It’s what on the inside that counts—but when it comes to sandwiches, the outside is also important. And sometimes all the calories, carbs, and oftentimes sugar in bread just aren’t worth it.
That doesn’t mean salad is your only option. You can create sammies that are as portable and filling and score nutrition bonus points when you use big leaves of chard or kale to wrap your lean proteins and veggies. The perks? You’ll get more vitamins and antioxidants, of course, but you’ll also feel energized—not sluggish—after you eat.
Creating these wholesome handheld meals is easier than it looks. Soft, flexible lettuce leaves, especially from butter and red leaf varieties, are as easy to wrap as a flour tortilla. Sturdy greens—including the wide, flat collard greens that make wraps with major eye-appeal—are rollable after a 30-second soak in boiling water followed by a quick dunk in ice water. (It helps to use a sharp paring knife to shave the thick rib that runs down the center of the green to the same thinness as the rest of the leaf before boiling.)
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Once your green is ready, you don’t need a recipe to make a flavorful vegetable wrap—a well-stocked fridge and pantry offer many options for a satisfying meal. Just remember that contrast matters: Pairing a lean protein with a crisp veggie and creamy spread helps create a wrap that’s fun to eat, and a condiment such as mustard, vinegar, or hot sauce adds another dimension of good taste.
This mix-and-match chart is a good starting point for creating your own masterpieces. Just pick your green, then add one item from each column. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the healthy ingredients you like best between bread—they look and taste even better dressed in green. Or try the recipes below the chart.
Peanutty Chicken Wrap
1/2 cup shredded cabbage (or bagged coleslaw mix)
2 tablespoons peanut sauce (or satay sauce)
1 large collard green leaf
2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded or sliced chicken breast
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine cabbage and peanut sauce, mixing well.
2. Trim stem off bottom of collard leaf, and use a sharp paring knife held parallel to your cutting board to shave the rib that runs down the leaf’s center until it’s approximately the same thickness as the leaf. Plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds, then soak in ice water to chill. Dry and arrange leaf so that the center rib line is horizontal.
3. Spoon cabbage-peanut-sauce mixture onto bottom one-third of leaf, making sure there is a 1-inch border all around. Arrange chicken over carrot mixture and top with hot sauce. Fold sides of leaf in toward the center. Roll leaf away from you as you would a burrito, making sure to tuck side edges in as you roll. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Mediterranean Spiced Tofu Wrap
1 large butter lettuce leaf (or two smaller leaves)
2 tablespoons hummus
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) diced marinated tofu
1 teaspoon za’atar (or sesame seeds)
If using one large leaf, arrange it so that the rib is horizontal. (If using two smaller leaves, use a little hummus to “glue” their edges together. Leaves should overlap by 2 inches.) Spread hummus evenly over bottom one-third of leaf, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Top with sprouts and tofu, and sprinkle za’atar over top. Fold sides of leaf in toward the center. Roll leaf away from you as you would a burrito, making sure to tuck side edges in as you roll. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Salmon Yogurt Wrap
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) canned wild salmon, flaked
1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 large Swiss chard leaf
1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
In a small mixing bowl, combine carrots, salmon, yogurt, and paprika, mixing well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange Swiss chard leaf with the rib running horizontally. Spoon salmon mixture onto bottom one-third of leaf, making sure there is a 1-inch border all around. Top with avocado slices. Fold sides of leaf in toward the center. Roll leaf away from you as you would a burrito, making sure to tuck side edges in as you roll. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.