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These Healthy Sandwich Recipes are the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Nothing against PB+J, but when it comes to sandwich recipes, you can do better. These towers of power are stacked with great flavor and nutrition for fueling your workouts.

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What’s not to love about the humble sandwich? Whether you’re eating one al desko or to recover after your long ride, a sandwich is always there when you need it most. Undeniably, sandwiches are one of the original comfort foods.

But it’s all too easy to get trapped in a sandwich rut by falling back on the same yawning ingredient combinations – deli ham and cheese, again? And there isn’t anything inherently wrong with a post-run PB+J, but it’s time to move on. A better approach to your all-to-important midday meal is to think of a sandwich as a blank slate: an endless opportunity to get creative with your fillings, from proteins to spreads. Do so, and you’ll not only fire up your taste buds but also make it easier to go bigger on nutrition. In other words: don’t let your sandwich options go stale.

Below, we’ve stacked some ultimate healthy sandwich recipes to give endurance athletes the handheld meals that deliver clutch nutrition and make it way easier to bypass the deli counter. One bite of these flavor bombs, and your afternoon will look a lot brighter.

RELATED: A 3-Week Meal Plan for Triathletes in 70.3 Training

5 Healthy Sandwich Recipes for Athletes

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Curry Salmon Salad with Tangy Beet Slaw

A healthy sandwich recipe for salmon salad
(Photo: Matthew Kadey)

Think of this sandwich recipe as an upgrade to run-of-the-mill tuna salad. Canned salmon is richer in omega-3 fatty acids which a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found can help boost life expectancy.  Greek yogurt adds more muscle-building protein than mayo and beets are rich in nitrates that can aid in keeping blood pressure numbers in the healthy range.

Pro Tip: Toasting your sandwich bread adds flavor and, most importantly, acts as a moisture barrier so you don’t have to suffer through another upsetting soggy sandwich.

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 small beets, grated
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 (6-oz) cans salmon, drained
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 8 slices whole grain bread, toasted

Directions

  1. Place beets, carrot, cilantro, horseradish, vinegar, sugar and a couple of pinches salt in a bowl and gently massage with hands. Set aside for 30 minutes or more.
  2. In a separate bowl, break apart salmon into small chunks and stir in yogurt, curry powder, and lemon juice.
  3. Spread a quarter of the salmon mixture on a slice of toasted bread, then top with a quarter of the slaw and a second bread slice. Repeat with remaining ingredients for other sandwiches.

RELATED: Need a Healthy Grab-and-Go Lunch? Make These Roasted Salmon Quinoa Salads

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Hot and Smoky Bean Wraps

A healthy sandwich recipe for vegetarian bean wraps
(Photo: Matthew Kadey)

A mash of pinto beans offers a winning mix of plant-based protein and much needed dietary fiber. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are smoked and dried jalapeños rehydrated and canned in a sweet and tangy tomato purée. They add smoky heat to these wraps and capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound that could be a leading reason why eating more chili peppers is a recipe for longevity.

Pro Tip: Deeper in essential nutrients for runners, it’s always a smart move to choose whole-grain bread options for your sandwiches. But it’s buyer beware. You want to make sure to select a brand that lists whole grain flour such as whole wheat as the first ingredient instead of unbleached wheat flour which is just a euphemism for white flour.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked or canned pinto beans
  • 2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sliced roasted red pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach or baby kale
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 4 whole grain wraps

Directions

  1. Place beans, chipotle chilies, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, cumin, salt in a food processor container and blend into a chunky mixture.
  2. To assemble the wraps, spread bean mixture onto the bottom half of each wrap and top with roasted red pepper, avocado, and baby greens. Roll up from the bottom, tucking in the sides you go and slice in half on the bias.

RELATED: Take Lunch to Go with These Tasty Wraps

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Tempeh Satay Sandwich

A healthy Sandwich Recipe for tempeh satay sandwiches
(Photo: Matthew Kadey)

Think of this as a delicious hybrid of satay and banh mi. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh goes big on protein as well as meaty umami flavor that works well as an exciting replacement for deli meat. Peanut butter delivers more recovery-boosting protein and heart-supporting monounsaturated fat.

