Learn how to make a healthy sandwich with a good balance of protein, carbs, fat, and fiber to help you feel your best, keep you full and satisfied, and keep your blood sugar balanced.
I don’t know why sandwiches get a bad rap. Is it the whole bread thing? Too many carbs? Too much fat? A convenient food item? Either way, they can be such an easy, balanced, and healthy meal for so many reasons and they shouldn’t be overlooked!
Unfortunately, not all sandwiches are created equal. Some can be low on protein. Others with a lot of fat and calories. And some can be really high in carbs. When our meals aren’t balanced with protein, carbs, and fat, our blood sugar gets off balance, causing it to spike and fall fast, and making you feel tired, sluggish, and even hungry shortly after eating.
But if done right, they can be a great addition to any diet. We are going to talk about not only how to build a balanced sandwich and the key factors to have in them, but why it is beneficial to make them this way!
And if you love this post, make sure to check out how to build a balanced smoothie!
Why we love balanced and healthy sandwiches
- quick and easy to make – most are ready in 10 when you have a stocked fridge and pantry.
- customizable to your liking and health goals
- convenient and on-the-go food – they are easy to make ahead of time and pack to take with you.
- the flavor possibilities and combinations are endless!
Benefits of building a healthy sandwich
- balanced blood sugar – when we eat too many carbs without enough protein or fat (which can be common in some sandwich recipes), our blood sugar spikes. The body then works to shuttle glucose (sugar) out of the bloodstream. Sometimes it can overcompensate and that’s when we feel that crash. Energy plummets, we feel tired, cravings can hit, and we feel hungry shortly after eating. Pairing protein and fat with our carbs helps prevent the blood sugar roller coaster. This is huge for preventing cravings.
- prevents cravings – when our blood sugar gets too low, our body craves sugar to bring it back up. By balancing your meals (and your blood sugar), you can help prevent later cravings.
- better sleep – balanced blood sugar means better sleep!
- balanced energy – this supports the point above, but when pairing all 3 macronutrients together, we will have long-lasting and balanced energy.
- helps keep you full – protein, fat, and fiber are all going to help slow down digestion. This is going to help fill us up and stay full for longer.
- balanced hormones – it’s hard to have balanced hormones without balanced blood sugar. How we eat helps make sure we are supporting our hormones.
- getting a wide variety of macro and micronutrients from different food sources at each meal – a diverse diet is important for optimal health
Are sandwiches healthy?
Sandwiches can be a healthy addition to most diets. They have carbs from the bread, protein from meat, veggies for fiber, and healthy fats from some type of spread, making them a well-balanced meal. That being said, it is important to be mindful of what is in them and their ingredients. Some (especially when getting them out) can be loaded with a lot of fat, not enough protein, higher in carbs, or high in sodium. When making them at home, you have full control over what goes into them.
Are sandwiches okay for weight loss?
Sandwiches can be enjoyed when working towards a weight loss goal. It is important to make sure they have enough protein, some fiber (from veggies), and healthy fats. This will help fill you up, allow the sandwich to digest slowly, and won’t spike your blood sugar. Be mindful of what you are adding to them and the calories if you are looking to lose weight.
How to make a healthy sandwich
While you might think there isn’t a right or wrong way to make a sandwich, you do want to put some thought and effort into it. Not only do we want it to taste good, but we want to set ourselves up to feel full and satisfied and keep our blood sugar balanced.
Just like all meals, we want to think of protein, carbs, healthy fats, and fiber. Here are the key components and ingredients to building a healthy sandwich:
- carbs – it’s hard to make a sandwich without some kind of bread! We can of course include wraps as well. This is going to give us our carbs, and depending on what kind you use, you might get some protein and fiber as well. Carbs are our bodies preferred source of energy.
- protein – deli meat (turkey, ham, roast beef…) is the most common. But you can also have things like eggs, grilled or shredded chicken, steak, tuna, salmon, and plant-based options like beans, tofu, or seitan. Protein is going to help fill us up and keep us full.
- vegetables and fiber – these help bulk up your sandwiches and add some vitamins and minerals. And your veggies (and condiments) really add some nice flavor and texture. Some of my favorites include lettuce, arugula, tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, sprouts, and beets.
- healthy fats – along with protein, fat is going to help slow down digestion and help with fullness. Anything from mayonnaise, avocado, olive oil, pesto, hummus, cheese, bacon, or nut butter depending on if you are making a sweet or savory sandwich.
And here are some add-ins to help bump up the flavor or benefits of your sandwich:
- fresh herbs – fresh basil, parsley, or dill.
- condiments and sauces – pesto, chimichurri, buffalo sauce, BBQ sauce, chipotle mayo, hummus, mustard, and more!
- fruit – some fruit is really good with savory!
What are healthy sandwich fillings?
- veggies – lettuce, arugula, tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, sprouts, carrots, and beets
- protein – chicken, turkey, ham, roast beef, tuna, salmon, and eggs
- cheese – cheddar cheese, pepper jack, provolone, swiss, goat cheese, and feta are all common
- fruit – don’t be afraid to add a pop of sweetness
- fresh herbs
Healthy sandwich bread
For me, the bread you use for a sandwich is just as important as the fillings. You want it to be delicious and hold up well but also support your body. These are some of my favorite kinds to opt for when making a sandwich. I always try to look for options with not a lot of ingredients, preservatives, and added sugars.
- sourdough bread – sourdough is naturally leavened bread (no yeast is used) and is made by slowly fermenting the dough (flour and water). By fermenting it, it helps break down the gluten and can be easier to digest for some.
- rye bread – rye grain is darker in nature (although can be lighter) and can have a stronger taste than white and wheat bread. It is higher in fiber than whole wheat and also contains nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, and manganese.
- sprouted bread – the grains are sprouted which makes the nutrients more bioavailable and the grains easier to digest. Most are usually higher in protein and fiber than your standard bread.
- whole grain bread – all parts of the grain kernel are used to make whole grains bread. It can consist of wheat, another grain, or a combo of a few. Using the whole grain will give this bread more fiber and nutrients than white bread.
Healthy sandwich ideas
- turkey with pepper jack cheese, avocado, arugula, tomato, cucumber, red onion, banana peppers, and dijon mustard
- grilled chicken sandwich with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled red onions, and BBQ sauce
- Philly cheesesteak stuffed into a hoagie roll!
- breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, cheese, avocado, tomato, sprouts, and cream cheese
- greek yogurt chicken salad sandwich with lettuce
Healthy sides for sandwiches
- fresh fruit – grapes, cherries, or berries
- fresh veggies – carrots, celery, or peppers
- side salad
If you love quick and easy meals and want to learn how to build a balanced plate, check out our FREE How to Build a Balanced Plate Guide!