Take a moment to think about your perfect food. The criteria should be fairly short: Delicious, healthy and convenient. After all, you shouldn’t need a culinary degree to create a masterpiece that satisfies even the most fickle eater.
Enter the sandwich. It almost fits the bill, except for the health aspect. Most sandwiches are packed with artery-clogging fats, refined sugars that disrupt your blood sugar, and enough calories to sink any healthy eating plan.
But that’s all about to change. With a little creativity, the humble sandwich can be transformed into the perfect meal. Use these guidelines to help you rediscover the sandwich, and your waistline — and your taste buds — will thank you.
One of my favorite cuts for steak sandwiches is top sirloin. It’s a flavor sensation so good, your taste buds will wish they had taste buds.
- Dave Zino, executive chef for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Bread can make or break your sandwich — it can also help make or break your health. Most of the breads lining the shelves of your grocery store are made with refined sugar that can increase your risk of obesity and heart disease.
For this uber sandwich, use sprouted whole-grain bread. Sprouted grain breads are minimally processed and contain low acting carbohydrates that will provide you with a consistent flow of energy for several hours, eliminating the late afternoon energy crash.
If you can't find sprouted grain breads at your local supermarket, says Chris Mohr, a registered dietitian and a frequent guest on TV to discuss nutrition, "aim for a product with at least three grams of fiber or more per slice." He explains that companies are adding fiber from non whole-grain sources, making that number higher than it should be naturally.
"So in addition to the three grams of fiber, look for breads where the first ingredient on the nutrition label is 100-percent whole-wheat flour with very few other ingredients listed," he adds.
The meat of choice for this healthiest ever sandwich may surprise you. It isn’t turkey or chicken breast. No, this ultimate sandwich uses beef.
You may have heard that beef is bad for your health, but a 2010 news release from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that this isn’t the case if you make the right beef choices.
Harvard researchers reviewed 20 studies that included more than 1.2 million people, to examine the relationship between red meat and deaths related to heart health. They found that people who ate one serving of processed meat a day had a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes and a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease. But eating unprocessed meat was not associated with an increased risk of diabetes or heart disease.
The research suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.
So when preparing this exceptional sandwich, skip the processed meat and go for grilled top sirloin steak, one of the 29 cuts of beef most often referred to as lean. Lean beef has a nutritional package with which turkey and chicken have trouble competing.
Top sirloin is an excellent source of zinc, vitamin B-12, iron and selenium. Beef also contains high levels of glutamate and glutamic acid, which directly simulate your umami taste receptors, the taste buds that are responsible for intense savory flavors.
Add two slices of deep red, ripe tomatoes to your sandwich. Tomatoes are a source of vitamin C and lycopene, and the riper the tomato, the more umami — or savoriness — it contains.
The combination of top sirloin and tomatoes is a favorite of the executive chef for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Dave Zino. “One of my favorite cuts for steak sandwiches is top sirloin. It’s not only good for you, but with all the umami you get with the synergistic combination of beef and tomatoes, it’s a flavor sensation so good, your taste buds will wish they had taste buds,” he says.
The next topping on your sandwich is sliced red onion. The potent flavor and deep purple color of red onions comes from their quercetin. Quercetin is part of a family of antioxidants called flavonoids, which scientists believe may hinder production of fat cells and fight lung inflammation which causes asthma.
Finally, many sandwiches are topped with lettuce, but the deep green richness of baby spinach provides more vitamin K, vitamin A and calcium than your average leaf of lettuce and is, thus, a must for a a "healthiest ever" sandwich.
The toppings provide flavor as well as health benefits, so there's no need to add other toppings that could include extra fat and calories.
The final touch is the spread — no one likes a dry sandwich. You can probably guess that slathering on mayo, mustard or ketchup won’t make the culinary cut for a "best ever" sandwich.
Instead, spread mashed avocado on each slice of bread. Avocado, commonly referred to as "poor man’s butter" just decades ago, is an unlikely source of fiber in this sandwich, but one-half a Hass avocado contains approximately six grams of fiber.
You may have avoided avocados in the past because of the high fat content, but the fat in avocados is predominantly monounsaturated fat, which can lower your cholesterol levels and may help improve insulin sensitivity.
Avocados also are a nutritional complement to the tomatoes. A study published in March 2005 in the Journal of Nutrition indicates that eating avocados with tomato products increases the absorption of the health-promoting carotenoids from the tomatoes.