A healthy sandwich is a lunchtime favorite for a few good reasons: It’s easily packable, cheap to make, and the perfect vehicle for complex carbohydrates, good-for-you fats, fiber-packed veggies, and lean protein. It can totally be the afternoon meal you need to get through the rest of your day. And, despite what grilled cheeses and BLTs would have you think, sandwiches can absolutely help you work toward your weight loss goals.
These eight simple tricks make it easy to cut calories and add nutrients to all your go-to sandwich recipes without sacrificing the flavors you love. If you’re interested in using these ideas to help you lose weight, it’s important to note that weight loss looks different for everyone. Counting calories can be a helpful tactic for some people, but not for others. If you have a history of disordered eating, you should always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
And remember, weight loss isn’t just about what you eat. Stress levels, sleep habits, and health issues that may be out of your control can all affect how you gain and lose weight. That’s why it’s important to take the time to find a plan that will help you reach your goals in a way that’s healthiest for you.
If you do want to use healthy sandwich ideas to help you lose weight, try out these easy tricks the next time you pack your lunch.
1. OPEN UP YOUR SANDWICH
An easy way to cut the calorie count of literally any sandwich? Take off the top piece of bread. This is a trick that Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, swears by. She tells SELF that by removing that extra bread, not only are you nixing about 70 to 80 calories, but you’re also making enough room to pile your meal high with extra protein and veggies.
2. USE PITA INSTEAD OF REGULAR BREAD
Each piece of whole-wheat bread has about 80 calories, whereas a small whole-wheat pita (2 to 4 inches wide) only has about 70 calories, says Gorin. That’s not a huge difference, but it might be worth trying if you’re looking for small, simple ways to eat fewer calories.
3. WRAP IT UP — IN A ROMAINE LETTUCE LEAF OR A TORTILLA
“If you’re looking to cut calories, opt for a lettuce-wrapped sandwich,” Dianna Sinni, R.D., L.D., wellness dietitian and blogger at Chard in Charge, tells SELF. “This can reduce the calorie count by 120 to 200 calories, depending on the type of bread you normally use.”
Still want some healthy carbs on your plate? Use a single whole-wheat or multigrain tortilla instead of two slices of bread. Just make sure that the tortilla you’re reaching for is actually lower in calories, says Gorin, because some can contain even more than those two slices of bread.
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4. THROW AN EGG ON TOP
Gorin likes to top her sammies with a fried or hard-boiled egg. This is a great way to add 6 grams of extra protein, plus some healthy fats, to make your lunch more satisfying and keep you fuller for longer. Plus, who doesn’t love sopping up that runny yolk with bread?
5. SKIP THE DELI MEATS
Gorin explains that even though they’re a super low-maintenance protein source, deli meats often contain a lot of sodium. That’s why she prefers to fill her sandwiches with whole cooked chicken breasts or salmon fillets. Don’t feel like laboring over your meat that long? Canned chicken, salmon, or tuna with no added sodium will work just fine.
6. OPT FOR LOWER-CALORIE CONDIMENTS
“With a lot of condiments, we’re just looking for ways to add moisture to our sandwiches,” Gorin explains. Her go-to condiments include mustard, hummus, and a homemade garlicky-Greek yogurt spread, all of which add moisture in a healthier way. And don’t forget to be wary of sugar—some condiments, like ketchup, pack way more than you’d think.
7. OR SKIP CONDIMENTS ALTOGETHER AND USE CONCENTRATED INGREDIENTS LIKE CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES FOR EXTRA FLAVOR
You get a huge bang for your buck with cured, pickled, and cooked ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and olives. All are both extremely potent and relatively low in calories, and you don’t need to use a lot to reap the flavor benefits.
8. WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD MORE VEGGIES
As is the case with salads, crunchy, watery, low-cal vegetables are something you can never add too much of to your sandwiches. Gorin likes to throw in tons of everything from alfalfa sprouts to red peppers. And that’s just the beginning of the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to get creative, because almost everything tastes good in sandwich form.