Every town has its sandwich shop, complete with a display case full of delicious meats and a smiling deli hand in a white butcher coat. Whether preparing for the beach, a ball game or just a long drive, the sandwich counter is practically a required stop for a satisfying on-the-run meal.
While speed and convenience are the upsides, the downside is the hidden PointsPlus® values sandwiches can hold. Before packing your lunch bag, stop and think about what you're putting on that sandwich. While everything in moderation is a good start, you should know that if you slather on too much cheese and mayo, or pile your deli meats too high, you might be better off (PointsPlus values-wise) with a burger and fries—that's how fatty a deli sandwich can be if you're not careful. When you're watching your weight, it's important to know shortcuts and substitutions that will allow you to continue enjoying your handheld meal.
When the sandwich was born back in the 18th century, it was just a slab of beef stuck between two pieces of bread, which isn't a serious calorie packer. But as soon as hungry folks got creative and began to pile on layers of meat, cheese and condiments, the sandwich became a sizeable threat to waistlines everywhere.
"Between cheese, bacon, avocado and mayo-based sauces and dressings, the calories add up very quickly," says Nutritionist Leslie Fink, MS, RD. With those add-ons, you could be doubling your sandwich's PointsPlus value. "For low-cal alternatives," Fink recommends, "try spreading on some mustard, fat-free black bean dip, hummus, relish, chopped pickles or some non-fat salad dressing."
Going easy on the extra layers is definitely a healthy choice, but if you've got to have your condiments, go right ahead—just lighten it up. A single slice of cheese or one thinly spread teaspoon of mayo is enough to give you some flavor, without doing too much damage to your PointsPlus balance.
A good rule of thumb is to choose condiments that are low in fat and high in taste. For example, a splash of hot pepper sauce adds zero PointsPlus values but gives your sandwich a serious flavor boost. Check out this breakdown of sandwich condiment PointsPlus values:
|Mayo–PointsPlus value of 3 for 1 Tbsp
|Oil & Vinegar–PointsPlus value of 2 for 1 Tbsp
|Russian Dressing–PointsPlus value of 1 for 1 Tbsp
|Ranch Dressing–PointsPlus value of 3-4 for 1 Tbsp
|Pickle Relish–PointsPlus value of 0 for 1 Tbsp
|Honey Mustard–PointsPlus value of 2-4 for 1 Tbsp
|Sauerkraut–PointsPlus value of 1 for 1 cup
|Mustard–PointsPlus value of 0 for 1 Tbsp
It shouldn't shock you that whole wheat is the healthier bread option. "Since starting the plan, I've really grown to like the taste of whole-wheat bread—it's all I buy or eat now," says Weight Watchers Success Story Jody Genessy. "Getting that extra fiber is so worth it." And light whole-wheat bread, of course, is a Power Food.
Most packaged store-bought white hard rolls have a PointsPlus value of 4, as does a deli-style Kaiser variety. The PointsPlus value for a submarine roll obviously depends on its length—but if you want to estimate, figure a PointsPlus value of 5-6 for a 6-inch, and add 2 or 3 PointsPlus values for every three inches after that.
Representing yet another bread option, the wrap-craze has stretched beyond fancy urban cafés, and is now a nationwide deli regular. Be careful, though—tortillas may look thinner than loaf bread, but they can be just as high in PointsPlus values. "Most restaurants and delis use extremely large tortillas," says Fink. "You'd be much better off with two slices of whole-wheat bread." If you're making a wrap at home, use medium sized tortillas—they're still ample enough to support your choice of filling, and you won't be consuming the extra calories.
Stuck in the Middle
Your safest meat choices are sliced turkey, chicken, lean ham or roast beef. A lot of people are surprised to find that deli-style roast beef is a decent low-fat meat option. (Three ounces of roast beef has fewer PointsPlus values than three ounces of tuna salad.) The meats that cause the most damage to your daily PointsPlus target are the ones that have been heavily processed or treated.
Building a Sandwich
When you build a sandwich using our interactive stacker, be sure to note the portions. We're giving you three ounces per sliced meat choice, one slice per cheese type, and one tablespoon of each condiment. If you use two tablespoons of mayo in your sandwich, you should figure in double the PointsPlus values. Also keep in mind that the guy behind your deli counter may be using more than the recommended amounts. If there's a digital scale at the counter, don't be shy to make sure you're getting the exact portion you want.
Pastrami is often one of the worst offenders, as it's beef (mostly very fatty cuts) that's soaked in salty, oily brine. Once the raw slices come of the brine, a lot of oil and salt stays with the meat. Four ounces of non-lean pastrami (which is less than most delis put in a sandwich) has a PointsPlus value of 10. So you might as well help yourself to a hamburger.
Bologna, another sneaky plan killer, is basically a tightly packed pork sausage made from low-grade meat scraps. Here's the catch: those scraps are so finely ground that the fat pieces aren't visible like they are with salami and pepperoni. But don't be fooled, the fat is certainly there, which should make you think twice about those bologna sandwiches you used to pack for lunch.
A great way to beef up your sandwich without adding extra meat is to pile on veggies. Think beyond lettuce and tomato too—stacking on shredded carrots, onions, sliced pickles, cucumbers or mushrooms not only creates a heartier sandwich, but also infuses a satisfying crunch. Each added layer of veggies represents zero extra PointsPlus values, so go ahead and veg out for free.
Next time you stop by the deli for a grab and go lunch, keep some of these tips in mind. If you can save yourself massive PointsPlus values with a few easy switches, you'll thank yourself when you feel like cracking open that extra beer on the beach.