Over the past couple of years, more and more supermarkets and coffee shops have introduced pre-packaged, gluten free sandwiches. For me, this been a godsend for grabbing lunch on the go and makes life a whole lot easier. Living gluten free for me meant years of carrying around a home-made sandwich in my bag (not so fresh come lunchtime!) as there weren’t any/many options available when out and about. Now there are plenty of pre-packaged GF products being sold which probably reflects the fact that many more people are being diagnosed with coeliac disease each year or following a gluten free diet due to intolerances.
I tried 6 sandwiches from 5 big brands to find out what they tasted like, if they were good value and if they were a healthy choice or not. It isn’t an unknown fact that gluten free bread and other products are higher in fat because manufacturers use fat to replace some of the moisture taken away when the gluten is removed. There was a recent TV piece done by BBC’s The One Show discussing the price and the high fat content of GF products. This was filmed at The Allergy Show back in June and I had chance to meet the TV researchers (and ended up appearing on TV for about 10 seconds!). They shocked me with the facts and figures including the high levels of fat found in gluten free bread, biscuits and sauces compared to normal wheat products. Some of the brands of bread they were looking at had 3 times more fat than their wheat based counterparts! Combined with high calories fillings, some of the sandwiches came out looking quite unhealthy.
I also thought it was surprising / frustrating to find that even though stores now produce GF sandwiches, they aren’t actually stocking them in enough stores! As an example, I spent weeks trying to find the illusive egg mayo roll from Sainsbury’s. I managed to find one eventually in a larger store but ever since I have never seen it again! I also had feedback on Twitter that other people have had the same issue which is a huge shame because people could really be benefiting from these. I personally have had fewer issues which may be due to me living and working around central London, however this shouldn’t be a determining factor as there is demand in every corner of the UK! Please let me know if anyone else has any feedback or comments on finding or tasting these sandwiches and we could even use it to persuade supermarkets to stock them more.
So, here are my results!
**WINNER!** Marks and Spencer’s Ham Salad
Nutrition 360 cals / 21g Fat
Summary: My favourite!
Review By far the best bread of the bunch (M+S use their own brand). The bread holds itself together very well and the large slices mean its filling for lunch compared to some of the smaller sandwiches I tried. Very generous ham filling and no soggy lettuce in sight (pictured above). Low calorie option for such a big sandwich and not bad value at £3.25. In fact, the 2 M+S gluten free sandwiches got my best marks because of the good quality bread and I never had any issues finding them in stores, either supermarkets or smaller express stores. Full store list for both sandwiches is here.
Marks and Spencer’s Cheese and Pickle Ploughman’s
Nutrition 480 cals / 29.4g Fat
Summary: Excellent taste but high fat/sat fat
Review: M+S improved this sandwich recently and the results are much better- the old version was dry and a little tasteless. Whilst this is one of my favourites, it is very high in fat and sat fat which is probably due to the cheese but as they say ‘everything in moderation’! Despite the fat levels, it is a filling sandwich so you won’t need much else for lunch or there is the healthier alternative of the ham salad (above). I have also had no problems finding it in stores across the UK.
Waitrose Chicken Salad
Nutrition 521 cals / 30.7g Fat
Summary Best flavour but too high in calories and fat!
Review: Nutritional information aside, this Waitrose one was my favourite sandwich based on taste and flavour. Packed full with tender pieces of chicken doused in seasoned mayo and served with crisp tomatoes and lettuce, very tasty. However, 30.7g of fat is extremely high and I’m sure Waitrose could work on creating a much healthier option – perhaps by lowering the mayo content? I know they also sell a ham salad version which is probably lower fat but I didn’t see that or a veggie option. I had some trouble finding the chicken salad looking in two stores before I could get my hands on one.
Caffe Nero Chicken, Salad and Pesto Roll
Nutrition 357 cals / 19.2g fat
Summary Uses Genius bread, expensive
Review: I love anything using Genius because their bread is so good and this one from Caffe Nero doesn’t let the side down (it uses a Genius bap) apart from being a little on the dry side. I had no trouble finding it and I have purchased it a few times from different cafes. The staff were excellent and even took time to go through the gluten free cakes they had on offer incase I was interested- I thought this was a nice touch. Very pricey though and I’m not sure if it is worth nearly £4 however this is that mark-up you expect in a café.
Urban Eat Pesto chicken with slow roast tomato
Nutrition 331 cals / 16.8 g fat
Summary Uses Genius bread, low-calorie
Review: Very similar to the Café Nero one above, this Urban Eat one also uses Genius bread so top marks for this. Its tasty, one of the cheapest ones I reviewed and it only has 331 calories – a lot less than some others. The big downside-I have only ever seen it in a Budgens store so not sure how widely it is stocked. Click here to find your nearest Budgens store.
Sainsbury’s Free Range Egg and Rocket
Nutrition 384 cals / 24.6 g fat
Summary Very high in fat, bland
Review: The positives were that it is the cheapest one I found and I love egg mayo. However it was bland tasting with not much filling which made it quite dry. I also couldn’t quite believe the amount of fat in this small sandwich I almost didn’t want to eat it! It also had alot of nasty sounding preservatives and e-numbers in it for such a simple sandwich so I really think Sainsbury’s could improve on this! One other massive downside is that I have never been able to find it since, it doesn’t seem to be stocked in many Sainsbury’s stores even the larger ones? Some other flavours would be good too please!