A colleague and I were recently at a business meeting where lunch was provided. I took a sandwich from the tray, only to be told that one of the lunch wraps was a healthier choice. Is that true?
Since I don't know what was inside the wrap or the sandwich, it's hard to make a complete comparison, but I can comment on the choice of tortilla in place of bread, assuming they both contain the same filling.
A typical sandwich board wrap might be made from a 10" - 12" flour tortilla, filled and then cut into halves. A typical sandwich could be made from two slices of white or whole wheat bread, also filled and cut into halves. So, if you compare a plain 12 inch flour tortilla to two slices of plain white bread, here's what you get:
|Total Fat (g)||7.84||1.60||4.90|
|Total Carbs (g)||59.92||24.53||2.44|
The most obvious things that stand out in side by side comparison are the total number of calories, 22/3 times as many in the tortilla; the amount of fat, almost 5 times as much; and the sugar, twice as much. One gram of fat has nine calories, so the increased fat in the tortilla contributes (7.84 - 1.60) X 9 = 56 of the additional calories.
The big problem, though, is that the fat used in making tortillas is traditionally lard, but more often in manufactured tortillas its partially hydrogenated soy oil, which is a transfat, or something like. Saturated and transfats are now considered to be the least healthy, and a single 12" flour tortilla contains a full half tablespoon of the latter.
Of course you can lose all of your bread-eatin' advantage if the sandwich is slathered with butter. Too often sandwiches made in commercial settings, and particularly mass produced for buffets, are covered in butter. Usually it is applied in the single swipe of a butter-laden spatula. This isn't always the case, but I recall in one instance opening a sandwich and scraping out what must have been a good tablespoon of butter. At least with a sandwich, you have that option. With a wrap, you get the fat, like it or not.
So, where does that leave us? The supposedly healthy tortilla used in the wrap has more calories, and way more fat. Is it really the healthier choice? Not really, but that depends as much on what is inside, not just what is used to hold the filling.
1 USDA National Agriculture Laboratory data for "18364, Tortillas, ready-to-bake or -fry, flour, refrigerated"
2 USDA National Agriculture Laboratory data for "18069, Bread, white, commercially prepared"