(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Subway has surpassed McDonald's as the world's top restaurant chain in terms of units. However, what's really important is not deciding if you will go to one of the more than 33,000 Subways or more than 32,000 McDonald's, but how you can prepare nutritious, more delicious and quicker sandwiches at your own busy, hopefully healthy, fast food enterprise: home.
Subway seems to be on to something. Starting with Jared Fogle - the real-life obese dieter who ate Subway's sandwiches every day to lose weight and became their longtime commercial spokesman - the chain then continued to introduce healthy options, from fresh, baked whole-grain breads, to a multitude of vegetable toppings, to packages of apple slices promoted as side dishes for kids. The fun, of course, has always been walking down their sandwich fixings line and saying "yay" or "nay" to lots of appealing choices.
Why not make the same type of buffet in your own kitchen? It can be used as a fast way for kids to select and toss on their own toppings before leaving for school or as a quick, economical dinner solution. Besides using whole-grain breads as a staple, for variety, here's a look at some popular sub sandwich-style choices you may not have yet thought about for at home:
- Pepperoncini: Most often pickled and used in antipasto, these long, thin bright red chiles are also flavorful as sandwich toppers, especially when pickled. They can be bought bottled at most supermarkets. As with any of the somewhat slightly "exotic" choices that follow, presenting it to kids as an option is a great way to possibly expand their impressionable palates.
- Banana peppers: Yellow, long and banana-shaped, these peppers are popular at sub shops because they are sweet. Used raw in salads and sandwiches, they are also excellent cooked. They are good sources of vitamin C and vitamin A as well as having a small amount of calcium.
- Spinach: Nutritionists point out that iceberg lettuce is mostly water and void of most nutrients as well as having virtually no fiber. As Subway offers, substitute raw spinach leaves (or a mix of colors of lettuces) to increase your nutritional investment considerably. Spinach includes a good amount of iron and vitamins A and C.
- Olives: Black and green olives are nutritional powerhouses packed with beneficial monounsaturated fat, vitamin E and iron.
- Red onions: Though the less pungent white onions often get more play, red onions - in addition to having a delectable slightly sweet and bold flavor -have been shown (along with other strong-flavored varieties of onions) to have many more precious antioxidants.
- Jicama: This root vegetable that originated in Mexico (sometimes called a Mexican potato) and South America adds a sweet and juicy touch when peeled and eaten raw. It is a good source of potassium and vitamin C.
- Zucchini: Served unpeeled, sliced and raw on sandwiches, zucchini trumps the more-relied-upon cucumber. Zucchini absorbs accompanying sauces rather than being sometimes too juicy like cucumber slices. The squash is a good source of potassium, vitamin A and antioxidants.
- Quick, virtually no-calorie sprinklings and spritzes, a la good sandwich shops, can make a big flavor difference, too: red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, light soy sauce, freshly ground pepper and fat-free dressings.
Fun fare like this proves meal preparation can be easy, nutritious, economical, fun - and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since there are no right or wrong amounts. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you - or your kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows."
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: Often, preparing a fresh vegetable pureed soup that can cost big bucks in restaurants is almost as easy as a few pulses of the blender or food processor at home. It's also a wonderful way to introduce your kids to some of the many varied, delicious ways produce can be included in every meal.
Place a few teaspoons of water or broth in blender (or go without that liquid if you are using a food processor) and then add your favorite vegetable, like grape tomatoes, zucchini or carrots and puree until smooth. Place in soup pot. Add your favorite compatible fresh or dried herbs and seasonings, like freshly ground black pepper, rosemary, thyme, mint or blends, like Italian, Mexican, Cajun or curry. For a rich, creamy effect, and so soup is not too watery, stir in unsweetened almond milk to taste. Cook, on low-medium heat until heated through, stirring, and not letting it boil.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.