You probably already know that eating too much sodium can cause bloating, high blood pressure, and other complications. But you may be surprised to learn that one food that you may eat every day chews up nearly 50% of your daily recommended sodium allowance. The culprit?
The sandwich. A study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that on any given day, 49% of American adults eat at least one sandwich and that sandwich accounts for 46% of the daily recommended sodium allowance.
The 2010 dietary guidelines recommend adults consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, and those with existing heart concerns, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, should consume no more than 1500 mg per day. However, the average intake of sodium among Americans is a whopping 3400 mg per day.
Another interesting finding of this study was that the sandwich eaters also eat more calories per day than non-sammie eaters. In fact, on days when study participants ate a sandwich, they averaged 300 calories more—you’d have to run about 3 miles to burn that off—than on days when they did not eat a sandwich.
You don’t have to swear off sandwiches completely to keep your sodium and calories in check, but being smart with the ingredients you add to your sandwich is important. To keep things healthy, check out these tips:
1. Whenever possible, make your own sandwich rather than get one out. Restaurant sammies tend to be much higher in sodium and calories due to increased seasonings and condiments, more processed ingredients, and larger portions in general.
2. Skip the processed lunch meats and make a sandwich using leftover chicken, fish, or steak that you cooked yourself. Or—how about going meatless altogether?
3. Load your sandwich up with plenty of fresh ingredients like veggies, avocado, and fresh herbs, and go easy on the bottled condiments.
4. If you can’t live without cheese on your sandwich, stick to brick cheese, goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, or swiss cheese, which all have 150mg of sodium or less per serving (less than half that of many other varieties). Good news is that these softer varieties of cheese tend to be lower in calories than harder varieties as well.
5. You may not think of bread as salt, but breads are often a hidden source of sodium with many brands packing around 250mg of sodium into a single slice. Look for lower sodium, natural breads in the freezer section of the grocery store.
6. If you like nut butter sandwiches, be sure to choose a natural variety with no salt added and you’ll skip the sodium altogether. Bonus: Most of the unsalted added varieties have no sugar added either, to keep calories in check. Either way, just be sure to stay mindful of the two tablespoon serving size.
7. For canned ingredients, such as beans or tuna, be sure to look for lower sodium options. You can also rinse and drain beans before using to cut the sodium by 40%.
8. Skip the chips. We often pair sammies with sides that aren’t as good for us like chips, pretzels, or fries. Instead, choose fresh sides like veggies or fruit that are naturally lower in sodium and calories and higher in nutrients.
Need more inspiration on how to build a healthy sandwich? Try these non-boring, yet nutritious sandwich recipes!