Homemade lunches have fallen by the wayside with the surge of fast food restaurants. If you’re on campus during the summer, you’re probably tempted to drop into the food court for a quick lunch.
But if you want to eat cheap, tasty and healthy food, the easiest way is to prepare the food yourself. It’s not complicated. If you’re getting a sandwich at Wendy’s, you might as well learn how to make your own and save some money.
Fast food buns are pretty basic fare: white bread, with maybe some sesame seeds on the top. They are nothing fancy but can be pretty bad for you. Butter will push up the calorie count without providing any extra nutrition. You’ll be getting 200 calories from nothing but air and butter.
Sandwich bread gives you plenty of options. The healthiest is whole wheat bread. You’ll get the same amount of calories but more dietary fiber, which makes you feel full faster and helps you absorb nutrients more efficiently. Give the bread a light toast and you’ve got a sturdy base that won’t break apart while you are eating.
All good sandwiches have some form of fat. A layer of fat between the bread and the filling will keep everything in place. It prevents the bread from getting soggy. What you can control is the kind of fats you take in.
The fat of choice at fast food places is mayonnaise. While it’s not actually too bad for you, most of the fat is the good poly- and mono-unsaturated fats that lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
A great alternative to mayonnaise is avocado. With a fourth of the calories per gram, the same kind of good fat and high amounts of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and C, it is much better for you.
Combine with some lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have a sandwich spread to end all sandwich spreads.
While ketchup might have been a vegetable in the ‘80s, nowadays it has more sugar per gram than most sodas. Skip it and try some hot Dijon mustard. It’ll add a ton of flavor, almost no calories, and even a little bit of a spicy kick.
When putting vegetables in sandwiches, there are two standouts: tomatoes and spinach. Tomatoes are the super star of the health world.
They’re high in antioxidants, repair cell damage and contain Vitamin A which is good for the eyes, and Vitamin C. Instead of lettuce, try using spinach as a green leafy vegetable. High in Vitamins A, B1-6, C, E, K Omega-3 fatty acids and iron, spinach is an easy way to introduce nutritional value to your diet.
Cheap burger places use pretty cheap meat for their patties. They are typically high in fat and the patties can be around 250 calories per quarter pound. Any kind of sandwich meat you can get at the grocery store has more protein to build muscle with. Switch it up between ham, turkey, balogna, roast beef or whatever else for some variety.
Now that you get to pick your own cheese, have some fun. No more American slices; instead, try spicing things up with some pepper jack or sharp cheddar. While you’ll actually get fewer calories from fast food “cheese products,” you will be getting much more flavor and much more calcium.
You’ve got a great sandwich in front of you and you still want a little extra? Fine. Try some cherries or watermelon on the side. Both are in season, good for you, and tasty.
If you’re craving something a little less healthy, stick some bacon in the sandwich. If you want something salty, pistachios, though work-intensive, are super tasty. As for drinks, try some lemonade or unsweetened tea, it’ll pair much better than soda.
With just a little planning you can put together a sandwich that will blow away any fast food burger, no matter whether you are counting calories, nutrition, cost or taste.
Make a good enough sandwich, and you’ll never go back to eating out for lunch. Remember, don’t be afraid of the salt and pepper and don’t be afraid to try something you think will be tasty. You’ll be healthier and happier.
As an anonymous proverb once said, “Life is like a sandwich, the more you add to it, the better it becomes.”