Better a Sandwich or Hot Lunch? The Debate

After so many years of living in Britain I have still not embraced the custom of having a sandwich at lunch time and to my misfortune I have “infected” my English husband who now expects a proper meal at lunch time! Just like my mother used to complain about my father expecting a proper meal, I have brought that upon myself and who is to blame if not myself?

Before having children I used to go to work and stay away all day. I used to take a rich salad with me and from time to time a panino filled with cheese or ham. I used to feel unsatisfied and felt hungry after a couple of hours. At 4 pm a sugar fix was always needed.

Now that I have 2 hot meals a day, I have found that in fact I have lost weight instead of being heavier.

There is a perception that if you have a hot meal twice a day you will end up putting on weight. The fact is that you won’t providing your lunch is not too heavy. A hot lunch can often have less calories than a sandwich. Italian dietitians recommend a plate of pasta with a light sauce like tomato and olive oil or a risotto and a salad for lunch and a protein meal with vegetables in the evening.

Totó in Mario Mattoli's "Miseria e nobiltá" (Poverty and Nobility) from 1954

Totó in Mario Mattoli’s “Miseria e nobiltá” (Poverty and Nobility) from 1954

For an Italian a sandwich or panino is not considered a meal but just a snack. If they have a panino for lunch it is like not having lunch at all! Italian workers have about 1 hour lunch break and if the canteen is not available, they would go to a restaurant and have a set meal for workers (which is usually cheaper). Sometimes they get tokens from their employers to allow them to buy cheap meals. Having a proper meal is considered paramount in order to work properly.

In today’s hectic lifestyle a lot of people seem to eat “on the run” or in front of their PC’s which is a sad fact of modern life.

I know a lot of you must be thinking “but I have no access to a kitchen at lunch time!” Well, what I have now learned to do is taking a packed lunch in a vacuum flask.

Twice a week my school aged daughter is given a packed lunch comprising of pasta, frittata, chicken pieces or a similar hot meal which can be made the night before and could be leftovers too especially if you cook a little bit more food for dinner the night before.

Buon appetito a tutti!

pasta tomatoes olives


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

9 Responses to Better a Sandwich or Hot Lunch? The Debate

  1. gloria

    my boy Im sure would like more a spaguetti dish like this! but I love a sándwich sometimes….

  2. la cucina di Molly

    Io sono per il pasto caldo, un bel piatto di spaghetti ti sazia di più ed è più sano di un panino! Ciao

  3. Diana

    I love, love, love this post! This is a topic of hot debate in my family. I am the opposite of you. I am an American living in Italy with my Italian husband. I love the idea of hot meals for lunch, but I have to admit that at times, making a sandwich is easier. There are moments when I am short on time, and I want to scream: “JUST EAT A SANDWICH LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE!” I used to teach English and this subject would come up regularly, because at times, I would teach to professionals during their lunch break, and they would have to eat a sandwich. But not an American style sandwich on white processed bread….no…..a yummy Italian sandwich….on fresh bread with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto crudo! In my mind, life could not get any better! But not for my students. One told me this: “You know it is a bad day if you have to eat a sandwich for lunch.” Ha, ha, ha! The truth is….mealtime is important, and I think we (Americans) have really lost sight of its importance.(for lunch AND dinner) Not only does it bring the family together, but it is a matter of pleasure. It is a pleasure to see the table set and to have a real meal and to take the appropriate time to eat the real meal as opposed to seeing the sad white sandwich on its lone plate that is gulped down in 10 mintues. For me, in the end, it is all about balance. I try to make hot meals for lunch as often as possible, but on occasion, it is always nice to have Mr. Sandwich as the stand-in. 🙂

    • Alida

      How interesting to find someone just like myself but kind of.. opposite! An American girl with an Italian man! I can see how you have embraced the Italian culture and cooking for lunch too. I think it would be very difficult for an Italian man not to have lunch, or let’s say, to have a lonely little sandwich instead of their large bowl of pasta! My mum always says that English and American people are more clever for having just a panino for lunch.. so much less to do! Sometimes I think that to but then… I hopelessly go back to my cooked lunch! Ciao!

  4. Louise

    Uh oh, I’m in trouble. I haven’t eaten lunch in years. I basically eat two meals a day, breakfast and dinner, which most times is way too late. I don’t see me changing these habits any time soon. although, I do miss a sandwich for lunch sometimes but then I just wait for dinner:)

    Thanks for sharing, Alida…I love learning this kind of stuff:)

  5. Anne @ Inhabited Kitchen

    Here in the US we do both…

    I grew up eating sandwiches, mostly, though sometimes soup or salads. When I started cooking for myself, though – and compared the cost of good sandwich meat to almost anything else – I started making other lunches.

    A hot lunch is common enough that many – though by no means all – workplaces provide a microwave to heat something up. I found it actually easier to pack something to heat up for Himself – I’d make enough extra for dinner, pack it that evening, and he could just grab it and go in the morning, without needing me to do anything. (And I always had a few containers of chili or some such frozen, so he had something if dinner hadn’t cooperated…)

    I eat salads much of the year, myself, and soups at this time of year… We’re both working from home a lot, now, so that’s pretty easy.

  6. Pingback: Food Rules in Italy « Vino Vita Viaggi

Leave a Reply to Alida Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *