Bread is the devil.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard that before. Now keep your hand raised if you have ever purposely avoided bread because of carbs. Now, look around you and see how many other people have their hands raised. None. Because you’re at work (or home) and you look kind of silly with your hand raised.
And believing that bread is bad for you is as silly as you look with your hand up like you’re waiting to be called on in class. Carbs are not bad.
You don’t have to cut bread out of your life. Cutting bread out means you are saying no to one of the greatest things invented since sliced bread. Hold on, sliced bread was probably invented for this exact thing. So, you can’t have one without the other. Sandwiches are amazing human creations, and far too many people sleep on the sandwich when they try and lose a few pounds.
But when you say no to the sandwich, you’re saying no to 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. And since November 3rd is National Sandwich Day, here are 3 protein-packed sandwich recipes for you to try.
First, though, let’s talk bread.
When it comes to sandwiches, what can make or break the entire experience is the bread. Sure, we all know and love the classic PB&J on white bread — with or without the crust — that we had as kids. And most of the time my Mom used the same bread for our sandwiches that we took to school every day.
But I didn’t know there were other kinds of bread like sourdough, rye, ciabatta, pumpernickel, brioche, or naan. Growing up in the South all I ate were biscuits, rolls, white bread, and cornbread. Each of those has their own distinct flavors, but stacking meat on cornbread to make a sandwich isn’t ideal. So outside of sausage or bacon on a biscuit for breakfast, I ate white bread exclusively.
The first time I had a sandwich on rye, sourdough, and pumpernickel my mind was blown. I didn’t know a sandwich could taste so freaking good. And the only difference was the bread.
When it comes to sandwiches, there are four types of bread that will change your sandwich eating experience: sourdough, rye, sprouted grain (sometimes called Ezekiel Bread), and pumpernickel. Each one has its own unique benefits too.
Unlike regular ol’ white bread that’s highly processed and often includes added flavors and sugar, sourdough is a traditionally made yeast bread that requires a fermentation process. And this fermentation process can have some big benefits for your health.
Whole wheat bread is an important source of minerals and fiber, which is why it has long been chosen over white bread. When put through the fermentation process, as is done when you make sourdough, the pH levels of the bread drop and become a bit more acidic which reduces the phytate content. That reduction may allow your body to better absorb nutrients in your small intestine, but it definitely makes it better tasting.
Because of the fermentation, one study found that people who suffered from IBS had an easier time digesting and fewer effects from sourdough bread. Fermentation also naturally creates bacteria that can be helpful for our gut biome. And though the process of heating the dough can kill some of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus created via fermentation, one study found that even the dead bacteria can have big anti-inflammatory benefits for your gut.
Besides making really good whiskey, rye is one of the best types of grains for making bread in the world. But, the rye bread you find in stores is likely not true rye. If you flip the ingredients over you’ll find that the first ingredient is enriched flour. Rye flour is maybe third or fourth.
True 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 in part do the gut fermentation that takes place in your intestines.
Sprouted grain breads have received all sorts of health claims. It’s claimed that they increase and improve your digestion, come with more protein, and boost your body’s enzyme activity. But is that all hogwash or are they legit claims?
Certain enzymes, which makes more nutrients available during digestion, do increase when grains are sprouted. One benefit to sprouted grains is that it lowers the carbohydrate content of the bread while changing the amino acid profile which boosts the protein content. These enzymes also increase the fiber and antioxidant makeup of the bread.
But these differences are so minute, that when compared to using an unsprouted flour, it doesn’t make a huge difference. However, the reason I include them here is that you do get a small nutrient boost, and the taste and crunch unsprouted bread provides go a long way in making your sandwich more enjoyable.
Take the goodness of sourdough and combine it with rye and you get pumpernickel. And according to legend, the name pumpernickel comes from Napoleon. While invading Germany, Sir Shorty himself asked for bread and was served dark Westphalian rye. Napoleon took a bite of this bread and 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 the base of a sandwich. The next layer is meat. And deli meat is dope. Outside of a few cuts, like bologna or salami, deli meat is loaded with protein and moderately low in fat. That means you can stack up a sandwich with layers of delicious meat without overshooting fat macros. But more importantly, the lower the fats of the deli meat, the more fats you have to play with for things like avocado or spreads like mayo or pesto.
Your deli meat staples should include turkey, ham, roast beef, and chicken. But since you’re probably consuming a few fist-fulls of chicken every day, I am only gonna focus on turkey, ham, and roast beef.
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 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 breads, but sprouted grain bread is the way to go here because it adds crunch to the coolness of the avocado. The tomato and spinach add some extra crisp and spice to the sandwich, along with all the antioxidants that come packed in those two veggies.
Macro-wise this sandwich is perfect. It comes packed with protein and plenty of fibrous whole grains with add 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
- 20g fat
- 36g carbs
- 48g of protein
The Besto Ham Sandwich
Sourdough, as I said above, has a lower pH level. So to counter that and bring out more flavors, adding a little pesto to your sourdough is a good idea. 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 sandwich that is delectable.
Between two slices of sourdough, spread out a tablespoon of pesto, stack 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
- 25g fat
- 35g protein
- 52g carbs
Stop! Collaborate and Listen
Deli meat is amazing. And Mason Woodruff already drops some amazing exclusive recipes here for Stronger U. But Mason has some amazing sandwiches on his own site as well. And this Instant Pot Pulled Pork monstrosity is unreal.
If I could make a swimming pool full of this pulled pork, I would jump in it in a heartbeat.
No, this is not a deli meat. But pork tenderloin doesn’t get enough love as a lean protein source. Plus, I’m from North Carolina and I will eat pulled pork any day.
Roast Beef Melt on Rye/Pumpernickel
Fine. So sue me. I’m taking the easy way out with this 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
- 26g fat
- 24g carbs
- 50g protein
Subway is the largest fast food chain in the world. You read that right, Subway has more chains than McDonald’s. And they got that way by selling sandwiches. Because that’s all a sub is: a long sandwich.
But when it comes to making healthy lunches, why do we all seem to forget about the mighty sandwich? You can pack piles of protein between two slices of bread that you can easily store in bags and take anywhere you go.
Saturday, November 3rd is National Sandwich Day. Join me on this day by making one of the amazing sandwiches above.