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Good Habits #13 – You Can Have A Healthy Lunch Thanks To An English Aristocrat With Bad Habits

So when one works as a CPA, sanity requires that we occasionally step out of the office to escape the mind numbing, soul crushing monotony of wading through things like accounting standards, SEC regulations, DOL regulations, or the dark, fetid morass that is USC Title 26.  Which is the internal revenue code.  Or merely the tax code, for the unwashed.

But since we bill by the hour, rapacious capitalism requires that we not stay out too long.  This necessitates a quick lunch.  But since we’re entirely too hoity toity for fast food joints (Boogieness is a requirement for anyone with a master’s degree or higher), we must go to a sandwich shop.  Apparently, the fact that the bread might be rye or the bun might be Kaiser or brioche is sufficiently fancy for us to retain our belief that we’re better than other people.

Now I realize that any keto or carno dieter just fainted.  I mentioned a food which involves bread.  Based on the assorted pieties the adherents of the Keto diet share on Twitter, there is a special place in Keto hell for consumers of baked grains.  But I’ve noted before, bread isn’t that bad for you.  And if eating sandwiches requires that I be a keto heretic, so be it.  Because they’re…awesome.

The sandwich is named for John Montagu, the Fourth Earl Of Sandwich, born in 1718.  Now, he didn’t invent it.  Humanity has been around for thousands of years, as has bread.  It’s not like it just occurred to us to put stuff on bread a mere 300 years ago.  But the Earl of Sandwich made it famous in the western world, and his name stuck to it. What act of providence made this happen?  Well, it’s mostly because he was a degenerate gambler.  He ate sandwiches so he didn’t have to stop playing cards and so he didn’t get grease on his hands and then transfer it to the cards.

This is probably the only thing John is remembered for, which is probably a good thing. His other main claim to fame was that Captain Cook named the Hawaiian islands after him.  They were literally the Sandwich Islands for a time.  This may explain why the natives killed Captain Cook a year or so later.  But that name was changed when the Hawaiians created their own constitution in 1840, borrowing heavily from the United States constitution.  So this is yet another reason to be happy for the American Revolution.

But I digress.  Sandwiches are wide and varied, so when exploring their health benefits it’s best to go through the things we can put on a sandwich individually.  So we’ll start with the original sandwich ingredient.  Meat.  The Earl of lunch food and definitely not Pacific island archipelagos originally just requested meat between bread.  That’s the O.G. sandwich: meat and bread.  And there are a lot of lunch meats to choose from these days.  And even though they vary widely in flavor, nutritionally they’re all very similar.  Lunch meats are generally a good source of B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium to varying degrees.

So let’s start with turkey, the basic beeyotch of sandwich meats.  Few things are quite as succulent as a slice of smoked turkey.  I mean, I have met a few people (particularly many international students I went to school with) who don’t like turkey, claiming that it “tastes funny”.  This is clearly because they hate America.  Turkey is awesome, and not too fattening.  A couple of slices of turkey (roughly two ounces) is full of flavor and only has 90 calories.

Of course, if you do hate America (Read: hate turkey), there’s always the bird that pretty much everyone can eat, regardless of cultural or religious backgrounds.  And by that I mean chicken.  This typically goes on sandwiches in grilled form for yuppies who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves (that’s probably redundant) or cold cuts for the ordinary droogs.  This normie bird, like turkey, also has about 90 calories for every two slices.

But if dead birds aren’t your thing, there are always dead pigs.  You might be wondering “Triple-D (nobody calls me that), isn’t pork kind of fattening?”.  This is normally true.  But the sandwich appropriate pork products are typically smoked for hours in a smokehouse, which actually causes a fair amount of fat to drip off.  So the preferred pork products, ham slices or bacon, really aren’t that heavy on calories.  Two one ounce slices of either have about 70-80 calories.

Then there’s the meat that ketogenic adherents pay homage to all over the internet.  And, no I don’t mean liver.  I mean, sure, keto types fetishize liver all over Twitter.  But only a lunatic would have a liver sandwich.  Don’t be a lunatic.  Also, liver, like most forms of offal, is awful.  What I’m talking about is beef.  Acolytes of the keto quasi-religion worship this.  Which is hilarious to me.  Ketovores are effectively just pagans who worship cows.

