Turning a Sandwich into a Balanced Meal

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Sandwich Served with Cucumber Tomato Salad
Sandwich Served with Cucumber Tomato Salad

Lose the guilt about serving sandwiches for dinner! When time is limited, a sandwich might be just the meal you were looking for. As it turns out, this familiar food MAY actually count as a balanced meal.

Tips for serving up a delicious sandwich that also gets high marks for health:

1. Start with the bread.

Not just any bread will do. Heavily processed white bread offers little or no fiber. Instead, go for a whole grain bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Toasted or not, this nutty flavored bread is a chewy, satisfying base for sandwiches. To cut out some carbohydrate for those who wish, serve the sandwich open – faced (which means losing the top half of the sandwich).

2. Now choose the protein.

To count as a complete meal, the sandwich must include a protein source. Sliced turkey, ham or left over bits of roasted chicken are favorites. Tuna salad, egg salad and cheese are other protein rich - options. The classic PBJ can be high in protein if a generous spread of peanut butter is used.

3. Fill in with veggies.

A balanced meal provides a generous amount of vegetables. Consider topping that sandwich with lettuce, spinach, sliced bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, onion or any other fresh veggie that is on hand. If PBJ is the sandwich of choice, consider having raw carrots, celery or another fresh veggie on the side.

4. Fat belongs in the sandwich.

Fat adds flavor and may be a healthy addition to any sandwich. Try a drizzle of extra

virgin olive oil, a few slices of avocado, a dollop of humus or even a spread of a favorite


The tuna salad sandwich shown above is topped with spinach and served with a tomato-cucumber salad.

Basic Tuna Salad


  • One large, 12 - ounce can of tuna (well drained)

  • One boiled egg, chopped

  • One very large stalk of celery, finely chopped

  • ½ bell pepper, finely chopped

  • One tablespoon of relish

  • Black pepper to taste

  • 2 ½ tablespoons of mayonnaise (use less or more as desired)


  1. Place tuna into medium bowl.

  2. Add egg, celery, bell pepper, relish and black pepper. Mix well.

  3. Add mayonnaise a little at a time and mix, adding more as needed.

  4. Mix very well and chill if possible before eating.

Tomato – Cucumber Salad


  • Two, medium or large fresh tomatoes, cut into bite sized chunks

  • Three very small cucumbers (or one large cucumber), peeled if desired, and sliced

  • 2 green onions, snipped or cut into small pieces

  • One - tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • Garlic powder

  • Salt

  • Pepper


  1. Place tomatoes, cucumbers and onions into medium bowl.

  2. Add vinegar and olive oil. Gently stir until veggies are coated.

  3. Season as desired with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

  4. Mix well.

  5. Chill prior to serving.

Follow Along

Follow along with Rachel, BCF Program Coordinator, as she makes this recipe on Facebook Live!

Written by Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN

Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program

Check out Jenny's bio here!

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