We’ve all heard that excess carbs in a diet can pack on the pounds. It is certainly true for some metabolic types, but may not apply to all. Dietary fibers are essential nutrients to keep in your diet, which bread is a good source of, but most breads in our modern grocery stores are 85% carbs and 15% sugar.
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about carbs that many people have; carbs are not evil. Carbs are crucial for supplying energy for your body to function on a daily basis. Healthy athletes carb up before races to have the necessary amount of energy to perform their best, and carbs can be used the same way to fuel a busy person throughout their day.
However, in recent times, especially, our average level of activity is slowing down. Remote jobs and COVID see us staying indoors much more, often traveling no further distance than between our bedroom, living room, and kitchen on an average day. Although cutting out carbs entirely is not wise, reducing them to fit your new level of activity is a smart move.
So, you want a sandwich. It’s lunchtime and you’ve just gotten off the couch for the first time in three hours, destined to spend another few hours on the couch again after your meal. You’ve determined it’s probably best if you cut some carbs today due to your lack of physical activity– but you really want a sandwich.
Is it possible to make a sandwich without bread?
Yes, my friend. It is possible and easier than you think. Here are 10 ways you can have your sandwich and eat it too!
1. Substitute Bread for Lettuce
Ever heard of a lettuce wrap? Well, that’s the general idea.
Instead of putting your sandwich ingredients between two slices of bread, take one large leaf of lettuce and place your sandwich contents at one end, folding the other up and around to the top of the stack like a tortilla. You can grip the sandwich from the top and bottom of the lettuce and with one side covered by lettuce, you won’t get messy hands!
If you can’t get big enough lettuce leaves to wrap it, just take two and place them at the bottom and top of your sandwich. Buy a head of cabbage or iceberg lettuce for best results.
Peeling off one leaf at a time, even a single leaf should be large enough to cover your sandwich contents (I guess it depends on how big your sandwich is), and the thick white stems should make them strong enough to hold your sandwich regardless of volume.
2. Red Beefy Tomatoes
For this one, to avoid a total mess you need to get specific with what part of the tomato you use. A slice of tomato would reveal all the gutsy insides and would not be the most pleasant thing to grip, but using the butt ends of the tomato gives skin for you to hold and be able to actually enjoy your sandwich.
Ideally, you can use the entire tomato for your sandwich and make a stretched-out, deconstructed tomato sandwich.
I’ll explain: slice up your tomato and use the ends of the tomato as the buns. Then, use the middling slices as contents of the sandwich, alternating cheese, tomato slice, lettuce, slice, meat, slice, etc. to create a super healthy, super tomato-y experience!
3. Fried Green Tomato
To create sandwich ends closer to home (home being bread), you can fry a vegetable which will eliminate the bread issue, while still producing the crispy bread texture you crave.
Now, a warning: there is still “bread” in this option. It isn’t as much as actual bread, but to fry the tomato you’ll need to use some flour, cornmeal, and breadcrumbs. That okay? Okay, let’s continue then.
Choose thick slices of green tomato, preferably firm so it is stiff, not flimsy. Mix egg and milk into a mixture, and combine the flour, cornmeal, and breadcrumbs into a separate bowl.
Dip the tomatoes into the egg/milk mixture as glue, then the bread mixture. Transfer to an oiled pan and let it fry until golden brown to get a delicious bread substitute.
Along with tomato, you can also use this method by frying plantains or eggplant depending on your food preference!
4. Bell Pepper
Bell peppers, especially red bell peppers, contain many vital nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, potassium, and fiber. If that’s not enough, their firm texture and wide frame make perfect ends to a sandwich!
Instead of slicing the pepper into vertical pieces, slice them horizontally, keeping the top slice and bottom as sandwich ends. Or, cut just the top off and fill the inside with your sandwich toppings, and put the top back on to make a sandwich house!
5. Sweet Potato
A sweet potato is a great option because it still contains the fiber that bread does, but it’s also packed with many vitamins and nutrients bread lacks. It has carbs as a starchy vegetable, but it is a much healthier carb source than most (if not all) supermarket bread.
Hard sweet potato is loved by no one, so you’ll need to soften it first in the oven. Chop the sweet potato into large rounds, thick enough that it won’t break from the pressure of your hands gripping the sandwich.
Cover in a bit of olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 18-25 minutes (or just as long as it takes for it to be soft enough to smoothly poke with a fork). Then use two slices as the ends of your sandwich, or cook the sweet potato whole, take out the insides and fill it with your sandwich toppings and eat like a hot dog!
6. Portobello Mushrooms
Portobello Mushrooms are big, wide, flat, and round which makes them perfect and popular for use as a substitute for bread in a sandwich or burger, or a substitute for meat in a sandwich or burger.
Grill your mushroom caps for 8-10 minutes, or until they reach desired texture. You can also grill them with cheese on top, which will melt the cheese nicely if you like melty cheese! Then you can use either two as sandwich ends, or stack your sandwich on top of one and make sliders.
7. Rice Paper Wrap
You know spring rolls? It’s an Asian dish that is wrapped in a mysterious clear tortilla– well, that clear tortilla is rice paper. Overall, rice paper is a low-calorie option that contains mainly healthy carbs but also proteins, fat, and iron.
Place the rice paper on the counter, and put your sandwich ingredients in the center in a thin, vertical line across the diameter. Fold the edges in and wrap it like a burrito, and enjoy! This option is probably the most stable so far as keeping the food contained and not slipping out the sides.
8. Cauliflower Rice “Bread”
This “bread” is pasted together with a mix of cauliflower rice, egg, and parmesan cheese– perfect to pack in a bunch of protein into one sandwich!
To make the rice, blend cauliflower in a food processor until it’s chopped so fine it looks like rice. Microwave the cauliflower rice for about two minutes, stir, three minutes, stir, then five minutes. It should almost be dry. Put it in for a last five minutes, and when it comes out it should look dry and clumpy.
Mix in a whisked egg and Parmesan until it becomes a paste. Create little round patties or rectangles to emulate bread, and place in the oven at 450 degrees for about 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Then, make your sandwich and enjoy your “bread!”
9. Ham Roll-Ups
A different approach, rather than substituting bread by using a vegetable or bread imitation, is to use the sandwich contents to wrap itself.
With this option, use a thick slice of ham or salami (thickness is important so that it doesn’t tear immediately) and make a wrap with your cheese, vegetables, and other ingredients inside. It will probably taste like a salami and cheese wrap, which is always a favorite.
Arepas are a South American bread substitute made from water, salt, and cornmeal. Cornmeal is essentially ground corn, so although it contains some carbs, it is still a vegetable and also is host to a variety of nutrients!
To make these cornmeal cakes, stir water and salt together, then gradually the cornmeal to make a dough. Divide the dough and pat down into patties, then grill on the stove about 5 min on each side until golden brown. You can use these as bread slices, or cut a slit and eat them like a taco or hot dog!