But regardless of whether you follow the One True Diet, a couple of slices of lean roast beef is a good addition to any sandwich.  And it’s believed that the original sandwich order by Johnny the Earl was a roast beef sandwich.  So by eating this you’re basically a sandwich purist.  And keeping it healthy, since two one ounce slices of this only have about 60-70 calories.  

Then there’s the special kind of beef eaten by alcoholics who regularly get into fights at weddings.  Obviously, I mean Irish people.  Well, that’s more Boston Irish than Irish Irish.  Anyway, their one and only significant contribution to cuisine is corned beef.  Which has slightly more calories than regular beef, with 80 in two one ounce slices.  I’m not entirely sure why.  Maybe the Irish need the extra calories to recover after they’re done beating up their cousins.

But these are the things that the common folk eat.  What about foods eaten by people for whom brunch is a major social event?  Well, the slightly pretentious Italian meats they eat with even more pretentious French cheese are also pretty good on sandwiches.  

These meats are a little higher in calories, though.  Two ounces of salami (about six slices) has about 200 calories.  It’s cousin prosciutto is about the same.  And pepperoni, the thing loved most by regular people (mostly on pizza), is more fattening, with about 300 calories for every two ounces.  So the moral of this story is, go easy on the fancy stuff.  Italians somehow take pork and make it more fattening.

And meat may be the primary thing that goes on sandwiches, but there’s another thing that causes vegans to cry that belongs on sandwiches.  I’m talking about cheese, of course.  One of those peculiar foods that we eat after it has technically spoiled.  Which explains why so many varieties are stinky.

But if you want non-stinky cheese, there are plenty of options.  You can have American cheese, if you want something that was so hyper-processed in the bowels of some agracorp’s food factory that it is technically considered “cheese product” and not cheese.  But if not, there are other varieties available for every personality type.  There’s Cheddar if you’re a boring person or Gouda if you’re excessively high falutin’, for example.  You can also engage in shameless cultural appropriation by eating Provolone, Mozzarella, Muenster, Swiss, or any number of other varieties.  Fortunately, you only need to choose based on taste, because they’re basically all the same health wise.  Cheese has decent quantities of various B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.  And it tends to have 60-80 calories or so per slice.

But even though meat and cheese are the primary toppings, no sandwich is complete without a few vegetables on it.  Fortunately, these add decent nutrition without adding too many calories. Such as a slice of tomato, which will add only five calories and a bit of vitamin A and C.  Or mushrooms, which add a few calories and a decent chunk of B vitamins.  And then there are pickles, which have a little bit of everything nutrition-wise, but a few slices of these barely have any calories at all.  You can also add onions which…have no significant nutrition, but kind of taste good.  And naturally, you should add a leafy thing.  Preferably not lettuce, though.  Something more nutritious.  Other leafy greens, like spinach, add a lot of nutrition.  And lastly, if you’re feeling daring, add some hot peppers.  These can be good for you, if you survive.

And although adding sauces can be unhealthy, no good sandwich should go without them. Add a little mustard for a little extra selenium, and only 10 calories per tablespoon. Or add fancy schmancy spicy mustard for some vitamin A, iron, manganese, and selenium and only 15 calories per tablespoon. And naturally, you can add mayo. But it’s…fattening. Two tablespoons add some vitamin E, lots of vitamin K, but also 200 calories. To avoid this excess, substitute Greek yogurt dressing. You’ll only get 40–60 calories and a decent chunk of calcium. And lastly, you can add ketchup which has 15 calories significant nutritional value. I guess it only really adds flavor. But there is a better way to add flavor. Just sprinkle herbs and spices on your sandwich. These add all sorts of nutrition and few calories.

Put almost any combination of these meats, cheeses, and other toppings between two slices of bread, and you’ve got a little bit of every micronutrient.  And despite the fact that it has (gasp) carbs, bread has balanced nutrition.  It has just about every micronutrient, usually providing about 5-10% of your RDA in each.

So now that you have all of the ingredients figured out, how do you make the sandwich?  Well, the secret to making a good sandwich is…heresy.  Not the kind that gets you sent to actual Hell, though.  The kind that makes Ketovores, Carnivores, and Vegans wish you would go to Hell.  Double up on meat, cheese, and bread, in other words. Two slices of the twin vegan heresies of meat and cheese, two slices of keto heresy (bread), and one helping of things that aren’t heretical such as tomato, onion, and spinach.  Two tablespoons of mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt dressing) are necessary, since the vegans abhor dairy.  Then add one of tablespoon of one or more other sauces, such as ketchup or mustard.  And finally, you can either eat it cold, toast it, or put it in a sandwich press.  You end up with a great meal and even those of us with mediocre culinary skill can handle preparing it.  And the total calorie count is probably going to be around 500-700 calories, which is good for one meal.

