There’s no doubt about it: Americans love their sandwiches. In fact, the Fill Your Plate team says that Americans eat more than 300 million sandwiches every single day, which translates into nearly one sandwich per person.
While they’re certainly delicious, sandwiches aren’t always the healthiest food option. And this is an issue considering that many younger consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious. Gen Zs, or post-millenials, are indeed so concerned about healthy and clean eating that 41 percent are willing to pay more for healthier products, Elwood D. Watson, professor of history at East Tennessee State University explains in The Huffington Post.
So what can you do to meet this demand without changing the actual deli meats?
Here are some ideas.
Opt for an Open-Face Sandwich
Registered dietician and nutritionist Amy Gorin offers an incredibly simple yet effective solution to “healthy up” a sandwich — remove a slice of bread. Right there you shave off about 80 calories and cut back on carbs.
It’s also a great way to make your deli meats the focal point of the sandwich and lets customers see what they’re sinking their teeth into.
Offer Whole Grain or Whole Wheat Bread…
There’s certainly no lack of variety when it comes to bread for deli sandwiches. But some are far more healthy than others. Brittany Smith at Men’s Fitness writes that 100 percent whole grain and whole wheat bread varieties are generally regarded as the best from a health standpoint.
She references a study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that found people who ate 70 grams of whole grains a day compared with those who ate little or no whole grains had a 23 percent lower chance of cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent lower risk of cancer.
So this is definitely a type of bread to stock your deli with, especially because white bread isn’t conducive to healthy eating. Dan Myers at The Daily Meal offers several reasons not to eat white bread: it has little nutritional value, can lead to weight gain and is full of additives and preservatives.
The Food for Life team expounds on the harmful impact of preservatives in bread saying they can have a negative impact on your long-term health and can lead to everything from stomach ulcers and headaches to issues with the liver and kidneys. They mention three specific preservatives to avoid at all costs including calcium propionate, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and sulfur dioxide as they’re some of the most toxic.
…Or Ditch the Bread Entirely
Bread will forever be synonymous with the sandwich. But you may be surprised at all of the alternatives you can use instead of bread. In fact, “no bread” sandwiches have really caught on as of late.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Grilled eggplant
- Red bell pepper
- Portobello mushroom
Another option is to simply create a wrap using the deli meat as the exterior. Paula Jones, a food blogger and recipe developer, shows just how easy it is to create one of these. You simply grab a round slice of deli meat (she recommends oven roasted turkey), place your ingredients in the center and roll it up.
Whatever route you take, this is a great way to spark customer interest and should help your deli stand out among the competition.
Have Low-Fat Cheese as an Option
Cheese is a staple ingredient in many deli sandwiches and tastes great. Unfortunately, it’s also naturally high in calories. Melodie Anne explains in LIVESTRONG that a single one-ounce slice of deli cheese can contain as many as 115 calories. If you’re adding two or more slices, the calories can add up in a hurry.
Offering low-fat cheese instead will allow your customers to reduce their caloric intake considerably. FatSecret states that a single slice of low-fat American cheese contains just 38 calories — less than half that of regular cheese.
Add an Egg
Not only are eggs tasty, they can make a sandwich heartier, adding protein and nutrients. Sara-Jane Bedwell and Amy Marturana at SELF Magazine write that one whole egg contains five grams of fat, but only 1.5 grams are saturated. Whole eggs are also a good source of choline, an important B vitamin that helps regulate the brain, nervous system and cardiovascular system.
In terms of cooking methods, poached tends to be a good choice and can provide a nice injection of flavor. Rozzie Batchelar adds in Jamie Oliver that an efficient way to poach eggs while retaining their shape is to use cling wrap and a little olive oil to create individual “egg parcels” which are dropped in the water to cook.
Stack it High with Veggies
Vegetables are of course a source of nutrients and flavor, Melina Jampolis, M.D. writes. So piling on plenty of veggies is a great way to offset some of the not-so-healthy aspects of a sandwich. In particular, Jampolis suggests tomatoes, dark greens (like spinach, romaine lettuce and arugula), red onion and peppers.
Elizabeth Passarella at The Kitchn offers a few more topping ideas with her picks being banana peppers, red cabbage, sliced carrots and alfalfa sprouts. These will crank up the flavor, while at the same providing some nice health benefits.
Mustard Over Mayo
Conventional condiments like mayonnaise are tasty but can contain a lot of fat. As the Curejoy team points out, mayo can contain up to 80 percent of vegetable oil, which is pure fat. So adding a tablespoon of mayo to a sandwich means you’re adding roughly 94 calories.
But it turns out that mustard is quite healthy. Registered dietitian, nutrition consultant and author Brian St. Pierre explains at Precision Nutrition that mustard seeds contain plentiful amounts of phytonutrients, which can help improve human health and ward off disease.
Offer Some Other Healthy Condiments
St. Pierre discusses other condiments that also have distinct health benefits. Some of his top choices include:
- Hummus — made from chickpeas, it is a great source of fiber, manganese and folate
- Pesto — it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial and a strong antioxidant rich in vitamins A and K
- Guacamole — made from avocado, it contains heart-healthy fats as well as phytonutrients
Brittany Risher throws out more ideas in Greatist and recommends tahini sauce, sriracha, harissa, hoisin sauce and even sofrito — a sauce popular in Latin American cuisine, and which is typically made by sauteing garlic, onion, peppers and tomatoes in olive oil.
An added plus is that unique condiments like these can be a huge selling point with many of your customers. Adventurous and health-conscious eaters alike will be more than willing to give condiments like these a shot. And the Gen Zs and millennials? Donna Berry at Food Business News says they are especially fond of experimenting with different condiments.
Toasted, Not Grilled
Grilled sandwiches and paninis are really popular, Wyatt Myers at Everyday Health writes. It’s easy to see why — they’re warm and have a beautiful crusty texture on the outside.
But he explains that grilled sandwiches are by no means the healthiest option. Myers references Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, RD, founder of Hispanic Food Communications, who says they are typically prepared with a lot of oils or butters and are secret “diet busters.”
For those who crave the flavor of a hot sandwich but in a healthier package, it’s best to just have the bread toasted instead of actually grilling it in oil or butter.
Add a Healthy Garnish
Presentation is everything, and throwing in a bit of eye appeal to a sandwich adds to the eating experience. So why not add some garnish to your deli sandwiches that look great and are super healthy? While this approach may not work for all takeout orders, it’s the perfect way to plate a dish to perfection.
Maria Connor at Active.com list some of the top good-for-you garnishes, which include:
- Microgreens — These are the baby versions of large, leafy greens and contain vitamins C and E.
- Scallions — These are high in vitamins A, C and K.
- Scented onions — These contain anti-inflammatory agents that are essential to heart health.
Delicious Yet Nutritious
Who says you can’t have a delectable, mouthwatering sandwich that’s still healthy? These ideas prove that it’s definitely possible. Even better, these techniques allow you to add some extra flair that many conventional sandwiches lack.
The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice any of your deli meats in the process. By tweaking other elements of the sandwich like the bread, toppings and condiments, you can deliver a culinary crowd pleaser that’s delicious yet still nutritious.