Is Your Sandwich a Big Mac in Disguise?

Whether you’re packing a picnic to bring to the beach or brown-bagging lunch for work, sandwiches are a lunchtime staple. While a sandwich can be a convenient, healthy option, it can also be chock full of unhealthy ingredients. To help avoid a nutrition downfall, Ashley Packer has some great tips for building a healthy sandwich that not only tastes good, but will keep you full for longer!

By Ashley Packer, Dietetic Intern, Sargent Choice Nutrition Center

We’ve all done it before. You walk into a fancy sandwich shop which boasts “Voted healthiest eating on the go restaurant in 2009 by Health magazine”, look at the menu thinking you want something hearty and fresh and pick out a sandwich for lunch. Fresh basil leaves, slices of red onion, fresh juicy tomatoes, sliced mozzarella cheese, smoked pulled chicken breast, and zesty chipotle mayonnaise all on a hearty house-made focaccia bread. Sounds like a great sandwich which wouldn’t do too much harm to your waistline right? Well, not quite. The reality is, this exact sandwich called a Frontega Chicken Panini from Panera Bread packs 850 calories, 38 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, and 1910 mg of sodium. This is about one third of your calories for the entire day, half of your total fat intake, a third of your saturated fat intake, and almost all of your sodium for the day. And this is just for the sandwich; forget the chips and the drink you were going to get! You would be better off eating a Big Mac which has 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, 10g of saturated fat, and 1040 mg of sodium.

If you are one of those people who brown bag it every day, you should still be conscious of the sandwiches that you are packing. Even your basic ham, cheese, and mayo on white bread can have up to 1920 mg of sodium. Since we here at Sargent Choice love a tasty sandwich as much as you, we have decided to provide you with some simple steps to create your own nutritious and delicious sandwiches.

Step 1: Choose a Whole Grain

When it comes to choosing a whole grain it can be difficult to determine true whole grains from imposters. Just because a package says “contains whole grain” or “multi-grain” it does not mean that it is 100% whole grain. To be sure your grain choice is actually whole grain, check the ingredient list. The first ingredient should contain the word “whole”. If you are unsure if your choice is a whole grain, you can look for the 100% whole grain stamp on the package. Many, but not all, whole grain products have this stamp:Stamp

It is also important to look at the sodium and the fiber content on the nutrition facts label. Be sure to choose the option which contains the highest fiber and the lowest sodium. To make your shopping trip quick and easy, we have created a list of approved options. Feel free to try some of these or explore other whole grain items.


  • Arnold Double Fiber Bread
  • Wonder Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Friehofer’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread


  • Joseph’s Whole Wheat Lavash Roll-up
  • Mission Whole Wheat Medium Flour Tortilla


  • Thomas Sahara 100% Whole Wheat Pita
  • Joseph’s Whole Wheat Pita Bread


  • Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious 100% Whole Wheat Bun
  • Thomas 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins
  • Pepperidge Farm Soft 100% Whole Wheat Deli Flats

Step 2: Choose a Lean Protein

The next step is to choose a lean protein option. This may be the trickiest step in the entire process. The easiest choice is to grab some deli meat from the grocery store and have pre-cooked, pre-sliced meat in your fridge to throw on your sandwich in the morning. Unfortunately, deli meats can be quite high in sodium, especially the pre-sliced packaged deli meats, which are convenient because they allow you avoid the deli line. We did the research and found the options available at the grocery store with the lowest sodium content. Pick one of these options and add 2-3 slices onto your sandwich:

  • Dietz and Watson Gourmet Lite No Salt Added Breast of Turkey (50 mg sodium)
  • Dietz and Watson Slow Roasted Turkey Breast (230 mg sodium)
  • Diets and Watson Premium Angus Roast Beef (190 mg sodium)
  • Boar’s Head Deluxe Low Sodium Oven Roasted Beef (80 mg sodium)

Another option is using leftover grilled/baked chicken breast or fish from the night before. This is a great way to clean out your fridge and be sure not to waste any leftovers. Chicken salad and tuna salad can also be good choices if prepared at home. Although, traditionally, these salads are packed with mayonnaise which leads to higher fat and sodium content. For a fresh take on traditional favorites try these Sargent Choice Recipes for your next chicken salad or tuna salad. By using olive oil instead of mayonnaise or thinning the mayonnaise out with vinegar, it creates a healthier option than store-bought salads.

There are also delicious vegetarian options. Hummus is a great protein option, and with all of the amazing flavors available you will never get bored with you sandwiches. Spread a quarter cup of your favorite flavor hummus onto your whole grain to start your sandwich. Canned beans are another great option to keep on hand. Drain and rinse the beans before using them in order to cut the sodium almost in half.

Step 3: Add two or more vegetables!

This is the easiest step to create your perfect sandwich. Pick at least two of your favorite vegetables and pile them on. This adds volume and crunch to your sandwich without adding a lot of calories, fat, or sodium. The added volume will fill you up, and the extra crunch adds a satisfying note. Some of our favorite vegetables:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Baby Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Shredded Carrots
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sprouts
  • Roasted Vegetables

Step 4: Make it your own

This is your chance to add lots of flavor to your sandwich without adding too much fat and sodium. First, choose one slice of your favorite reduced fat cheese. Although you may think reduced fat cheese may not be as tasty as regular cheese, it really won’t make much too much of a difference. When put in a sandwich with whole grains, meat, lots of veggies, and some kind of sauce, chances are you probably won’t notice that the cheese is reduced fat; plus, there are many flavorful reduced fat cheeses on the market. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Boar’s Head Lacy Swiss Cheese
  • Alpine Lace 25% Reduced Fat American
  • Alpine Lace 25% Reduced Fat Provolone
  • Sargento Slices Reduced Fat Pepper Jack
  • Sargento Slices Reduced Fat Medium Cheddar

Next, choose some of your favorite low-fat, low-sodium spreads or sauces. Any mustard or light mayonnaise is a good choice. It is also a good idea to step outside the mustard/mayo box and think of new flavorful ideas such as guacamole, hummus, or hot sauce. Here are some of our favorites:

  • French’s Honey Mustard
  • French’s Yellow Mustard
  • Gulden’s Spicy Mustard
  • Wholly Guacamole
  • Kraft Light Mayo
  • Miracle Whip
  • Sabra Hummus – any flavor
  • Howard’s Hot Pepper Relish
  • Cholula Hot Sauce

Step 5: Enjoy your sandwich!

The last step is simple: enjoy your sandwich!

Using the steps above, here is a tasty sandwich idea:

·       1 Joseph’s Whole Wheat Lavash Roll-Up
·       3 Slices Dietz and Watson Premium Angus Roast Beef
·       Handful Baby Spinach
·       3 Slices Tomatoes
·       5 Slices Cucumbers
·       1 Slice Alpine Lace 25% Reduced Fat Provolone
·       2 teaspoons Gulden’s Spicy Mustard

This sandwich only has 380 calories, 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 700 mg of sodium. Compared to the Frontega Chicken Panini from Panera Bread, this is incredible!

Use these simple steps to create your perfect sandwich and pair it with fresh fruit salad or veggie sticks to complete your plate.

Happy sandwiching!

One Comment

nando@lip cancer posted on August 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm

this sandwich is really low in calories. I don’t need to worry to prepare a menu for lunch and overeating due calories 🙂

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