With the lofty amounts of cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium found in ham and cheese, a sandwich with those main ingredients isn't the healthiest choice in the lunch line. However, there's a lot of variation among the nutrients and ingredients in different types of ham, bread and cheese, and tinkering with the combinations can get you a much more nutritious meal.
Although ham and cheese are the main ingredients of the sandwich, they rarely make up the complete list. Adding mayonnaise, butter or a creamy dressing to the sandwich will add fat and calories, but fresh or cooked veggies will boost the total amount of essential nutrients in the sandwich. For the healthiest meal, make veggies the star and ham and cheese the supporting roles; you'll cut net calories and fat and add taste and texture to the sandwich. Tasty choices include avocado, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, caramelized onions, grilled zucchini or sautéed bell peppers.
The types of ham and cheese you use in your sandwich can have a dramatic impact on the final nutrition facts. The USDA reports that a 100-g serving of extra lean deli ham has a total of about 110 calories, 19 g protein, 2.5 g fat, 45 mg cholesterol and 1050 mg sodium. But 100 g of full-fat ham has about 165 calories, 16.5 g protein, 8.5 g fat, 60 mg cholesterol and 1300 mg sodium. The same goes for cheese. For example, 1 oz. of goat cheese has about 75 calories, 5 g protein, 6 g fat, 15 mg cholesterol and 100 mg sodium, but 1 oz. of full-fat cheddar has 115 calories, 7 g protein, 9.5 g fat, 30 mg cholesterol and 175 mg sodium.
You can save a significant amount of calories, fat and cholesterol if you choose lean ham and low-fat cheese for your sandwich. If you do want cheddar, go with a reduced-fat variety and stick to 1 oz. or less. The bread you use also makes a difference. You'll get more fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates and less sugar with whole-wheat sandwich bread or a whole-grain wrap, and you might stay fuller for longer on the same number of calories or less than what white bread would offer.
If your heart isn't set on ham, consider turkey and cheese as a worthwhile alternative. MayoClinic.com suggests using turkey because it's leaner than most cuts of ham and has fewer calories and less cholesterol. You can also consider a ham salad sandwich. As long as you make the salad with low-fat mayo and lean ham, your sandwich will be creamy, filling and satisfying but still healthy and nutritious.