Cut the Carbs and Calories: Make Romaine Work for Your Favorite Sandwich

You may be a romaine-doubter today, but just give this versatile lettuce leaf a try; you may find that it makes just the "bread" you were looking for the next time you make a sandwich!

Healthy carbs are all the rage these days, but there are still times when we do not want to spend our carb counts if we can find a satisfactory alternative. One way to conserve a few carbs is by not wasting them on sandwich bread and giving romaine lettuce a try.

I’ll admit, I was a romaine lettuce doubter. I love sandwiches, and the idea that a good, even passable, sandwich could be made using romaine lettuce instead of slices of bread was unfathomable to me. But, then, for whatever reason—I honestly cannot remember if I was cutting back on calories that day or if I just did not have any bread in the bread box—I gave the romaine lettuce “sandwich” a try. And, much to my surprise, I was more than pleased; I was impressed.

It is easy enough to make a typical sandwich using the romaine lettuce leaves. Just take two leaves, wash well, DRY well (this is a critical part of making your sandwich work; nobody wants a drippy sandwich), and begin building just as you would build any other sandwich. Use your favorite—roast beef, chicken and tuna salad are some of my top picks. However, many of us never think to go beyond the “regular” sandwich and build some of our other favorites using romaine. Here are a few suggestions:

Hamburgers: Using romaine lettuce as a bun lets me have my cheese without any feelings of guilt. And, don’t be afraid to pile it all on; this “bun” can take it! Just yesterday, I had a burger with Dijon, cheese, onions and pickles. If I had had it, I would have added tomatoes, as well. But, basically, anything you can put on your burger you can put on your romaine-wrapped version. And, yes, use TWO of the leaves, a top and bottom. I’m aware that some people prefer to “wrap” their sandwiches, and that is fine, too. But, for me, and for ease of handling—nothing trying to pop out of the over-filled lettuce wrap—I have found two of the leaves work great for burgers.

Hot Dogs: You know, the romaine lettuce leaf is particularly well-designed for a hot dog. The groove in the leaf creates a natural “bun” line that a hot dog lover can easily build from the bottom up. Like the burger, pile it on! Mustard, onions, pickles, peppers, chili, cheese—whatever you like on your traditional hot dog and bun combo, it will work for the romaine lettuce “bun,” as well.

Tacos: Again, as with the hot dog, the construction of the romaine lettuce leaf creates a natural “shell” for your taco. Whether you like beef, turkey, ground chicken, or even if you like to go for a vegetarian alternative, the romaine lettuce leaf shines when used as a taco shell. And, come on! You were going to put lettuce on it anyway, right? So, just add that taco sauce, salsa, pico, shredded cheese, onions, whatever else you feel like your taco just must have, and see just how yummy it is.

Breakfast Burrito: I know, I know, we don't really think of "breakfast" and "lettuce." But, hey, there was a time when most of us did not think of "breakfast" and "burrito," either! Scrambled eggs, a slice of cheese, a little salsa, and maybe a chicken sausage link if I feel like it, and I am ready to face the day. The crunch and crisp of the lettuce early in the morning just gets me going better than the heavy carbs of an English muffin and, honestly, I just like it better than the tortilla for this particular favorite.

Oh, I don’t always eat the romaine lettuce version of sandwiches; I like a good bun or shell sometimes as well. But, for those days when I really do need to lose a few calories in my meal, or when I just feel like something a little more fresh, the romaine lettuce leaf is a great option; give it a try!

Image: Wikimedia Commons