For a quick and satisfying diabetes-friendlier meal, rethink the simple sandwich!
For some, a sandwich may be little more than gobs of meat and cheese stuffed between two slices of mayonnaise-laden bread. But a sandwich offers a delicious opportunity for interesting and wholesome foods. Here are a few tips to more healthfully enjoy this portable lunch staple and easy dinner entrée. (Be sure to talk to your diabetes care team if you are considering making changes to your meal plan.)
Choose your bread – or not
Bread can be loaded with blood sugar-raising carbohydrates, so you may want to be choosy. Most sliced bread rings up about 15 grams of carbohydrate per ounce. But bigger slices, rolls and wraps have the potential to weigh you down with four times that amount.
Pick whole-grain. Dark bread is not necessarily whole-grain. Sometimes these imposters have the words “made with whole grains” on their labels. Unfortunately, we can’t know if this means the bread is made with a little or a lot of whole grains.
Be a food label sleuth and head straight to the ingredients list. Ideally, the first ingredient is a whole grain. Here are some to look for: whole wheat, whole rye, whole oats, rolled oats and brown rice. Enriched wheat flour is code for refined white flour. Store whole-grain breads in the freezer. Pull out the amount you need an hour or two before preparing your sandwich.
Embrace variety. Create sandwiches on sliced bread, rolls, pita pockets, wraps or tortillas.
Be carb smart. Eating an open-faced sandwich saves half of the carbohydrate. Look for “thin” versions of bagels and panini bread in supermarkets. In restaurants and at home, scoop and discard the doughy center from a sub or sandwich roll to save both calories and carbs.
Forgo the starchy stuff altogether. Feel free to skip the bread and wrap your sandwich fillings in large lettuce leaves. Or fill slices of grilled portobello mushroom with hot sandwich fixings.
Fill it creatively
There’s nothing wrong with turkey, lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat bread. But something more creative may tantalize your taste buds. Start with lean meats and reduced-fat cheeses to save both calories and unhealthful fats. Then stack vegetables and even fruits into your sandwich. Reach for sliced zucchini, baby spinach, arugula, bell peppers, shredded carrots, caramelized onions, roasted eggplant, thinly sliced apple or nectarine, strawberries and figs. A few fresh herbs can brighten a sandwich, too. Try basil, cilantro, dill or mint.
You may find inspiration in some of these favorite flavor combinations:
- Reduced-fat Havarti cheese and strawberry panini
- Turkey, green apple or peach, baby spinach and red onion
- Rotisserie chicken, avocado, marinated artichoke hearts, onions and bell peppers
- Tuna, sliced pear and walnuts
And don’t forget vegetarian options:
- Black beans, corn and salsa in a whole-grain wrap
- PB & fruit: Skip the jelly with all its added sugars and opt for fresh fruit instead. (Try peanut butter with sliced tart apple or strawberries on whole-grain cinnamon-raisin bread)
- Onion, tomato, cucumber, marinated artichoke heart and white beans with a sprinkling of Kalamata olives and reduced-fat feta cheese in a whole-grain wrap
- Sliced hard-boiled egg, mushrooms and shredded lettuce in a whole-grain pita pocket
Mayonnaise is fine, but a single tablespoon may set you back about 100 calories. Light mayo cuts that in half or more. Mustard and horseradish provide few calories. A bit of smashed avocado is another good choice.
There are so many ways to enjoy a diabetes-friendlier sandwich! And what a terrific way to keep your kitchen cool this summer. You can also round out your meal with a salad, fresh fruit, yogurt or whatever food group isn’t already on your plate.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Diabetes Forecast and Kids Eat Right. She has a private practice in Newport News, VA. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience