What’s the first thing you think about cutting out of your diet when you decide to lose a few pounds? You think about cutting out carbs right?
Raise your hand if you’ve done that before. Now, look around you and see how many other people have their hands raised. How many do you see? Ten? Eight? No, you probably see none. Because you’re at work or on the subway and you look kind of silly with your hand raised.
Wanna know what else is silly? Believing that all bread is bad for you.
Yes, bread has carbs. But carbs alone aren’t bad. And when it comes to losing body fat, you don’t have to cut bread out of your life. Because by cutting bread out of your life, you’re hacking off one of humanity’s greatest inventions: the sandwich.
Sandwiches are amazing human creations. They’re one of the top two most versatile forms of food known to man; the other is the taco, which is kind of a sandwich in its own right. They’re easy to make with little effort or time required; take up little room in a lunch box; require zero cooking; and there’s a myriad of ways to make them so that your taste buds never get bored.
The most important part of the sandwich, however, isn’t the meat you choose to slap betwixt two pieces of bread. When it comes to making healthy sandwiches, you have to start with the bread.
It Starts with The Dough
My Mom wasn’t the best cook. And when it came to bread, she bought plain ole white bread. For years I no idea bread like sourdough, rye, ciabatta, pumpernickel, brioche, or naan even existed.
Growing up in the South meant biscuits, rolls, white bread, and cornbread. Each of those has their own distinct flavor(s), but stacking meat on cornbread sounds disgusting. Which I guess in some ways is weird since I love corn tortillas and I pretty much stack meat on those, but whatever.
Anywho, the first time I had ate a sandwich on pumpernickel my mind exploded. I didn’t know a ham sandwich could taste so freaking good. It was the same ham as always. But the bread made the difference.
There are four types of bread that will alter your sandwich eating experience forever: sourdough, rye, sprouted grain (sometimes called Ezekiel Bread), and pumpernickel. Each one has its own unique health benefits too.
White bread is (pretty much) highly processed garbage. It’s loaded with added flavorings and sugar to make it taste better. But sourdough is a traditionally made yeast bread that goes through a fermentation process. And this fermentation process has some big benefits for your health.
By now, you probably know that wheat bread is always a better option than white bread. And though it may be better, that doesn’t mean it’s best.
In fact, wheat bread contains high amounts of phytic acid, which can impair your body’s ability to absorb iron, zinc, and calcium.
But the fermentation process that sourdough goes through helps to lower the pH levels of the sourdough, making it more acidic, and thus reducing the phytate content of the bread. That reduction helps your body better absorb nutrients in your small intestine like iron, zinc, and calcium.
Another study found that people who suffered from IBS had an easier time digesting and suffered fewer effects from sourdough bread. The fermentation process also naturally creates bacteria that can be helpful for your gut biome.
Heating the dough can kill some of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus created via fermentation, but one study found that even the dead bacteria can have big anti-inflammatory benefits for you gut.
Besides making really good whiskey, rye is one of the best types of grains for making bread. Sadly, the rye bread you find in stores is likely not true rye. If you look at the ingredients on the package, you’ll find that the first ingredient is enriched flour. Rye flour is maybe third or fourth.
Real rye bread, however, is high in fiber. And one study showed that whole grain rye-based products helped to regulate glucose regulation and even regulate appetite more effectively. That may be due to the gut fermentation that takes place in your intestines.
Health claims abound for sprouted grains. Some claims state they increase and improve your digestion and boost your body’s enzyme activity. But are any of those claims true?
Yes and no. The differences are so minuscule that when compared to using unsprouted flour it doesn’t really matter. But I’m including sprouted grain bread because you do get a small boost in nutrients. And the taste and crunch unsprouted bread provide go a long way in making your healthy sandwiches more delicious.
This was the bread that changed my world forever. And at the time I I had no idea that pumpernickel is what happens when you smash sourdough and rye together.
