A popular meal choice, we are a nation who loves sandwiches. In fact, 50 percent of Americans consume a sandwich every day. While no sandwich is complete without the perfect spread, think outside the traditional condiment box. Try one of these seven better-for-you spread ideas and take the nutritional value of your sandwich to a whole new level.
Mashed berries instead of jam: While your jam may have pictures of fruit on the label, reading the nutrition facts tells a different story. You would need to eat 5 tablespoons of jam to reach just one gram of fiber—and that comes along with 278 calories of sugar! Using smashed fruit gives you more fiber with fewer calories: 6 large smashed strawberries provide 2 grams of fiber with only 35 calories. For an extra touch of sweetness, drizzle some honey on top.
Roasted garlic spread instead of cheese: Nobody is asking you to give up cheese, but if you are throwing on a slice just to add some interest to your sandwich you might find that savory flavor is easily replaced with a low calorie, low sodium alternative like roasted garlic. Internet recipes abound, but basically roasting a few bulbs of garlic in the oven with some olive oil, peeled and blended produces a spread that has a rich umami flavor with no sodium and very few calories. Try it on a Panini with some roasted chicken breast and fresh tomato slices for a light take on chicken parmesan.
Hummus instead of mustard or mayonnaise: While mustard and mayonnaise are condiment staples, they offer very little in terms of nutritional value. Instead, try topping your sandwich with nutrient-rich beans. Look for hummus brands with a few simple ingredients, such as fresh chickpeas, tahini, and a touch of garlic. For example, two heaping spoonfuls of Sabra hummus a day provides about 1/4 cup of chickpeas (or 1/2 serving of vegetables) – a delicious and easy way to meet weekly MyPlate recommendations for bean intake, while also boosting intake of plant protein, fiber and unsaturated fat.
Cottage cheese instead of cream cheese: Bagels with cream cheese may be a Sunday staple, but you can feel good eating this every day by swapping in a higher-protein alternative. One-quarter cup of low-fat cottage cheese has only 45 calories and 7 grams of protein, whereas the same amount of regular cream cheese has four times the calories and half the protein… plus loads of artery-clogging saturated fat. Pair your cottage cheese topping with a whole grain bagel for a breakfast with fiber and protein for staying power.
Smashed avocado instead of mayonnaise: If you like the creaminess and richness of mayonnaise, try blending some smashed avocado for a lower calorie option. Just two tablespoons of mayonnaise contains over 200 calories, about four times the amount in the same amount of avocado. Plus, avocado adds healthy fats and more than 20 different vitamins and minerals for good health. Add a little lemon juice to balance out the fattiness of the avocado, and get that familiar tang that mayonnaise brings to sandwiches. If you want to spice things up, drizzle on a little hot sauce of your liking.
Yogurt instead of mayonnaise in tartar sauce: Whether grilled or deep-fried, tartar sauce is a nice, bright addition to any fish sandwich. While the original version is mayonnaise based, you can create a lower fat, higher protein version by swapping in Greek yogurt. One tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt has only 13 calories and 2.5 grams of protein, whereas one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has about 100 calories and no protein. Simply substitute plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise in the recipe and add in the other ingredients you love, such pickles, mustard, vinegar, and capers.
Nut butter instead of butter: Next time you’re topping your toast in the morning, go for a nut butter instead of the standard yellow spread and boost your nutrient intake. Unlike regular butter, nut butters (like peanut butter, cashew butter, and almond butter) offer healthy fats, protein, and fiber for staying power, as well as vitamins for good health. Look for all-natural nut butters without fillers. For example, the ingredients on an all-natural peanut butter will read “roasted peanuts and sea salt” – that’s it! For some added flavor and health benefits, dust the nut butter with cinnamon.
Patricia Bannan is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the author of "Eat Right When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes." Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.