5 months ago

Sandwiches - have we had our fill?

Sandwiches - have we had our

FEATURE May sees the return of British Sandwich Week, a week’s “celebration of the greatest food-to-go and quite possibly the most iconic British culinary invention”. 1 But considering that as a nation we are already scoffing around 11.5 bn sandwiches a year and buying 3.5 bn of those, 1 should we really be eating more? Or is it time for the sandwich to move over? Maggie Charlesworth writes Sandwiches (sarnies, butties... they have so many names) are big business. The UK sandwich industry alone is worth around £8 bn per annum, and even has its own awards, appropriately called The Sammies. In 1980, high street retailer Marks and Spencer, which had experimented with selling sandwiches back in 1929, tried again. This time the idea took off, and today we can buy sandwiches in pharmacists (Boots the Chemist soon followed in M&S’ footsteps), petrol stations, and newsagents — places where, before the butty boom, it would have been unheard of to buy food. If we want, we can buy a sandwich for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and can even have them seasonally-themed. Last winter, several food chains advertised Christmas-themed sandwiches so that if we couldn’t wait for Christmas day, we could get into training with turkey and stuffing-filled sandwiches, baps and wraps. Shop-bought sandwiches have liberated us from the drudgery of having to prepare our own lunch. They are convenient, quick, and allow us to eat without having to think about anything other than filling a gap. But have we become victims of the sandwich’s success? In 2016, a study which reviewed the eating habits of more than 27,000 American adults found that sandwich consumption was associated with an increase in daily calorie intake by 98.7 kcal. 2 So should we be concerned? “I think the problem really comes when you’re reaching for those pre-packaged sandwiches which are made using white bread, lashings of sauces and processed fillings,” says Angelique Panagos, a registered nutritionist and author of The Balance Plan. “These sandwiches are pretty nutrient-poor and can spike blood sugars, meaning you’ll crash and burn later on.” Panagos’ major “bugbear”, however, is “advertisements showing a white bread sandwich with lashings of a sugary chocolate spread, which make it out to be a healthy breakfast — it’s not!”. Mindfulness Another criticism of sandwiches is that they are too easy to eat. Growing evidence shows that mindfulness, focusing on what we are doing, can lead to a lower intake of calories 3 because we are paying attention to our body’s fullness signals. A sandwich, however, can disappear within a matter of minutes, having barely been noticed. How often have you gone to take another bite out of a sandwich before realising that you’ve already finished it? Debbie, a “self-confessed foodie” and cookery teacher says she rarely eats sandwiches because she tends to eat them too quickly. “One of my favourite treats used to be when my husband would make egg and bacon sandwiches for brunch,” she says. “A typical breakfast sandwich would have a couple of bacon rashers, a fried egg, and a slice of cheese — as well as the bread and butter. That’s a lot of food, but I would eat it in minutes. Sometimes, I would eat two because I was still hungry and hadn’t given myself time to feel full. “Then one day I realised that I had just eaten the equivalent of two full breakfasts. And, to make matters worse, I hadn’t even enjoyed it as much as I would have if I had eaten it as a meal on a plate with a knife and fork, taking my time.” Debbie says that she now eats meals that are more like “deconstructed” sandwiches. “It’s usually more like a massive salad and maybe a slice of bread. That way I have to use a knife and fork, and so it forces me to eat a bit more slowly. If I’m faced with a sandwich, it will last only a few minutes and I’ll want to eat more — it’s a habit I can’t seem to change, so I try to avoid them.” Variety is the spice of life Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of us eat the same lunch day in, day out. In a 36 OPTIMUM NUTRITION | SPRING 2018