According to legend, the name pumpernickel comes from Napoleon. While he was invading Germany, Napoleon asked for bread and was served dark Westphalian rye. Upon taking a bite of this bread, he proclaimed, “C’est du pain pour Nicole!” Meaning that this was bread not for an emperor but bread meant for his horse.
Joffrey Napoleon know that this bread combined the benefits of sourdough and rye into one loaf.
Bread is where your sandwich starts. The next layer is the meat. And deli meat is freaking delicious. Now, outside of a few cuts, like bologna, pastrami, or salami, deli meats are loaded with protein and relatively low in fat. What does that mean for you?
It means you can stack up your sandwich with layers of delicious meat. And since these cuts of meat are lower in fat, that means you’ll have more room to add toppings like avocado or to use spreads like mayo or pesto.
Munch on These Four Healthy Sandwiches
If you want to make meal prep easy, make sure to keep staples like turkey, ham, and roast beef in your fridge. Of course, many of the healthy sandwiches below be made with chicken if you prefer. And since I spent a ton of time on bread, I’m not gonna spend time on meat because, well, the meat of this article is the healthy sandwiches. So let’s get to the meat.
The TATS Sandwich
TATS is short for “turkey, avocado, tomato, and spinach.” This sandwich would be great on any of the above slices of bread, but sprouted grain bread is the way to go here because it adds crunch to the coolness of the avocado. The tomato and spinach also adds a little extra crisp and spice to the sandwich, along with all the antioxidants that come packed in those two veggies.
And when it comes to making this sandwich fit into your macros, this sandwich is perfect. It comes packed with protein and plenty of healthy whole grains with added fat from the avocado.
- 8 ounces of turkey
- 2 slices of Ezekiel Bread
- 1/2 of a medium avocado
- 2 slices of tomato
- Handful of spinach
48g of protein
The Pesto Ham Sandwich
Sourdough has a lower pH level. But you can counter that and bring out more flavor(s) by adding a little pesto. Pesto, thanks to the olive oil, has a pH level of close to 7 — the same pH level as water. But when you add ham to the mix it all comes together to make a delectable sandwich.
Spread a tablespoon of pesto between two slices of sourdough and then stack up 6 ounces of ham; top that ham with tomatoes, and 1 ounce of provolone cheese and you pretty much have a handheld slice of pizza in sandwich form.
- 6 ounces of ham
- 1 tablespoon of pesto
- 2 slices of sourdough
- 1 ounce of provolone
- 2 slices of tomato
Rye/Pumpernickel Roast Beef Melt
Fine. So sue me. I’m taking the easy way out with this here sandwich. And I’m gonna tell you that stacking roast beef on both pumpernickel and rye is really good. And that’s only because, at the end of the day, both types of bread are pretty similar.
But the flavors within both rye and pumpernickel pair well with roast beef. Add in the taste of Swiss cheese and you have a match made in sandwich heaven.
- 8 ounces of roast beef
- 2 ounces of provolone cheese
- 2 slices of rye or pumpernickel
The Meat Sandwich
This sandwich is legendary. It was created once, and since then I’ve never been able to completely replicate it. And that’s probably because I was stoned out of my mind when my friend and I made it back in 2009…or was it 2010? (Maybe it was 2011?)
Look, all I remember is we were pretty freaking high and this monstrosity of meat we created was the best damn thing I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve eaten The Meat Sandwich on every type of bread imaginable. It works on them all. So choose whatever bread you love the most, and then stack it high with these meats.
- 2 ounces of turkey
- 2 ounces of pastrami
- 2 ounces of black forest ham
- 2 ounces of salami
- 2 ounces of roast beef
- 2 slices of bacon
- 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
Healthy Sandwiches For All
Here’s a sandwich fact you may not know: Subway is the largest fast food chain in the world. You read that right: Subway has more chains than McDonald’s. And do you know how they accomplished that? By selling sandwiches.
So if you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to make your lunch more healthy, don’t sleep on the sandwich.
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