First, I tackled the bread. Although I'd made the switch from white to wheat for morning toast, I still clung to the softer white bread for many sandwiches, especially the BLT. But there are convincing health reasons to stick with whole grain bread exclusively. Whole grains are full of fiber and other nutrients, and eating them appears to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Next, I considered the sandwich spread. For anyone who's health-conscious, switching from mayo to avocado just makes sense. Two tablespoons of regular mayonnaise has 188 calories and 20 grams of fat, with 3.2 grams of the not-so-good saturated variety — plus 12 grams of cholesterol. By comparison, half a medium avocado has fewer calories (120), less fat (11 grams, only 1.5 grams of which is saturated fat) and no cholesterol.
But what about the bacon? Because the avocado is more substantial than mayonnaise, I can use less bacon with it. There was a time when I'd include two or three slices in my BLTs. With the extra bulk of the avocado, one and a half strips will do. And if you're looking for a vegetarian version of this sandwich, a combination of smoked mozzarella and crumbled pita chips does an impressive job of mimicking the smokiness and crunch of bacon. Of course, you can leave out the bacon or cheese/chip component. (For breakfast I'll often have an open-faced avocado-tomato sandwich, and it's delicious.)
For the trimmings: Just remember that the darker green the lettuce, the more nutrient-rich. And look for vine-ripened tomatoes, as local as you can get.
When I set out to engineer a healthier BLT, I never would have predicted that I'd create one that was also tastier. But I think I did.
The New BLT
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted, flesh scooped from the shell and mashed
- 4 slices whole grain bread
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced thin and lightly salted
- 8 Romaine lettuce leaves, torn into large pieces
Fry bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and pat off excess fat. While bread toasts, prepare avocado, tomato and lettuce. Spread all 4 slices of toast with avocado; top 2 of the slices with lettuce, followed by tomato, then bacon; cap with remaining toast slices. Halve and serve.
AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at threemanycooks.com.
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