The Art Of The Sandwich
Lunch is always important, especially on the days when you feel too busy to stop and prepare something. It’s a catch-22; when you are working for extended periods of time, you are burning energy -- food replenishes that energy so you can continue to perform well. The answer to this dilemma has been hiding in plain sight, tucked away in cafeterias and childhood memories: the sandwich.
Sandwiches take minutes to make and are easily portable, so there’s no excuse to miss lunch! Even within their simplicity, sandwiches can contain all five food groups necessary for a healthy meal (or four, if you rather have your fruits as a side dish).
The easiest of the food groups to put into a sandwich is grains. It’s what all sandwiches have in common -- the bread. But there is room for nuance even within this staple ingredient. When choosing the base of your sandwich, steer towards whole grain options. While refined grains have a lighter texture and a longer shelf life, they have less fiber and vitamins than whole grains.
If you tire of the regular sliced whole wheat, fear not: there are still many options for your sandwich canvas. Add an international flair to your lunch by using whole grain naan or change up the recipe entirely by wrapping your other ingredients in a tortilla and have a burrito instead. Quinoa bread is another great source of grains.
Greens are as important as they seem boring, but in reality can be a great source of both nutrients and flavor. Take the sandwich classics: lettuce and spinach. Stir fry some lettuce ahead of time with basil or garlic to add some flavor to your lunch break. Sautéed spinach goes well with red pepper flakes or nutmeg. Outside of these classic greens, shredded carrots and avocado slices are both great options.
It is important to note here that protein is not solely found in meat. There are many options for this essential food group. If you go with meat, aim for ones that are heavy in protein. These include chicken and tuna. If using red meats (like beef), use the leanest options you can find.
If you’re looking for protein outside of meats, eggs are a great option. No matter how you like them—fried, hard boiled, or scrambled—eggs are an excellent source of protein that will go easily into a sandwich, even if you like them sunny side up. Let your grain option soak up that runny yolk for a delicious, protein-packed lunch.
Protein can be found in other foods, too. Spinach is a nutrient-rich vegetable and a great source of protein. Nuts are also heavy in protein (pine nuts go particularly well with spinach). Peanut butter is not only a time-honored sandwich tradition but another source of the important food group that is protein.
Fruits are an easy side dish, but incorporating them into your sandwich can add a refreshing splash of flavor. Bananas and apples add texture to your meal. Tomatoes, perhaps sun-dried for a mature twist on the classic sandwich addition, are a source of both minerals and protein. Even berries can be a great addition to a sandwich when slipped in between the other ingredients; they provide an invigorating burst of flavor to any combination.
The reason dairy is considered one of the five food groups essential to a healthy diet is because dairy products include important nutrients: potassium, vitamin D, calcium. Low-fat cheeses such as feta and provolone are a delicious and smart choice for getting these nutrients without having to settle for the fats often found in other cheeses. Calcium is still available in non-dairy foods such as almond milk (not recommended as a sandwich component), tofu, and kale.
Even armed with this knowledge, it can be tough to decide what you should combine. Below are three recipes so you can get started on healthy lunches immediately.
Whole grain naan (grains)
Sautéed spinach with red pepper flakes (vegetables)
Grilled chicken (proteins)
Sliced strawberries (fruits)
Shaved parmesan (dairy)
Whole wheat tortilla (grains)
Stir-fry lettuce with garlic (vegetables)
Refried beans (protein)
Diced apples (fruits)
Sour cream (dairy)
Whole wheat rye (grains)
Raw lettuce and cayenne pepper (vegetables)
Sliced hard boil eggs (protein)
Diced tomato (fruits)
Melted provolone (dairy)