But you’re not limited to just deli meats.  You can also have a tuna sandwich, or any other fish, which will give you a decent dose of the usual meat vitamins as well as a certain amount of vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Or if you’re feeling nostalgic for the sandwiches your mother made for you when you were a kid, you can have a grilled cheese sandwich.  Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Or an egg salad sandwich if you miss what mom made and were the weird kid in class.

And if you still live in your mother’s basement you can put chicken tenders into a sandwich. Or “tendies” as these overgrown kids call them. But fried food isn’t the best move as I’ve noted before, so I avoid doing this.  Also, I don’t live in my mother’s basement.  And I don’t have a basement, because digging a basement in Florida would just cause it to fill up with water.  And alligators and snakes.

Another option is something I’ve discovered from the exile population here in Florida: Cuban sandwiches.  Half of a sub roll (or bread to that effect), loaded with pork, ham, pickles, and a decent dose of mustard.  And then pressed so flat it looks like it was crushed beneath Fidel Castro’s boot.  But this odd practice actually seals in flavors, making these sandwiches a delight.  

Cubans aren’t the only contributors to sandwich greatness, though.  Literally every ethnic group in America has a sandwich.  Such as paninis, which is basically Italian food in a roll and crushed as flat as the Cuban sandwich.  So I guess that’s more like a sandwich ground under Benito Mussolini’s boot.  Or you can have the sandwich of the Cajuns, who cram seafood into a roll and give it a blatantly classist name, a Po’ Boy.  But tread carefully.  Cajun food can be fattening.

And whatever you do, don’t eat the Cajun’s barbecue sandwiches.  They put coleslaw in the sandwich.  IN THE SANDWICH.  Only a degenerate puts coleslaw in a barbecue sandwich.  It makes the bread sloppy, causing it to fall apart.  No sandwich should have coleslaw, which is a thing that happens at some delis of ill-repute.  The whole point of a sandwich is to have a meal that you can eat while keeping one hand on the wheel.  Or the mouse, if you’re an office jockey like me. If it falls apart, it defeats this purpose.

So now that I’ve covered the basics of sandwiches, here are a few pointers about keeping it healthy.  First, control the portion size.  Never get a footlong sub.  A footlong is a life of obesity, sadness, loneliness, and early death.  Try not to have more than four to six ounces of meat.  Too much can tip the scales (pun intended) from healthy to unhealthy.

Also, go easy on the sides.  Many restaurants put so many French fries next to the sandwich that it’s entire meal unto itself.  Or tater tots, onion rings, potato chips, or whatever.  Remember, big sides give you big sides.  So be careful about what you pair with it.  Smart people pair a sandwich with only a pickle spear to cleanse the palate.  As noted above, these are healthy and have few calories.

And avoid the other disgraceful practice that turns a sandwich into a sloppy mess.  Don’t douse the sandwich in oil and vinegar the way some sandwich shops do.  Not only does this make the sandwich soggy, but the oil adds a lot of calories with limited nutritional benefits.  I’ve noted before that added fats and oils are a problem.

And lastly, never eat an “open faced sandwich”.  I don’t see the point of these.  You can’t eat it with your hands.  It’s effectively an oversized cracker.  And guaranteed to make a mess.  Unless you eat it with a knife and fork, which is an act of apostasy.  I mean, sure, these kinds of sandwiches are still healthy.  But they’re also a disgrace in the eyes of God and humanity.  Avoid these abominations.

But normal, well-made sandwiches made in reasonable sizes are a healthy lunch.  They have a little bit of everything from every food group.  And therefore have a good portion of every micronutrient you need.  This makes sandwiches one of the greatest innovations in culinary history.  So mad props to the Earl of Sandwich.  Who probably didn’t actually invent it.  And had all sorts of unpleasant personal habits (See: Hellfire Club).  And was probably a colonialist or whatever.  But despite all of that, good job Johnny.


Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Good Habits #13 – You Can Have A Healthy Lunch Thanks To An English Aristocrat With Bad Habits

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