Many people are removing meat, dairy, and egg products from their diets, either for health reasons or for ethical reasons to do with the treatment of animals and the environment. A change in diet always brings the question, "What do I eat? If I usually fix myself a turkey melt for lunch, what am I going to fix instead?"
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of sandwich ideas that don't require any animal products at all. Most of us have already eaten many vegetarian sandwiches in the form of good old peanut butter and jelly, but our options go far beyond that childhood staple. Vegetarian sandwiches are very versatile and are great for packing to take to work or for a restaurant lunch when you’re out.
Basic Ingredients of Vegetarian Sandwiches
Whole grain breads are an excellent choice for a sandwich, as they contain more vitamins and minerals, as well as more fiber, than white bread. Look for vegan breads at the supermarket, or make your own at home. There are raw and gluten-free bread options available in local health food stores. It's also good to include a few flat breads, such as tortillas, chapatis, and pita pockets, to add variety to the mix.
Raw or roasted vegetables add color and nutrition to any sandwich. Try to include variety in your sandwiches. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, roasted eggplant, avocado, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and grilled bell pepper or summer squash are all healthy and delicious choices. If you prefer something a little "meatier," try slices of smoked tofu and a sprinkle of vegan cheese. To ensure you are covering all your dietary requirements, you can add iron, protein, and calcium from leafy greens such as spinach, beta-carotene from carrots, antioxidants from beets, and omega-3s from a sprinkle of flax seeds.
To add extra flavor, try spreads such as mashed avocado or hummus. For a healthier option, use olive oil instead of butter, and vegan mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise. Tahini, which is a good source of calcium, can also be used as a dressing.
Vegetarian diets are known for being higher in fruits and vegetables than omnivore diets. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most Americans don't get enough servings of these essential foods. Switching to vegetarian sandwiches provides a much-needed nutrition boost. When we make sandwiches, it is important to focus our attention on whole foods to get the most nutrition out of our meals. Fruits and vegetables are especially good at reducing the risk of certain cancers, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
People who cut animal products completely out of their diets receive benefits in terms of lower risk of obesity and other health issues. Eating a wide variety of whole plant foods also encourages lower blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol levels. Eliminating our intake of animal products entirely also eliminates our intake of cholesterol, which is found only in animal products.
Beyond the physical benefits to ourselves, eating fewer animal products reduces the strain on the environment from raising animals for food and reduces the amount of suffering in the animal population.
Give vegetarian sandwiches a try. You'll find yourself eating a wider variety of delicious foods, and beyond that, you'll be taking charge of your own health and the welfare of the planet.