You are what you eat

What’s in your sandwich? Manufacturers are following government guidelines and searching for the healthier option – without losing any of the taste.

When choosing a sandwich, do you grab what appeals most, or do you scrutinise the nutrition information panel to see how many calories and how much fat it contains?

A balanced decision about which sandwich to choose is made easier if there’s a GDA (guideline daily amount) panel on the front of the packaging. You can check at a glance how many calories and how much sugar, fat, saturates and salt are in your food, and what percentage it is of your total allowance.

Major retailers such as Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons have adopted this, but smaller sandwich outlets are not obliged to show any nutritional information as they don’t have the necessary technical resources.

Since 2011 the Department of Health has encouraged food manufacturers and retailers to support the Public Health Responsibility Deal and to take up “pledges” on areas of food production and information.

Take salt, for example. The public health goal is to consume no more than 6g of salt per person a day and the government wants food companies to meet the voluntary salt target for 80 categories of foods by the end of the year. Included in this are salt targets for bread, rolls and bought sandwiches.

Recent reductions in the salt content of bread to 1 per cent – down from double figures – has posed challenges for manufacturers as they attempt to square that target with expectations on taste and texture. According to Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, which represents all the major brands: “Our members all met salt targets set in 2010 and we will meet them in 2012, but it will be difficult to go much further.”

Salt targets for bought sandwiches in 2012 are 0.75g per 100g for those with “low-salt” fillings such as chicken, and 1g per 100g for higher salt ingredients such as cured meats.

Some of the biggest names have backed the government moves. The Subway chain has embraced the responsibility deal pledges to reduce trans fats, reduce salt content, display calorie information on menu boards, and reduce calories.

Meanwhile, Pret A Manger incorporates a Goodness Sake section on its website with advice on eating fresh foods. “We use only natural ingredients,” says Caroline Cromer, director of food at Pret.

“Pret does not believe in stripping out calories from breads or sauces artificially. Over the years we have mixed yogurt with our mayonnaise to provide moisture for the sandwich while reducing the fat content. And we have steadily reduced salt in all our products over the past 10 years.” 

Do it yourself!

Are homemade sandwiches a healthier choice than prepacked? Add great-tasting fillings and you won’t need butter or spread, says fitness guru Rosemary Conley.

  • To build low-fat, low-calorie sandwiches without compromising on taste, start with wholegrain bread in preference to white, according to Rosemary Conley. It’s healthier and as it’s low Gi (glycaemic), it will fill you up for longer.
  • Next, maximise the moisture by spreading low-fat or fat-free sauces and dressings straight on to bread instead of using butter or margarine.
  • Go for fillings such as extra light or low-fat cheese, skinless chicken or turkey breast, low-fat humous, and tuna (in brine) mixed with fat-free mayonnaise or low-fat coleslaw.
  • And for extra crunch and flavour, add low-cal salad vegetables to pack out your sandwich.

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