Steal This Meal: Sandwich Makeovers

Today’s STM is a little bit different, born from a burst of inspiration while looking for a quick lunch last week.  We were trolling the streets of the seacoast area of NH, and all we could find open during that time of day were sandwich shops – not exactly the first thing that comes to mind for a healthy Paleo lunch.  Hungry beyond belief (and far from our own kitchen), we stepped into one such sandwich shop to scope the menu.  At first, we were encouraged by the made-fresh-daily offerings and the wide variety of ingredients used in their meals.  But upon further inspection, while the sandwiches looked amazing  (turkey, bacon and homemade basil-walnut pesto on rosemary focaccia!), the salads left us totally underwhelmed.  Garden salad, Caesar salad, and a Chinese chicken salad with way too many off-road ingredients to even be considered.  Super yawn… and grrrrr.  How come all the dirty sandwich eaters get all the cool ingredients, while us Dino-Chow folks are stuck with nothing but iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and carrot shavings?

Just then, inspiration, hunger and audacity struck, all at the same time.  Stepping confidently up to the counter, I gave my server a thousand-watt smile and said, “I’d like the turkey, bacon and pesto sandwich…dumped on top of a bed of fresh greens.  Please.”   And then I waited for the staff to consult each other on my crazytown order, the likes of which they’d clearly never heard before.  After several repetitions of my order (“So, just take everything that normally comes on the sandwich – yes, the tomatoes too, please – and then instead of putting it on bread, just put it on top of a pile of lettuce.”) and even more confused preparations (“Hey Shelly, how do I even charge for this?”) the disoriented counter girl disappeared into the kitchen… only to come back a few minutes later with a most gorgeous looking plate.   Mounds of shaved turkey, crispy, crumbled bacon, freshly diced tomatoes and cucumber and a heap of (dairy-free) basil-walnut pesto, on a bed of mixed leafy greens.  No dressing needed – the homemade pesto provided enough flavor and good fat (in the form of EVOO) to pull double-duty.

The soup special that day was a chilled tomato gazpacho, made in-house from nothing but fresh vegetables and herbs.  So after adding a cup of fresh veggies to my tray, I returned to my table by the window, silently  celebrating my delicious AND nutritious lunchtime creation… 100% Whole30-approved, no less.

Turning sandwiches to salads is an easy miracle

Note, we’ve also done this with pasta dishes too – while dining at a restaurant somewhere near Portland, OR, I took a chicken, artichoke heart, roasted red pepper and kalamata olive dish (sauteed in EVOO, garlic and lemon) and told them to skip the angel hair and give me a big bed of wilted spinach instead.  Delicious.  So for today’s STM, we encourage you to be both creative and audacious in your meal requests, especially when dining out.  With practice and a little bit of imagination, you can turn most any “SAD” dish into a Whole30-approved gorgeous dining experience.

Got a delicious, simple, Whole30-approved list of ingredients for our next Friday recipe feature? Send your Steal This Meal entry (along with photos and YOUR Whole30-inspired story!) to

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  1. says

    This is such a great idea! *Smacks self on forehead* For some reason, I never thought about asking for the sandwich guts over salad…I usually just order the sandwich and then eat the insides…the spinach as a pasta substitute sounds so good!

  2. Sarah says

    Very nice! I’ve found that ordering off the a la carte menu at restaurants can be useful as well.

  3. Danni says

    This is a great idea! I was just struggling with what to have for lunch today, then read this. I went to Whole Foods, and not only were happy to make it, they hooked me up with extra meat since I didn’t get bread, and took off a dollar! Why don’t we think of these things earlier?? :)

  4. michaela says

    you could also subsititude rice with grated cauliflower… and pasta with sliced cabbage (: Yum yum yum god thinking!

  5. Andy says

    The Boloco chain of “inspired burritos” does this kind of thing as a basic business function: every wrap/burrito is also available as a “bowl”. I just swap the rice out for lettuce and double the meat on the regular size and bingo! Instant 98%-paleo lunch.

    From a chain!

  6. Melissa Glasscock says

    Great idea! I was at a sub sandwich shop recently with friends and was heartened to notice an option on the menu for a “sub in a tub” – everything that goes on the sandwich, sans bread, in a tub to eat with fork and spoon. Depending on the ingredients this would be a great option for Paleo eaters!

  7. says

    This is totally brilliant! Having just moved to a new town, too, I’m seeing tons of amazing looking restaurants I figured I’d never eat at… until now.

    Bring on the saladwiches! Sandads? Saldawiches? (You know me and naming stuff… can’t help myself!)

  8. says

    Love it! I have had similar responses from cafe staff, yet I always come out with a delicious meal that in a few weeks, will probably make it on to their menu.

  9. says

    I’ve done this with fajitas before, too. All the goods (maybe a little extra guac/salsa) without the tortillas. Still delightfully filling and tasty. Buns are overrated.

  10. says

    The super sweet waitresses at our favorite Tex-Mex place always look at me like I’m completely wackadoodle when I answer their “corn or flour?” with “No tortillas, please.”

    Yep, that’s me: crazy gringo.

  11. says

    Another idea that works at Mexican restaurants: Order ala carte carne asada tacos and a green (dinner) salad. When the tacos come dump the meat out on top of the salad, throw the tortillas away. Paleo and relatively cheap at most Mex restaurants…

  12. Jeff says

    At Chipotle ask for a bowl “no rice or beans”. Then ask for extra lettuce, extra scoop of tomato, your meat choice and a scoop of guacamole. Hot sauce to your taste.

  13. Kara says

    I wish I read this last week! I am already a particular orderer in restaurants and thought t hat asking for this type of modification might be taking it a little far, but no more! I am totally taking on the sandwich to salad challenge!