Sandwiches and brown-bag lunches often go hand-in-hand. They’re so popular, in fact, that a recent study found that more than half of Americans eat at least one sandwich every day. It’s not surprising: They’re easy to make, and just as easy to eat.

But not every sandwich is good for you. “When you get a takeout sandwich, you don’t have as much control over what goes into it,” says Amy Keating, R.D., one of Consumer Reports' registered dietitians. For example, a 6-inch Subway Sandwich Italian B.M.T. (with ham, pepperoni, and salami) has 410 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 1,260 milligrams of sodium. That’s more than half the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium you should have in a day. "And even the sandwiches you make yourself can be loaded with calories, fat, and sodium if you aren’t careful,” says Keating.

Luckily, there are simple ways to cut out the bad stuff without compromising on taste. Here, tips on how to make the most of your bagged lunch.

1. Rethink the Bread

White breads and rolls are the classic go-to, but they’re much less nutritious than those made from whole grains such as whole wheat. Two slices of Oroweat’s Country White, for example, has 40 more calories than their Healthfull Nuts and Seeds bread and about 6 fewer grams of fiber.

Look for breads with fewer than 150 calories per slice. A healthy sandwich, including the bread and fillings, should have no more than about 400 calories. 

2. Get Creative With Condiments

Butter, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard can jazz up a sandwich, but they can be packed with calories and sodium, and offer little in the way of healthy nutrients. Just one teaspoon of Heinz yellow mustard has 60 mg of sodium, for example. And a tablespoon of Hellman’s mayonnaise has 100 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 95 mg of sodium.

Use some guacamole (or just smashed avocado) as a spread instead to add nutrients such as folic acid and vitamins B6, C, E, and K, as well as fiber and healthy fats. If the spread is too bland on its own, try a sprinkle of salt and pepper or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Hummus is another healthy sandwich spread.  

3. Make Your Own Meat

Cold cuts are often loaded with sodium as well as nitrates and nitrites, preservatives that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. The occasional deli meat sandwich or BLT is fine, but processed meat shouldn’t be on your daily lunch menu. In fact, a recent World Health Organization report classified processed meats as carcinogenic to humans, and found that a daily dose of 1.8 ounces of processed meat —the equivalent of about two slices of deli meat or four strips of bacon a day—raises one's risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

Instead of buying your lunch meat at the deli, make your own. Use leftovers from a roast chicken or pull some from a roast pork. Fatty fish such as salmon and canned tuna are high in inflammation-busting omega-3 fatty acids (though Consumer Reports experts don’t recommend eating canned tuna if you’re pregnant because of high mercury levels). If you do buy cold cuts, try to avoid smoked meats, which are often particularly high in sodium. 

4. Veg Out

Consider skipping the meat altogether on some days. Try marinated tofu and veggies on a whole grain roll; black beans, onions, peppers, and salsa in a whole wheat wrap; or almond butter and sliced pears on whole wheat bread.  

5. Add a Healthy Side

Instead of potato chips, choosing a side of fruit or veggies such as sliced carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, or an apple can add a healthy crunch to your meal without too many extra calories. If you’re looking for something warm, try a half sandwich and a bowl of homemade soup.