Although sandwiches first appeared in American cookbooks in 1916, the role they play in the US diet has just been illuminated, ironically, at the centennial celebration for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The results of a Building-A-Better Sandwich Study were presented at the Academy’s 2017 Food Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Chicago.

The study, a modeling analysis, was conducted to assess the energy and nutrients contributed from all sandwiches in the US diets of children and adolescents. It used government data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) as well as USDA Typical Food Patterns to assess how Americans currently eat. The striking conclusion is that the ingredients inside the sandwich – not the bread itself – are the most significant drivers of calories, fat and sodium.

“Americans can pointedly and positively impact their consumption of calories, fat and sodium by making more deliberate decisions about sandwich ingredients,” said study author Yanni Papanikolaou from Nutrition Strategies Inc. “Many health professionals mistakenly encourage consumers to skip the bread when trying to improve diets. However, this study demonstrates that by building a better sandwich on either whole grain or enriched grain bread, American children and adolescents can take in fewer calories, fat and sodium than they typically consume in sandwiches now.”

“Moreover,” Papanikolaou continued, “Americans need to think twice before cutting bread from their diets. They pack more of a nutrient punch than a caloric one in adult diets.” Specifically, he was referring to another study published just last month in the journal, Nutrients, which shows that all grain foods contributed less than 15% of all calories in the total diet, while delivering greater than 20% of three shortfall nutrients – dietary fiber, folate, and iron – and greater than 10% of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A. “These data show that grain foods are the foods we love that love us back – finally, we can enjoy bread again,” Papanikolaou concluded.

The Building-A-Better Sandwich Study was funded by the Grain Foods Foundation. Papanikolaou will be presenting a poster of the study at FNCE this week. The study will be submitted to a scientific, peer-reviewed journal for publication.

For more information about the research findings, and to learn more about grain foods’ role in a healthful diet, please visit