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Top 10 Food Items to Keep on Hand to Add Flavor and Nutrition to Otherwise Boring Meal

For many people, sandwiches are a daily staple for lunches or dinners. Depending on your choices of bread and fillings, they can range from nutritional nightmares to healthy, filling meals. There are many delicious ways to enjoy sandwiches that are both good for you and enjoyable to eat.

Let's break down a typical sandwich and explore some healthy options:

The bread: For a healthy sandwich, look for breads that have lots of fiber and are lower in calories. If you use bread, try some of the delicious varieties of light bread that still have lots of fiber, but are much lower in calories than regular bread. If you're sticking with regular bread, whole wheat varieties are the best choices. Remember also that sandwiches don't, and shouldn't, always come on basic slices of bread. Don't hesitate to build a sandwich on tortillas, pitas, or rolls. Just use the same rules as for bread - look for high fiber content, lower calories, and especially for tortillas - lower fat.

The spreads: While many people can forego the usual mayo on a sandwich, I have a hard time giving it up. So, I usually opt for the light mayonnaise and go easy on portions. Of course, mustard is another standard option - and there are so many varieties of mustard to try. You can also try mixing light cream cheese with some dried or fresh herbs and use that as a sandwich spread. The English often use a chutney on sandwiches, which can be delicious and is available in most grocery stores in the U.S. Light salad dressings are another option for some sandwich variety. Try ranch, thousand island and honey mustard, or any of your favorites. Some other unique sandwich spreads are salsa, horseradish, or vinegars.

The fillings: Most of the usual sandwich fillings can be made in a healthy way, and the options are virtually endless. Here are just a few: turkey, ham, roast beef, tuna, canned chicken, cooked chicken, peanut butter, canned crab, salmon, shrimp, veggies. Some you may want to mix with some light mayo and seasonings (canned tuna, chicken, crab, salmon, shrimp); other you'll just want to use in smaller portions (ham, roast beef, peanut butter). In terms of cheese, there are two rules to keep your sandwich healthy. 1) Forego cheese if your sandwich will still be delicious without it. 2) If your sandwich really needs cheese, use a light or fat-free variety.

The veggies/condiments: Here's where you can go wild! Load up on fresh vegetables on your sandwich to really add some great nutrition. The old stand-by's of lettuce and tomato are great (try different varieties of lettuce, not just iceberg). But, there are so many other veggies than can be used on sandwiches - cucumbers, sprouts, mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, zucchini, onions, or try roasted or grilled veggies (bell peppers, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, onions). Black or green olives can be used sparingly as a condiment to tuna or chicken salad, just watch out for fat and sodium. Additional condiments to consider, based on your topping selection are capers, fresh or dried herbs, salt-free seasoning blends, or sun-dried tomatoes.

If you make healthy choices in each of these categories, you'll be well on your way to building a nutritionally-wise sandwich. And there really is no excuse for getting bored with sandwiches. As I've hopefully shown, sandwiches can be made in so many different and unique ways! Use your bread as a canvas and create a new masterpiece each day.

© Health-E-Meals.com, 2003

Erin Rogers, a work-at-home mom of two, is the founder of Health-E-Meals.com, providing practical healthy living resources for busy people. Visit her website to sign up for the FREE newsletter, 'Dinners on the Double' - offering a quick and healthy, no-recipe dinner idea each week. Other available services include quick and healthy recipes, healthy cooking articles, fitness and motivation tips, healthy living web links, and lots more! Erin can be reached via email at erin@health-e-meals.com.

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