Will you be embracing British Sandwich Week (Sunday 14 to Saturday 20 May 2017) by scanning the shelves for your favourite lunchtime sarnie? Sandwiches are often the ultimate go-to when we need a quick, easy lunch and with over 3.5 billion sandwiches sold in Britain a year, it’s clearly still a lunch-time staple. We asked Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com, for the low down on Britain’s top 10 sandwiches. How wholesome are they really and what are the healthier alternatives?
1. Ham and Cheese
Shona shares her thoughts, “Ham and cheese can be a great choice to opt for but this depends on what ham, cheese and bread you use! Ham is quite low in vitamins and minerals but does give you a good source of protein. Ham can be highly processed so not always the best choice. If you want something a bit healthier and not so processed, try turkey instead, as this is more nutritious and also has a lower salt content. Cottage cheese is a good option to consider instead of full fat cheeses. Again, cottage cheese is a great source of protein and has a low calorie content. Remember to add some salad to the sandwich to make it even healthier.
Healthier alternative – Turkey & cottage cheese salad sandwich
2. Fish Fingers
“Because fish fingers are made with white fish, they don’t have the health benefits associated with oily fish (omega 3). If you want to get the benefits of omega 3, then the fish to go for are – herring, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, trout, tuna and salmon. The white fish is, however, a good source of protein, which will help fill you up and satisfy your hunger. Watch out for any ketchup added to this sandwich as it has a high sugar content.”
Healthier alternative – Lemon and trout grilled sandwich
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns adds, “Try to eat oily fish twice a week as fatty acids are great ‘brain’ food and can help to fight mood swings. Astonishingly 18% of our brain is made up of Omega-3s, however, we don’t produce this fatty acid in the body, so we have to find sources from the food we eat. To help make sure you’re getting your daily dose try Quest Vitamins Super Omega 3-6-9 (from £10.39, qnutrapharma.com).”
3. Chicken & Bacon
Shona continues, “Make sure that it is grilled chicken rather than deep-fried chicken in breadcrumbs, as this will add to the fat and calorie content. Grilled chicken is a good option as it is a good source of protein. Bacon is also high in protein but should preferably be grilled rather than fried. If you are making your own, make sure you grill the meat and use wholegrain bread rather than white bread. This will help to increase the fibre and reduce the salt and sugar content.
Healthy alternative – Grilled chicken and grilled bacon in wholegrain bread
4. Chicken & Mayonnaise
“This sandwich can go one of both ways on the protein front – if the chicken is grilled then this does offer a good amount of protein but if it is deep-fried and coated in breadcrumbs the nutrient content is decreased and the amount of calories increased. The mayonnaise is one to watch, as it will add dramatically to the calorie content. 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise is approximately 90 calories. If you really can’t enjoy this sandwich without mayonnaise, use the low fat “light” mayonnaise or even better try your chicken sandwich with some delicious greek yoghurt.
Healthier alternative – Grilled chicken with greek yoghurt
“A king amongst the sandwiches, the BLT can be a massive 720 calories and around 22 grams of fat. You would have to run for about an hour to burn off those calories. You can make this a little healthier by dropping the mayonnaise and using greek yoghurt instead. Choosing turkey bacon instead of regular bacon is also a healthier alternative – it can reduce the calorie count by about 70 calories. Also opt for wholegrain bread to get more fibre into the sandwich. Add plenty of lettuce and tomato to add to your intake of salad.
Healthier alternative – Turkey bacon, plenty of lettuce and tomato and greek yoghurt
“Your main debate may be whether to go for one or two sausages but if you’re also wondering how to make this favourite a little healthier you should know that sausages can be high in fat and salt. To get the healthiest sausages, buy them from your local butcher. That way you will have a better idea of their content and whether they have a good amount of the meat rather than filled with off cuts and fillers such as corn. Don’t add brown sauce or ketchup if you can help it as they tend to be high in sugar. Instead go for a low fat sausage on wholegrain bread. Turkey sausages are lower in fat and can provide a healthier alternative to pork sausages. Remember that most sausages are processed which can reduce the nutritional content and also causes the meat to contain nitrates. Nitrates are thought to be linked to various health issues.
Healthier alternative – Turkey sausage sandwich
7. Cheese & Tomato
“A cheese and tomato sandwich is approximately 300 calories. I know – it’s surprising! This is mainly due to the cheese content. To reduce the calories, you can choose a reduced fat cheese. You can also make it healthier by adding more salad to the sandwich. Instead of just having the tomatoes, add some lettuce and cucumber. Many people don’t realise, but tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin C. In fact one tomato can provide as much as 40% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain an anti-oxidant called lycopene. Lycopene is thought to be particularly beneficial in helping to prevent prostate cancer.
Healthier alternative – Reduced fat cheese and added salad ingredients.
“Hmm this is an interesting one. It’s actually a sandwich that is growing in popularity but there aren’t any health benefits I can think of for this sandwich! Crisps don’t have any ingredients that give any nutrients at all. In addition, they are incredibly high in salt. If you really have to have a crisp sandwich, then opt for a Kale crisp sandwich, which will at least give you some nutrients.
Healthier alternative – Kale Crisp Sandwich
9. Tuna & Cucumber
“This is a lovely healthy and nutrient dense sandwich to choose. Tuna is an oily fish. Oily fish are a good source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. The term ‘essential’ means that our body can’t make it and we need to get it through our diet. Omega 3 is a vital nutrient and is incredibly for a variety of health benefits. Omega 3 fatty acids help keep our skin hydrated and help towards preventing spots and wrinkles. They are also important for our brain function as well as our cardiovascular health. Cucumbers are approximately 95% water, which makes them a great food to have to help our hydration levels.
Healthier alternative – None – this is a great healthy option!
However, Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist (www.marilynglenville.com) and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar explains that we should avoid canned tuna, “Unfortunately, the canning process causes the loss of the Omega 3 fatty acids so not a good source of fish oil but the oils are still present in a tuna steak.”
10. Egg & Cress
Shona explains, “Eggs do not increase cholesterol! They used to be avoided due to this mis-information. Eggs are actually very good for us and are a great source of protein. They only contain about 70-80 calories but have an amazing 6.5 grams of protein. Eating protein helps us balance our blood sugar levels. Having good blood sugar levels helps prevent those sugar cravings so eggs are a great option if you’re trying to lose weight. Cress with its peppery flavour is a good source of nutrients including Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Vitamin K and Vitamin A. They are incredibly low in calories and again are great to eat if wanting to lose weight. If there is added mayonnaise, try to ensure that you get a ‘light’ mayonnaise. This is a good healthy choice of sandwich.
Healthier alternative – None – this is another healthy option! Try using greek yoghurt instead of mayonnaise to make it even healthier.
To give your sandwich an extra healthy boost, Cassandra shares the golden rules when choosing bread
- Opt for breads with the fewest ingredients possible. Many traditional breads are made with just three or four ingredients: wholemeal flour, water, salt and sometimes yeast. These are likely to be the ‘healthiest’ options. Unfortunately these can sometimes be difficult to find in a supermarket, and you may need to go to a local bakery or market or an online organic or natural foods supplier to find the best ones
- As a minimum, choose breads made with wholemeal flour as the first ingredient
- Try breads made with alternative grains, such as rye or spelt.