WASHINGTON (AP) _ Grabbing a sandwich at the deli could be worse than eating two McDonald's Quarter Pounders, says a consumer group that found some of the most popular lunch counter items stacked high with fat, calories and salt.

``Even though people may think of a sandwich as a bite to eat, we find sandwich shops are giving an entire dinner's worth of fat and calories between two slices of bread,'' said Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The group released results of its sandwich survey on Tuesday. It has previously reported on fat in Chinese, Italian, Mexican and seafood restaurant food, and in movie theater popcorn.

Overall, the 12 sandwiches tested had twice as much meat as sandwiches made at home and the meat was fattier, she said. A slice of cheese also added as much artery-clogging saturated fat as six bacon strips, Hurley said.

``The three main problems are the meat, the mayonnaise and the cheese,'' she said at a news conference.

But a roast beef sandwich with mustard was one of the best choices, at 12 grams total fat and 4 grams saturated fat. Only turkey with mustard was a better choices: It had 6 grams of fat and 2 grams saturated fat.

A ham sandwich with mustard tested twice as fatty as roast beef and had four times as much fat as the turkey, according to the survey.

A ``veggie'' sandwich of avocado and cheese was among the worst choices, with 40 grams total fat _ as much as in two McDonald's Quarter Pounders, Hurley said.

Tuna salad and chicken salad _ two selections long favored by dieters _ are both loaded with fat and calories. ``It's not the chicken or the tuna that's at fault,'' Hurley said. ``They're being drowned in mayonnaise.''

A tablespoon of mayonnaise has 100 calories and 11 grams of fat.

The Food and Drug Administration's recommended daily allotment of fat for adults is 65 grams.

Other sandwiches tested were the Reuben (50 grams of fat), bacon, lettuce and tomato (37 grams), turkey club (34 grams), grilled cheese (33 grams), egg salad (31 grams) and corned beef (20 grams).

E. Linwood Tipton, president and chief executive officer of the National Cheese Institute, said fears about dietary fat have led some people to avoid nutritious foods, including cheese.

``Adding a slice of cheese, low-fat or regular, to a sandwich not only adds to the taste of the sandwich but can actually give it a nutritional boost of calcium and protein, which are important for strong healthy bones,'' Tipton said in response to the survey.

Sodium levels ranged from 850 milligrams in a roast beef sandwich with mayonnaise to 3,200 milligrams in the Reuben. Health authorities recommend a limit of 2,400 milligrams sodium daily.

Hurley suggested that consumers ask sandwich shops and restaurants to use light cheeses, low-fat mayonnaise and dressings and lean meats, or make special requests when ordering a sandwich.

Failing that, they should bring lunch from home.

But dieticians said people also need to vary their diets.

``If they have variety, then it's OK to have any one of these sandwiches on occasion,'' said Edith Hogan, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. ``Variety and moderation are two keys to healthy eating.''

Wendy Webster, spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, which has criticized the consumer group's earlier surveys, said the latest one acknowledges the need for diet variety.

``Restaurants work on a principle of variety and choice,'' she said. ``There are good choices and more indulgent choices. We basically let the consumer choose.''

The center bought 171 sandwiches and subs at 35 delicatessens, sandwich shops and restaurants in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Familiar establishments included the Subway, Au Bon Pain and Wall Street Deli chains, where spokesmen said sandwiches are made-to-order.

An independent laboratory made composites from samples of the same kind of sandwich and tested them for fat, saturated fat and sodium.