Summer 2015 On the Shelf
August 19, 2015
What’s For Lunch?

Wraps, burritos, and pocket sandwiches can be healthy options...as long as you watch the sodium.

It doesn’t get more grab-and-go than burritos, wraps, and stuffed pockets from the frozen-food section of your supermarket or grocery store. There are dozens of all-in-one lunch options, but are they great for people with diabetes? Good news, says Stephanie Boutette, a registered dietitian and education coordinator with the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). “Depending on the individual product, these foods can incorporate many food groups,” she says, “and some are packed with lots of fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals.”

How healthy an option is depends on both the outer wrap and the filling. One of the first steps is to read the ingredient list. “This is a great tool,” says Boutette, because all of the items are listed according to how much of each item the product contains, in descending order from the most to the least amounts. This means that if vegetables or beans are listed first, your wrap likely offers more nutrition than a wrap where the first ingredient is a less healthful ingredient, such as pepperoni. “Cured, smoked, and processed meats like bacon, or options that have lots of condiments or cheese, might be higher in fat and higher in sodium,” she says.

As with many convenience foods, sodium can be a concern. Food manufacturers often use more salt—to help with everything from extending shelf life (the length of time that an item can be stored on, say, supermarket shelves) to enhancing flavours—than you might use at home. “That can be an issue because people with diabetes are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease,” says Boutette. “A simple way to judge if a food item is high or low in sodium is to check the Percent Daily Value [% DV] for sodium on the Nutrition Facts Table. If the number is less than five per cent, that means there is a small amount in that food serving. Anything above 15 per cent is considered high.”

In general, Boutette advises sticking to products that come in below 400 mg of sodium per serving. But, knowing that convenience foods can sometimes be helpful for managing blood sugar levels when a person is on the go, she says foods with higher amounts of sodium can be okay occasionally, as long as you do not have more than the recommended limit of 2,300 mg in a day. She also suggests looking for products that have two or more grams of fibre, which can be helpful for blood sugar control, and can make you feel full afterwards.

“You can make your own homemade wraps. Buy whole-grain tortillas and fill them with vegetables or fruits, and legumes such as chickpeas, which you should rinse to reduce the sodium content. You can also use lean meats, such as turkey and chicken. This is a great way to use leftovers.”

– Stephanie Boutette, registered dietitian and education coordinator, Canadian Diabetes Association

And when you find a lunch option that both fits nutritional criteria and tastes good? Boutette recommends making it your go-to. “Then there’s less stress and time involved in making decisions at the grocery store, because you already know it’s a good option.”

However, do not make the mistake of assuming that all the products in a particular brand are healthful just because one of their products is—there can be a huge range between items. For example, Amy’s (a product line available at grocery stores that has more than a dozen different wrap and burrito offerings, most with six or more grams of fibre) has several low-sodium foods, but it also has other choices that come in at or around the recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

“As long as you do a little reading, wraps, burritos, and pocket sandwiches can be a great way to add convenient, healthy choices, and even some variety into your routine,” says Boutette.

“Consider how much filling is in your wrap and what that filling is made of. Is it vegetables and legumes, such as lentils, or is it mostly cheese and processed meat?

If you’re using a large tortilla or are using higher-fat or -sodium fillings, maybe have only half, but with a salad on the side.”

– Stephanie Boutette, registered dietitian and education coordinator, Canadian Diabetes Association

How do they stack up?

Wrap
Calories Total fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Sugars (g) Protein (g) Sodium (mg) Fiber (g) Carbohydrates (g)
Glutenfreeda Vegetarian Bean and Cheese Burrito
(113 g/1 burrito)
210 7 3.0 0 7 290 2 30
Stouffer’s Bistro Crustini Chicken, Broccoli and Cheddar
(128 g/1 piece)
300 14 7.0 7 10 430 2 34
El Monterey Chicken and Cheese Taquitos
(85 g/2 taquitos)
220 11 1.5 1 7 270 1 25
McCain Pizza Pockets Pepperoni
(100 g/1 pocket)
240 11 3.0 2 10 440 2 25
Amy’s Gluten-Free Cheddar Cheese Burrito
(156 g/1 burrito)
260 8 2.0 3 9 430 5 37

Did You Know?

When reading the label, look for lunch options that contain lean meats, such as chicken; fish; low-fat cheeses like part skim mozzarella; or vegetable protein. Words such as “smoked” and “cured,” or products with processed cheeses or meats such as cold cuts, ham, or sausage, are clues that a food may be higher in sodium. To read more from “Reducing Salt Intake,” visit diabetes.ca/salt.

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