice them in half and remove most of the dough, then stuff with shredded lettuce and a slice of light luncheon meat. Or if cream cheese is your preference, use just a tablespoon of the reduced-fat variety. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of chopped walnuts for extra crunch.