The Calories in a Tuna Melt

You might be surprised to learn how many calories a simple tuna melt can contain. Tuna itself isn't high in calories, but bind it together with mayonnaise, spread it on bread and melt cheese on top and the calories start to add up. Fortunately, by making a few simple adjustments, you can enjoy a healthier version of this classic hot sandwich.

A tuna melt sandwich. (Image: William Mahar/iStock/Getty Images)

Restaurant Tuna Melts

While some restaurant and deli tuna melts pack a modest number of calories, others are real diet busters. A large tuna melt from Quiznos, for instance, has 1,520 calories. For some people, that's a whole day's worth of calories. Even the small Quiznos tuna melt has 620 calories. At 390 calories, the Starbucks tuna melt panini is a better choice.

Homemade Tuna Melts

When you make tuna melts at home, you're better able to control their calorie content. Rather than making a sandwich like Bumble Bee's basic tuna melt, which contains 710 calories per serving, you can make something more like a USA Today tuna melt recipe with 215 calories per serving.

Portions and Proportions

One way to cut the calories in your tuna melt is to trim its size. If you're used to eating two halves of a tuna melt, try eating just one. The calorie count of a tuna melt starts to rise when you include higher proportions of the high-calorie, high-fat ingredients: mayonnaise, cheese and butter or margarine. To reduce the number of calories in your tuna melt, use less of these ingredients and more of low-fat, low-calorie ingredients such as onion, mustard or celery.

Alternative Ingredients

Substituting low-fat or fat-free ingredients for full-fat versions will trim your calorie counts further. Try low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise, or use plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt as a binder. Replace regular cheese with a low-fat or fat-free equivalent. Use a sharp cheddar instead of a bland American cheese -- you''ll get more flavor from fewer calories.

Other Additions

Make your tuna melt a better source of nutrition by using whole-wheat rolls, breads or English muffins as a base. And, incorporate as many vegetables and fruits into the dish as you can, chopping them into the tuna or laying them on top of the sandwich. Try avocados, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, celery, tomatoes and other healthy items from the produce section.

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