The healthy plate method offers a 1-2-3 guide for meals, pairing vegetables with a protein and starch. Stack the ingredients together and the result is a sandwich—a delicious option for health-conscious eaters looking for convenience or planning to eat on-the-go.

The western version of a sandwich can be traced to 18th century Europe, when John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, requested slabs of beef between two slices of bread so he could gamble without distraction.

Other areas of the world, however, were keen to the concept long before. Hillel the Elder, an ancient Jewish sage, wrapped meat from the Paschal lamb with herbs into a soft matza for Passover. In 17th-century Netherlands, beef was hung from tavern rafters then thinly sliced and placed atop bread slathered in butter.

No matter the origin, the concept stood the test of time, and with that longevity came creativity. Whether deemed decadent or nutritious depends on the ingredients used.

Arguably, the most critical component holding a sandwich together is the starch.

Sources of fiber

The American Nutrition and Dietetics Association recommends that adults consume 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day to help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and reduce the risk of developing intestinal cancer. Along with minimally processed fruits and vegetables, whole grains are an excellent source of fiber. For bread, buns, pita, or wraps, seek one that offers 2 to 4 grams of fiber per slice.

Sprouted varieties preserve the kernel or berry of seeds, providing an added boost of vitamins and proteins that are stripped away in traditional milling, as seen with white bread.

For the heart of the sandwich—protein—leaner, less processed options are preferred. If choosing animal protein, consider the cut and preparation in addition to the source.

One example is poultry. Skinless chicken thighs and breast both offer lean protein, but per 3-oz serving, the breast provides 140 kcals and 3 grams total fat, whereas thighs provide 170 kcals and 9 grams of fat.

For beef, the sirloin tip is a leaner cut, and if gamey flavor doesn’t deter, bison and venison pack a protein punch. As the popularity of vegetarian options grow, portable patties made from soy or other legumes are excellent alternatives, as well as smashed chickpeas, tempeh, egg, or sliced cheeses from cow or goat.

Vegetables should be 50% of a meal

Last but not least are toppings, taking a sandwich from bland to bam, and an excellent opportunity to (literally) squeeze in vegetables. Classic options include lettuce, tomato or onion, but choices don’t stop there. Try thinly sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, or add a heaping mound of alfalfa sprouts for crunch.

The healthy plate method encourages 50% of a meal include vegetables, so if the sandwich can’t supply them all, save extra to munch on the side (a lighter substitute for potato chips or French fries). Finish the sandwich with a tangy, creamy condiment, and voila! A healthy meal for the busiest appetites.

For more starch, protein and vegetable options for the perfect sandwich visit the MOVE! Website, Eating Wisely page or speak with your VA dietitian.

By Bethany Oxender

Registered dietitian, Ann Arbor VA

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Published on Sep. 10, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 3,038

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  1. Sean Collins September 18, 2022 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    These articles by the VA have helped me to improve my diet as well as giving me new, healthy, and delicious ideas.

  2. David Rogers September 16, 2022 at 2:24 am - Reply

    do va have a program for veterns needing help getting help for transportation to va appointments? iam 85 and starting having problems driving in heavy traffic . thanks

    • bobbie burns September 16, 2022 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      David, what town ate you located near? I am retired vet, dont know if close to you but will try & help. thank you

  3. John Asa Weldon September 15, 2022 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    Great story useful !!

  4. Elizabeth Burroughs September 15, 2022 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Why not think Reuben or Rachel and add sauerkraut or cole slaw. Not too long ago a lunch was not complete without a pickle. Sandwiches are what you them and so are we.

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