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Build a better sandwich by making lower sodium choices

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Build a better sandwich by making lower sodium choices

National Sandwich Day is coming up in November and chances are you'll celebrate it, because recent research indicates that almost half of all American adults eat at least one sandwich on any given day.

But did you know that sandwiches make up about 20 percent of our daily sodium intake?

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National Sandwich Day is coming up in November and chances are you'll celebrate it, because recent research indicates that almost half of all American adults eat at least one sandwich on any given day.

But did you know that sandwiches make up about 20 percent of our daily sodium intake? This isn’t surprising, given that sandwiches and some of their hallmark ingredients (such as breads/rolls and cured meats/cold cuts) are part of the “Salty Six” foods that contribute the most sodium to our diets.

Your sandwiches don’t have to be salt bombs. They can vary widely in sodium content (and overall nutritional quality), depending on your choice of ingredients. Check out this graphic from the CDC. The left side describes a sandwich made with common ingredients of bread, cheese, meat and mustard with sodium levels totaling 1,522 mg! By simply making some lower sodium choices, like the sandwich on the right with the same ingredients only using lower sodium versions, you can reduce the sodium by 670 mg to only 852 mg for a whole sandwich.

Lower Sodium Choices

Here are some tips for building a better sandwich:

  • Overall tip: Compare the nutrition facts panels of similar types of breads, meat, cheese, and condiments and you will see how much sodium can vary. Choose the products with the lowest amount of sodium you can find.
  • Bread: Look for thinner slices (they usually have fewer calories and less sodium than thicker slices) or forgo the bread altogether in favor of a corn tortilla, rice cakes, or a lettuce wrap.
  • Cold Cuts: Look for roasted varieties, which may be lower in sodium. Use thinner slices and replace some of the meat with vegetables to add color and crunch. Try cucumber, tomato, red onion, various lettuces, and bell pepper strips. Or, skip the deli meat altogether and make a sandwich using leftover chicken, fish, or lean steak that you cooked yourself.
  • Cheese: Swiss, ricotta, mozzarella, goat, and cream cheese are examples of varieties that tend to be lower in sodium than others. As with meat, use thinner slices and replace some of the cheese with veggies or eliminate it altogether in favor of the condiments. Here's a open-faced Italian vegetable sandwich with ham or turkey.
  • Condiments: These run the gamut in terms of sodium content. Be sure to check the labels so you know how much sodium you’re getting per serving. Try mashed avocado or hummus as a creamy alternative, or add some zing with a splash of flavored vinegar. Sliced fruit is another option - pair thin slices of pineapple with ham, or apples with grilled cheese. Fruit jam or preserves are also tasty (just watch out for added sugars) – think cranberry with turkey or apricot with chicken. Here are some recipes for homemade condiments you can try.

When we’re on the topic of sandwiches, it’s also worth mentioning that their sidekicks often add extra salt – one pickle spear is around 300 milligrams of sodium, for example. Have a side of fruit or non-fat or low-fat yogurt instead. If you can’t bear to have a sandwich without chips, try apple chips without added sugar.

Have a great tip for building a better sandwich? Share your thoughts in the comments.