Sandwiches and wraps are the perfect on-the-go lunch option. However, the bread that sandwiches are often served on can add on hundreds of calories. Many people think that choosing a thin wrap is a healthier option, but even a standard 12-inch wrap can have over 300 calories, or the equivalent of 4 slices of bread.
If you simply cannot resist the starch, choose the 100 percent whole wheat option, or opt for an open sandwich. However, the best possible choice would be to use one of the following alternatives:
This may seem unusual, but collard leaves are large, sturdy, and have a very mild flavor. Take a large collard leaf and slice the stem and thick “rib” out of the center. If it seems tough, blanch or microwave the leaf until it is pliable and soft. Then, lay the leaf flat, fill it with your favorite sandwich-stuffers, and wrap it up! It is a good idea to use hummus or some other yogurt-based spread to help hold everything together inside. For an all-vegetarian wrap, try grilled tofu, shaved carrots and beets, sliced avocado, and a serving of quinoa.
Using crackers instead of bread helps to cut down on net carbohydrates due to the high fiber content. (Total carbs- fiber= Net carbs) This slightly crunchier version of a sandwich can be compared to using toast or some very crusty artisanal breads. Top crackers with a smear of spreadable light cheese and turkey and top with sliced tomato, or combine cottage cheese and cucumber. A similar option would be to use rice cakes or corn thins.
Lettuce bun or wrap
Ordering your burger “protein style” is a great option, but lettuce buns don’t have to stop at just burger joints. Try making your own lettuce buns by slicing off bun-sized rounds of iceberg lettuce, or use romaine leaves to wrap around your filling. Fill your lettuce with sliced turkey, low-fat cheese, and some mustard for a light and refreshing lunch or use the lettuce cup as a taco shell with traditional taco fillings. Many bagel shops and delis are more than happy to swap out a traditional wrap for lettuce leaves, too.
Steam, grill, or bake two Portobello mushroom caps until slightly softened, and then they are ready to go. Fill your "burger bun" with some greens, a lean protein burger (turkey and salmon patties are great options), and then finish it off with a tasty sauce like roasted red pepper sauce or mango salsa. The mushrooms will hold everything in place and also soak up other flavors.
A final unusual option are sheets of seaweed, or "nori." Think sushi, but without the rice. Fill your sheets with sliced cucumber, bell pepper, shredded cabbage, and ahi tuna to mimic your favorite veggie-and-fish roll. One sheet of nori has just 10 calories, virtually zero fat, and is very low in net carbohydrates. Additionally, the seaweed is packed with antioxidants as well as micronutrients like iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin C.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.