March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating habits. Healthy eating helps us feel better at any age, and also helps support healthy aging.
Personalize Your Plate
This year's theme for National Nutrition Month is "Personalize Your Plate," which emphasizes that there is no "one size-fits-all" approach to healthy eating. This theme underscores the importance of seeking the advice and assistance of registered dietitian nutritionists – the food and nutrition experts in helping modify your eating. As a dietitian, one of the components of my work that I really enjoy is to help tailor an individualized eating plan to meet my clients' food preferences along their health goals. One aspect of tailoring their diet is helping to fine-tune their traditional recipes or to provide alternative foods to create heart healthy meals. These small changes can have a large impact on your health over time, and each move toward a healthier diet is a step in the right direction.
About the Reuben
One of the traditional foods for our upcoming St. Patrick's Day holidays is a Reuben sandwich. For those of us native Nebraskans, I think it's pretty amazing that there is a rumor that the origin of this sandwich is from the old Blackstone Hotel here in Omaha.
Unfortunately, this traditional sandwich is NOT one that I consider "heart healthy" as it provides approximately 800 calories, 50 grams fat, 20 grams of the artery-clogging saturated fat, 40 grams carbohydrates, 36 grams protein, and a whopping 3200 mg. of sodium! In contrast, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend <2300 mg. of sodium per day. The American Heart Association advises us to moderate saturated fat to <6% of our total calories, which would equate with <14 grams per day on a 2,000 calorie meal plan! Therefore, the Reuben sandwich provides 33% more sodium than we should have in a day and double the amount of artery-clogging saturated fat.
A Healthier Option
A healthier option that I would recommend for St. Patrick's Day is the "Rachel" sandwich which provides half of the calories and less than 1/3 of the sodium and saturated fat of the traditional Reuben sandwich. Here is the recipe for one such version:
Healthy Rachel (vs. Reuben) Sandwich (directions for 2 sandwiches)
Russian Dressing for the Sandwich
- 1 cup light miracle whip or mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup low sodium ketchup
- 1 teaspoon minced onion
- 1 tablespoon parsley minced
- 4 slices rye bread lightly toasted
- 2 teaspoons olive oil or canola oil margarine
- 2 Tbsp. Russian dressing
- ½ pound Low sodium deli turkey sliced
- ½ cup coleslaw
- 2 slices Swiss cheese
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well incorporated. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to assemble sandwiches.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet, lay out 4 pieces of rye bread.
- Thinly spread 1/2 teaspoon olive oil spread and 1 Tbsp. Russian dressing to each slice of bread.
- Layer with 1 slice Swiss cheese and ½ of the turkey 2 separate slices of bread (twice for 2 sandwiches).
- Cover with the remaining two slices of bread and add remaining 1/2 teaspoon olive oil spread to top of sandwich.
- Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown OR Heat a griddle and spray with nonstick spray. Grill sandwich until golden brown on each side.
- Pull apart the bread and add ¼ cup coleslaw to each sandwich. Close, serve, and enjoy!
Nutrition analysis per sandwich
- 320 calories
- 5.5 grams saturated fat
- 600 mg. sodium
- 35 grams carb
- 28 grams protein