Pro Tip: To keep a well-made sandwich together when slicing, use skewers to hold the sides in place and employ a sharp serrated knife to cut it down the middle.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 cup matchstick cut carrots
  • 1 cup matchstick cut cucumber
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
  • 1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tsp canola, avocado or grapeseed oil
  • 1 (8 oz) package tempeh
  • 8 slices whole grain bread, toasted

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk sugar and salt with 2 tablespoons hot water until sugar is dissolved. Stir in rice vinegar. Add carrots, cucumber and radish; toss to coat and let sit at least 30 minutes.
  2. Stir together peanut butter, soy sauce, chili sauce and lime juice. If needed, stir in 1 tablespoon warm water to reach a smooth consistency.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add tempeh and cook until darkened on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Thinly slice.
  4. To assemble a sandwich, spread some of the peanut butter mixture on two slices of bread. Top a bread slice with a quarter of the tempeh and a quarter of the pickled vegetables. Top with the second bread slice, peanut butter side down.

RELATED: The Pros and Cons of Plant-Based Eating for Endurance Athletes

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Chicken Caprese

a healthy sandwich recipe for a chicken caprese sandwich
(Photo: Matthew Kadey)

This riff on a classic Italian salad won’t disappoint. As a better-for-you condiment, pesto is made with antioxidant-rich basil to spur on improved recovery. More often, try to swap out grocery store cold cuts for slices of home-cooked meats like roasted chicken breast or pork tenderloin. This way you’re muscle-repairing protein won’t come with a side of sketchy preservatives.

Pro tip: Using softer cheeses like fresh mozzarella and goat cheese for your sandwiches can help trim a few calories since they contain more moisture than hard cheeses like cheddar.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup prepared pesto
  • 8 slices whole grain bread, toasted
  • 1 1/3 cups cooked sliced chicken
  • 4 thick slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
  • 4 tsp balsamic glaze

Directions

  1. Spread about 2 teaspoons pesto on a slice of bread.
  2. Top with 1/3 cup sliced chicken, a slice of mozzarella and a slice of tomato.
  3. Drizzle on 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze.
  4. Spread 2 teaspoons pesto on a second slice of bread and place on the sandwich, pesto side down.

RELATED: 5 Breads to Get You Excited About Your Next Sandwich

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Halloumi Grilled Cheese

A healthy sandwich recipe for halloumi grilled cheese sandwich
(Photo: Matthew Kadey)

If you’re not familiar with this dairy import, halloumi is a cheese originally hailing from Cyprus with a firm, chewy, almost meaty texture that can withstand the heat of the grill or frying pan without melting. That makes this the ultimate — and literal! — grilled cheese, topped with a sweet-savory date sauce for some added recovery carbs. Halloumi delivers quality protein and bone-benefit calcium, while arugula is a source of nitrates which may bring on muscle function improvements.

Pro tip: Slather condiments or sauces on both the top and bottom slices for a more even distribution of flavor.

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 (8 oz) block halloumi cheese
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 8 slices whole grain bread, toasted
  • 1 cup sliced roasted red pepper
  • 2 cups arugula

Directions

  1. Place dates in a bowl, cover with warm water and let soak for 30 minutes to soften. Reserve 3 tablespoons cup soaking liquid and drain. Place reserved soaking liquid, dates, garlic, balsamic vinegar, thyme, chili flakes and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender container and blend until almost smooth.
  2. Slice halloumi lengthwise into four slabs. In a small bowl, mix together Italian seasoning, lemon zest and olive oil. Brush mixture over halloumi slices. Heat grill to medium and grease grates. Cook halloumi slices until tender and grill marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Or heat halloumi is a greased frying pan on the stovetop.
  3. To assemble a sandwich, spread about 2 tablespoons of the date mixture on a slice of bread. Top with a slab of cooked halloumi and a quarter each of the roasted red pepper and arugula. Spread another 2 tablespoons of the date puree on a second slice of bread and place on the sandwich.

RELATED: The Time-Saving Make-Ahead Meal Plan for Busy Triathletes

Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D., is an author, journalist, and James Beard Award winner who specializes in sports nutrition.