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LGLWSM Newsletter 081 - Which Luncheon Meats Are Healthy Choices?
February 27, 2015

Most people eat at least one sandwich per day at lunchtime. I know they’re a staple go-to in our house, compliments of the way I was brought up. You’re hungry, you reach for a couple slices of bread, slap on some meat and cheese, and voila! A simple and fast way to keep stomach growls at a minimum till dinnertime.

The problem is the vast amounts of chemicals found in luncheon meats - a big concern for anyone who’s trying to cut out the crap. That’s why it pays to know which types of meats are best to buy.

Most luncheon meats today are processed, which means they potentially contain hormones, dyes, fillers, preservatives, and in some instances, explosive amounts of sodium. Of course, this means they aren't going to be the most healthy option out there. Here's some guidelines to help you make better choices for you and your family!

cold cuts


How to Choose the Healthiest Sandwich Meats

  • Turkey cold cuts are lower in calories and sodium than are pork based cuts like bologna. However, the healthiest choices go well beyond what’s on the nutrition label. How the meat was raised and treated also matters.

    The best meats are certified organic, grass-fed options, that do not contain hormones and antibiotics. Animals that are raised in a pasture have a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids, and are fed food free of nasty pesticides.

  • I always assumed that 'baked' was the healthiest alternative. Turns out, that's not necessarily true. In fact, it matters NOT if the sandwich meat is smoked, cured, salted, oven-roasted, or baked. The processing of all types of meat means they all contain similar harmful ingredients, such as nitrates to preserve the meat. While some nitrates are naturally occurring, cold cuts are loaded with the artificial kind meant to add flavor and color to meat. They may be harmful to blood vessels and lead to coronary problems in the future.

  • Make sure the meat contains ingredients that you can pronounce! Avoid:

    - Sodium nitrate/sodium nitrite - BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) - BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) - Smoked/naturally smoked/smoke flavor - Corn syrup - Aspartame - High amounts of sodium

  • When you order sandwich meat from the deli-counter (versus buying the pre-packed brands where the ingredients are shown), look for roasted beef or chicken, where you can actually see that they’re cutting the meat from the actual animal. If the ingredients are unknown, ask the staff to be sure!

  • Eating processed meats should be kept to a minimum. Instead of buying luncheon meats, try roasting a chicken on the weekend and use the sliced chicken instead. Remember too, you can always buy a ready-roasted chicken at the store and use the meat for sandwiches during the week.

  • Remember that premium is more of a marketing term and does not always equate to better for you. One thing that makes me mad is to see gluten-free on the label. Gluten isn’t supposed to be in any deli meat to begin with, so labeling it as such is meaningless.

  • Stick to three or four slices (4 ounces) per sandwich. When they’re stacked up together, they should equal the thickness of a smart phone.

  • Toasting bread may lower the glycemic impact of the bread. This means that it causes a lower rise in blood sugar than non-toasted bread. On the other hand, it may also lead to a higher amount of acrylamide; found when certain foods are heated above 248 degrees F. Acrylamide has been linked to cancer but more research is needed.

  • Make sandwiches more nutritionally appealing by adding sliced avocado, roasted red peppers, hummus, and whole-grain mustard. Add raw veggies or fruit slices as they’ll inhibit carcinogen formation. These simple additions also increase potassium levels, which can balance sodium levels. Keep cheese to one slice and serve luncheon meats on whole grain breads like rye, pumpernickel, or sourdough.

    If you want to buy deli meat that’s real meat, look for striations and streaks of fat, and the meat grain, which means the cuts are usually cooked. Think pastrami, roasted turkey, roast beef, and real ham. This should indicate that the meat is quality stuff, albeit a bit expensive for what you get. In many instances, good old peanut butter and banana might just be the best choice you can make!


    The Best and Worst Cold Cuts

    How to Choose a Healthier Lunch Meat

    Is Toast Healthier than Plain Bread

    *Because I consider myself to be a 'realist', I am excluding the monthly specials from my newsletters moving forward. If no one ever makes a purchase, that's telling me loads about what's not on your mind!

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    The Negative Effects of Genetically Modified Foods

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    Until Next Time!

    Stay Sweet and Be Beautiful!



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