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Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 9: Building a Great Turkey Sandwich

Stock up now on bread, mayo, pickles, mustard and more to create a healthy or not-so-healthy sandwich.

To catch up on Megan Swoyer's first eight steps of the “turkey day” planning process, read the full series.

A lot of people enjoy turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.

I don’t wait that long. Growing up, we indulged in turkey sandwiches around 10 Thanksgiving night.

It was our family tradition to clear the big round table (used as a buffet for dinner), gather some chairs, pour some beverages, get out the poker chips, shuffle up the cards and ante up!

My mom loves poker, and the poker chips didn’t fall far from the tree. We’d even play for money. These games would go on until well past midnight. But we’d always take a sandwich break, after maybe seven or so hands, and haul out the leftover turkey, white bread, mayo, etc.

As a kid, I viewed a lot of what my parents did as odd, especially my dad, when it came to turkey-sandwich preference. White turkey on white bread with margarine, and to top it off? Pepper. The strangest combination, don’t you think?

The rest of us went for turkey, mayo, lettuce, pickles, etc. My idea of perfection is two slices of white (I know, bad) bread, a few slices of white meat, a dollop of Hellman’s mayo (Kraft Miracle Whip was never allowed in our home), lots of fresh, cold, crispy head lettuce, maybe a slice of provolone, and pepper. Heaven.

These memories inspired me to wonder if others are choosy about turkey sandwiches, and indeed, they are.

Mustard's a Must-Have

Illana Greenberg of Franklin prefers ’s (in West Bloomfield) challah or toasted, seeded rye bread. Then she’ll add either whole-grain Dijon mustard or Honeycup mustard with her turkey fixings.   

Cindy Weiss, a registered dietitian, would give Greenberg a thumbs-up for her mustard selection.

“To keep your sandwich healthy, replace mayonnaise with a honey mustard, spicy brown mustard or even a horseradish spread,” said Weiss, who works for , ’s medically based fitness center in Rochester Hills. “That way you’ve gone from a lot of calories to almost none, when it comes to the condiments.”

Weiss also suggests adding leftover cranberry relish, lettuce, sliced cucumbers and more. 

“Opting for a whole wheat or whole grain bread, bun or wrap is better than white bread,” she added. “With breads, look for the word ‘whole’ and avoid the word ‘enriched.’ ”  

Watching your carbs? Weiss said to buy big leaves of Romaine lettuce and use that as your “bread,” which makes wrapping up the sandwich easy.

Just Add Gravy

Kevin Miller of Troy doesn’t consider the health benefits of a turkey sandwich; he likes to make his once-a-year treat with pools upon pools of gravy.

Miller lightly toasts two pieces of bread, while heating turkey in the microwave oven. At the same time, he heats up leftover gravy, until it’s so hot, “You can’t put your finger in it,” he said.   

Then the art of building a hot sandwich truly begins.

“Pour some gravy onto a plate slightly larger than your piece of toast,” Miller said. “Then place a piece of toast onto the gravy pool; poor more gravy onto the bread, but don’t let it drop off the edge of the bread.”

He then places the turkey on the bread and pours move gravy onto the turkey, covering it completely. Place the second slice of toast on top and then cover that with gravy. “Eat and repeat until full,” he said with a laugh.

Don't feel too bad, Kevin. As much as your gravy may tally up a few calories, the turkey itself is quite healthy, said Weiss.

“Turkey in general is a great source of protein,” she explained. Whether you’re a fan of white or dark meat (dark has a few more fat grams than white), just watch how much you eat. Consider about four ounces a normal serving for a sandwich, “which,” said Weiss, “is about the size of a deck of cards.”

Cards? I guess I’ll have no problem with healthy turkey portions. There are plenty of decks of cards around our house. 

Monday, Day 10: Get ahead of the game with a few tips from the wise.

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