Panini, or the great grilled Italian sandwich, has endless possibilities when it comes to stuffings and varieties. Usually, you would find a collection of meats and vegetables enveloped in layers of melty cheese, all pressed between two slices of hearty bread and grilled to perfection. You may wonder if a panini sandwich fits into your low-calorie lifestyle, and the answer is yes, so long as a few guidelines are followed.
Use Lean Meats
Use lean meats such as chicken breast, lean beef, or lean ham for your meat filling. Avoid a lot of processed meats such as salami or pepperoni which will easily pack on the fat and calories as well as other artificial ingredients and preservatives that are not friendly to a healthy diet. Take advantage of low-calorie vegetables such as mushrooms, onions, or tomatoes. Other great vegetable fillings include grilled or roasted peppers, eggplant, and squash. Use plenty of veggies for extra filling.
A panini just would not be a panini without the melty cheese, so don't leave it out in an effort to save on calories. Instead, use a reduced-fat variety such as 2% milk sharp cheddar, or part-skim mozzarella which is naturally lower in calories than its higher fat counterparts. You may just opt for a highly flavored variety such as gruyere or asiago, and use only a small amount to achieve a real taste bud pleaser. Here's where good quality ingredients can make a difference in your cooking when quality trumps quantity.
Go Light on the Butter or Oil
Don't allow extra calories to pile up when you go to grill your panini by smothering the bread with butter or oil like many grilled sandwiches are. An easy solution to this is to use a panini press with a non-stick surface where very little to no oil is required for grilling. If you do not have a panini press, a simple grill pan or even a heavy skillet will work as well. If you choose this option, just be sure to use a non-stick cooking spray as opposed to mounds of butter or oil when grilling your panini.