I made a new veggie "sandwich" recipe (read: absolutely no bread involved) every day for a week and lived to tell the tale.
Since I normally prep my lunch in the morning when I'm half asleep and running on negative time, my bread and butter (pun intended) is always a sandwich on whole wheat bread. While carbs are certainly part of a healthy diet, I felt like my overall carb consumption was starting to add up. That's why I decided to make a "sandwich" using absolutely no bread every day for a week, in favor of more creative (and healthier) substitutes. Cue: Instagram. Here's how I fared trying a healthy, gram-worthy bread-swap recipe for an entire seven days.
Monday: Romaine Lettuce Wraps
I loved this swap. The biggest change? You can actually taste the lunch meat and cheese you're eating unlike using bread which seems to mask the taste of everything inside. I knew if I were to have eaten just the lettuce wraps I would have been starving long before dinner time, so I also came prepared with a cup of lentil soup. The lettuce wrap is slightly messy depending on if you want to put condiments on the 'sandwich'—I used mustard and it was a little complicated—so at one point I gave up and just started cutting off pieces and eating it like a salad. Still, not bad for day one.
Tuesday: Sweet Potato 'Toast'
I was super excited to try this Instagram trend. The first thing I discovered is that I have no idea how long it takes to cook a sweet potato. Despite the fact that I ended up with a slightly undercooked product (after 10 minutes of toasting), this was still incredible. Even though my turkey burger had zero seasoning, there was still so much flavor from the sweet potatoes and I found it more filling than my typical turkey burger on bread. Unlike the lettuce wraps, it was definitely possible to eat this as an actual sandwich (minus some parts being a little more difficult to bite into from said under-cooked situation).
Wednesday: Bell Pepper Burgers
I stuck with the turkey burger again (hey, old habits die hard), but I added a little balsamic and spices for some kick this time. I roasted the red pepper just a bit in the spices left over from the burger to get a slightly softer and more flavorful bread-substitute to work with. This combo was delicious: The pepper had just the right amount of flavor but didn't overpower the burger. Confession: I was still a little hungry an hour or so afterward, but a simple salad held me over fine until dinner.
Thursday: Avocado Sandwich
Although they make for an amazing gram, I wasn't too excited about this one. Don't get me wrong, I love avocados, but I was highly concerned about the mess factor and texture. Turns out, I didn't hate this as much as I thought, but it was just as messy as I expected, so I ended up cutting up my avocado/ham/cheese combo and eating it with a fork. It wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked, and tbh, about halfway through my meal I started to get bothered by the intense amount of avocado involved. Without something substantial to help balance it out, the texture was predictably off for me. Lesson learned. I was also still insanely hungry afterward (even though avocados are supposed to be an appetitite suppressant!). And craving some crunch. Guac and chips, anyone?
Friday: Cucumber with Tuna Fish
I made mini sandwiches out of cucumber slices for this bread swap. Although my tuna kept falling out the middle, I really enjoyed this. Cucumbers aren't the most filling, but I liked the crunch that it added to the meal. (I was craving it after Thursday's debacle.) I kept the remaining amount of tuna that didn't fit on the sandwiches handy to eat later, which I would highly suggest because even after about five "sandwiches", I was still hungry—I'm sensing a trend here! (Perhaps next time I'll be less lazy and try sprucing up my tuna first.)
Saturday: Cloud Bread Pizza
Since it was the weekend, I decided to try my hand at cloud bread—a combo of eggs and cheese. I made two mini pizzas out of the cloud bread and it was incredible. (Score the recipe and some inspo here: 9 Delicious Ways to Eat Cloud Bread.) It was tasty and allowed my bread craving to be curbed just enough to survive a low-carb Saturday. If you were to eat this like a piece of toast, I think it would be a bit too dry but when you add a bit of sauce it tastes great. Since the process was a bit of a hassle, I'll definitely be making in bulk next time and freezing for later.
Sunday: Portobello Burger Bun
I saved the portobello burger bun for last. I made a regular burger with mozzarella cheese and added a little balsamic and roasted red peppers. This was really the only bread swap that allowed you to eat like you had an actual sandwich. No fork needed. I got a little tired of the mushroom flavor toward the end of the meal, but it was definitely one of the most filling swaps. Even more so than regular bread. I would probably go for an open-faced sandwich next time so only using half portobello bun that way the mushroom isn't so overwhelming.
Getting rid of bread is actually pretty difficult. Some of these swaps left me starving and running to the food court a few hours after lunch, but others like the sweet potato, bell peppers, and portobello mushrooms were even more filling than using bread. The biggest change I noticed throughout the week is I didn't get that feeling of pure exhaustion around 3 p.m., and I felt more productive at work. I will definitely be adopting some bread-swaps into my weekly lunches, albeit with some more filling recipes.