Yeah, I know. I’m late to the party! The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report came out back in February, and it seemed like all anyone could say was “coffee is good for you!” but really there is a lot more going on. I want to pull out a specific piece from the executive summary regarding combination foods:
“Analysis of data on food categories, such as burgers, sandwiches, mixed dishes, desserts, and beverages, shows that the composition of many of these items could be improved so as to increase population intake of vegetables, whole grains, and other underconsumed food groups and to lower population intake of the nutrients sodium and saturated fat, and the food component refined grains.”
TRANSLATION: We should learn how to make our sandwiches, burgers, mixed dishes (i.e. pizza, casseroles), desserts, and beverages do something to benefit us nutritionally! Remember, every time you eat is an opportunity to improve your health. Be smart about it. You don’t have to crazy and start eating your burger between a halved head of iceberg lettuce, but there are some things we can change to make these dishes healthier.
- Go whole grain: Nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s easier than ever nowadays – even Whataburger has whole wheat buns. You have no excuse.
- Pack in the produce: Sandwiches and burgers are basically salad with bread around it, if you do it right. Think about the physics of it though – you need veggies that will actually stay stacked. Lettuce and tomato are great, but how about sprouts (an excellent stacker)? Grated carrots? Sauteed mushrooms? If cooking it will help it stay on, cook it. If grating it will help it stay on, grate it. Do what you need to do to get them into your stomach! There is ALWAYS a way to add more vegetables.
- Correct your condiments: Mayo? No thanks. Hummus provides protein and fiber with way less fat and calories. Mustard is becoming a new obsession in my house and comes in tons of flavors. Mashed avocado makes a creamy sandwich spread. Pesto has tons of healthy fats from pine nuts and olive oil. I don’t care what you say, salsa is a condiment to be used whenever possible, salads included. Vinegars and olive oils have entire stores dedicated to them, and also come in delicious varieties that will liven up any meal (just be conscious of your portions for oils, vinegar is a thumbs up all the way).
- Lean protein forever: lean low sodium deli ham and roast beef, sliced chicken and turkey, 93/7 ground beef, lean ground turkey (check the label), fish, shellfish, chicken sausages, beans and legumes, meat substitutes like tofu and seitan. Saturated fat (from fatty meats) raises cholesterol – we don’t want that.
- Few flavorful fats: By fats, I’m talkin’ the good stuff: bacon, cheese, cured meats, umm…are there any others? For me it’s all about the bacon and cheese. These are packed with the saturated fat that I just swore off, but they are just so dang good that sometimes ya gotta have ’em. Luckily for us, they’re good because they are PACKED with flavor – a little dab’ll do ya!
So what does this look like in practice?
BREAKFAST: Breakfast taco with sauteed spinach, onions, and tomatoes mixed into 2 scrambled eggs stuffed into corn tortillas and topped with salsa.
LUNCH: Sandwich on whole grain bread with two slices of deli turkey, thinly sliced cucumbers, onions, and tomato; spinach, a giant handful of sprouts, and a thin smear of pesto. Green and gorgeous! Add an apple or carrots on the side for fun.
DINNER: Whole wheat tortilla pizza topped with a sauce made from canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, and italian seasoning; sparsely sprinkled with cheese and loaded with onions, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, chicken breast, chopped spinach, and a tablespoon of (gasp!) bacon crumbles! Yes, you can do that. I just did.
Let’s think about these meals. Was the last sandwich you ate this vegetable-focused? Probably not. Was it this delicious? Again, probably not. And why?
Right. No reason. So let’s make some delicious combination meals, y’all! Rethink what “delicious” looks like. The sandwich below was probably the most magical sandwich I ate last year. Don’t you want to eat magical sandwiches?