Food & Drink

Your Sandwich Has Hidden Sugar Lurking In Almost Every Ingredient

Sure, cookies and ice cream are worse, but your sandwich could be packing sugar, too. Find out how.
10/03/2018 05:45am ET
NoDerog via Getty Images

When you think about sugar-packed foods, sandwiches probably don’t make the top of your list. And while it’s true that your cookie and ice cream habit is probably delivering more sugar to your system than your lunchtime turkey and avocado sandwich, sandwiches can hardly be written off as a sugar-free food. There’s hidden sugar lurking in nearly every ingredient of your sandwich.

Over time, all that hidden sugar in your sandwich adds up. And it’s no secret that sugar has been linked to a number of negative health consequences, ranging from irritability and tooth decay to obesity and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends men eat no more than 37.5 grams of added sugar per day and women should limit it to 25 grams. Those numbers add up quickly, and many of us end up consuming way more sugar than we should.

So, should you stop consuming sandwiches in the name of lowering your sugar consumption? Absolutely not. Knowledge is power, so once you understand exactly where all that sugar is hiding, you’ll be on your way to crafting mouthwatering low-sugar sandwiches in no time. Here’s everything you need to know to make that happen.

Sugar 101

First things first: Where is all that sugar hiding, exactly? The most common culprit is bread. The average slice of bread contains 3 grams of sugar per slice, so a sandwich can contain 6 grams of sugar thanks to bread alone. And when you start adding condiments to the mix, that’s a whole other story.

“Condiments are often loaded with unnecessary sugar, even in ones you wouldn’t expect, such as ketchup and mustard,” said Will Cole, functional medicine practitioner and author of Ketotarian. “By adding sugar in one of its many different forms, it allows the condiment company to add a punch of flavor with very little money.”

He adds that condiments aren’t the only sugar-filled sandwich ingredient: Cold cuts can be a surprisingly big problem as well. “Many conventional deli meats contain a blend of preservatives and seasonings, including sugar, to achieve a variety of different flavor options for the consumer,” Cole explained.

While you can find sugar-free cold cuts, there are certain brands that are famous for adding sugar where they can. Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Honey Ham, for example, packs 2 grams of sugar, and Hillshire Farm is guilty of this as well: Its Ultra-Thin Roast Beef has 1 gram of sugar, as does its Chipotle Chicken Breast.

In other words, the classic (and delicious) combination of bread, cold cuts and condiments can be a bit of a sugar bomb, and you can hit your recommended daily sugar intake by eating one sandwich. Yikes.

How to shop for low-sugar sandwich ingredients

The good news is that with the right knowledge and a few ingredient swaps, you can build a sandwich that’s even tastier than the sugar-filled ones you’ve been chomping on.

“Just by switching out your bread for either a lettuce wrap or coconut wrap, you are greatly reducing your carb intake and its impact on your blood sugar. I highly recommend NUCO organic coconut wraps,” Cole said. If you’d rather have your bread and eat it too, no worries — just make sure to become a label detective every time you hit the bread aisle at the grocery store.

The bread brand Ezekiel is famous for having no added sugar, and rye bread and oat breads typically have less sugar than standard sliced white or wheat bread. Just make sure you always read labels, and aim for the lowest sugar content possible. If you can stay under 1 gram, that’s ideal.

The condiment brand AlternaSweets, for example, is famous for its stevia-sweetened sauces, or you can swap sugar condiments for less-sugar condiments, like honey mustard for yellow mustard. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also try making your own condiments and skip the sugar. Cole also suggested ditching condiments altogether and kicking your sandwich up a notch with guacamole. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

Low-sugar sandwich recipes to try now

Want to start your low-sugar sandwich journey today? Here are a few delicious sandwich recipes to get you going.

1. Loaded Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich

Layers of Happiness

Get the Loaded Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich recipe from Layers of Happiness.

2. Vegan “BLT” Sandwich

Minimalist Baker

Get the Vegan BLT Sandwich recipe from Minimalist Baker.

3. Grilled Hummus & Caramelized Onion Sandwich

My Dish Is Bomb

Get the Grilled Hummus And Caramelized Onion Sandwich recipe from My Dish Is Bomb.

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