Is a Turkey Sandwich Healthy?

A turkey sandwich can be a very healthy meal -- or an unhealthy one depending on what you add to it. The bread you use, the condiments you choose and the additional ingredients you add all play a large part in determining the nutritional value of your turkey sandwich.

A turkey sandwich on a plate at a restaurant.
Credit: rez-art/iStock/Getty Images

Turkey

Turkey itself is quite a healthy food, serving as a rich source of protein. Turkey also contains less fat than many other meats. The exact benefits of turkey depend on what part of the bird you eat. White meat contains less fat than dark meat; eating the skin adds more fat. A 3.5 oz. serving of white meat without the skin equals 194 calories, with 4 g of fat and 30 g of protein. Adding the skin boosts the fat content to 8 g per serving. While dark meat without the skin has 8 g of fat, dark meat with the skin has 13 g of fat. Remove the skin and eat white meat to increase your sandwich's nutritional value.

Bread

The type of bread used to build your sandwich makes a big nutritional difference. Whole grains metabolize or break down so they can be absorbed in the intestines more slowly than refined white breads. Whole grains also contain more nutrients. If you choose white enriched bread, you get added vitamins and minerals and carbohydrates for energy but you can do much better. Although white bread contains starch, a complex carbohydrate, the starch in white bread breaks down almost as quickly as a simple sugar, reports the Harvard School of Public Health. Whole grain bread supplies fiber and more vitamins and minerals.

Condiments

If you add mayonnaise or another spread to your turkey sandwich, choose wisely. Pick the spread that contains the most unsaturated fats rather than one high in saturated fats. Saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, the accumulation of plaque in blood vessels, reduces blood flow through the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Unsaturated fat, on the other hand, can increase high-density lipoprotein, the desirable form of cholesterol which removes low-density cholesterol, the "bad" form, from plaque and takes it back to the liver.

Extras

If you start adding processed cheese or cheeses high in saturated fats to your turkey sandwich, the nutritional value will quickly fall. Choose low-fat cheese varieties instead.

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