The American Diet Has a Sandwich Problem

WSJ – The American Diet Has a Sandwich Problem

Americans’ favorite lunch is a ‘heart bomb’ of salt, preservatives and sugar. But doctors say there’s a way to build a healthier sandwich—here’s how


The humble sandwich is the saboteur of the American diet.

Most Americans consume too much sodium, sugar and saturated fat, according to government survey data. Sandwiches—which almost half of Americans eat on any given day—are a primary culprit. Nutritionists, doctors and public-health officials are trying to nudge people to make their sandwiches healthier, believing that even simple changes can improve health.


Sandwiches are the number one source of sodium and saturated fat in Americans’ diets, making up about one-fifth of our daily sodium intake and 19% of our daily saturated fat calories, according to an analysis of federal survey data. Sandwiches contribute 7% of daily added sugars, the same percentage as breakfast cereals and bars.

“The standard deli sandwich with processed meat and cheese, you’re literally eating a heart bomb,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University.

Excess sodium increases blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. People also eat an extra nearly 100 calories on the days they eat sandwiches, according to federal survey data analyzed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers. Sandwiches are often high in calories compared with other meals.

Time-strapped Americans reach for sandwiches because they are tasty, portable, often inexpensive and ubiquitous, dominating the menus of fast-food joints, corporate cafeterias and brown-bag school lunches.

“Americans eat so much of their meals not sitting down at a table. They are eating in their cars or at their desks, so sandwiches are easy,” says Erica Kenney, assistant professor of public-health nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

You don’t have to stop eating sandwiches, nutritionists say. But you can make them healthier, with more-nutritious breads and fillings.


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