Have you been told to avoid deli meat, but not sure why?
Or perhaps you are looking for alternatives to deli meat to fill your sandwich?
If so, then keep on reading!
This article defines the differences between processed and non processed meat. It explains why you should avoid processed meats, and provides examples of delicious sandwich fillings to use instead.
What is the Difference Between Processed and Non Processed Meats
What are Processed Meats?
According to the American Heart Association, processed meat is considered to be any meat that has been modified in order to either improve its taste or extend its shelf life (1).
Are Deli Meats Processed?
Yes, deli meats are processed because they are usually precooked, salted, smoked, or cured with additional chemical preservatives in order to improve flavor or preservation (2).
Why Should You Eat Unprocessed Meats?
The American Heart Association encourages eating more unprocessed foods higher in essential nutrients (1). These foods are more effective for regulating energy intake which can protect against weight gain and prevent chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Make the Switch to Healthy Lunch Meat Sandwiches
The Past: Processed Meats
Food industry marketing has heavily promoted low-fat processed meats as a healthy choice. Now I know you are asking, but isn’t low-fat meat heart healthy?
Technically yes, meat that is low in saturated fat manages cholesterol levels; however, processed meats often contain preservatives like excessive sodium and other additives such as nitrates that can cause oxidative stress and inflammation. This actually increases your risk of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
So instead of choosing low-fat processed meats, try sticking to low-fat unprocessed meats for overall health.
The Future: Healthy Lunch Meat Options
Instead of focusing on limiting certian nutrients for health, let’s try eating more unprocessed foods like whole grains, plant proteins, vegetables, and fish, shall we? This reframe will help you apply healthy eating to your every day because we eat food, not nutrients.
Eating more whole foods higher in essential nutrients will keep us full longer which can protect against weight gain, chronic illness, and the dreaded afternoon energy slump.
There is absolutely no harm in consuming sandwiches. Especially when choosing non processed, whole foods like whole-grain bread, plant proteins and vegetables, and fish. Horary! This classic lunch option that is easy to pack and consume can continue to occupy lunch boxes everywhere.
Choosing Healthy Sandwich Meat Can be Heart Healthy
Heart Health Research Encourages Non Processed Meats
In fact, the 2021 American Heart Association guidelines recommend replacing processed meats with non processed, whole, plant foods to lower your risk of death from heart disease (1).
Why are Non Processed Lunch Meats Heart Healthy?
Non processed sandwich fillings are naturally low in sodium, and high in fiber. Fibre keeps us full longer, and therefore can aid in weight management.
Some examples of non processed lunch meats are fish that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids to manage inflammation or plant proteins like legumes that are rich in potassium and magnesium to help manage blood pressure.
Now that we know non processed meats are healthy, are there any convenient sandwich fillings to consider?
5 Deli Meat Alternatives and Other Sandwich Ideas
1. Classic Canned Tuna Sandwich
Canned fish is a fantastic alternative to deli meat. Mix it with your choice of mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. Yes, I said mayonnaise! Contrary to popular belief, mayonnaise is heart-healthy as it is rich in monounsaturated fats that can actually lower cholesterol levels.
You may also be thinking, isn’t canned tuna processed? Well technically yes. Canned tuna is a processed meat because it has been modified to extend its shelf life through the canning process and some canned fish have added salt for preservation. However, selecting a food label with a “low sodium” or “no salt added” claim makes it less processed, and a healthier selection.
Need inspiration? Check out this easy heart-healthy tuna melt.
2. Almond Butter and Sliced Apple Sandwich
Plant-based proteins include nuts and seeds. Luckily, there are many different kinds of nut butters to choose from these days, so have some fun mixing and matching them with your favorite fruit. Like this twist; instead of the classic peanut butter and banana sandwich, try an almond butter and sliced apple combination.
3. Roasted Vegetable Sandwich
Hopefully, you’ve got the hint that I’m encouraging plant-based alternatives. Well, can you find a better plant-based sandwich than a vegetable sandwich?
Roasting vegetables aid in the caramelization process which enhances sweetness. Try peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant roasted in heart-healthy olive oil to make any sandwich burst with flavor. Bonus, sprinkle your roasted vegetables with hemp seeds to add protein and further increase satiety.
4. White Kidney Bean and Avocado
Try a less traditional sandwich by mashing white kidney beans with avocado for a protein-rich spread that is loaded with monounsaturated fat and soluble fiber to lower your cholesterol levels. This pair is a knock-out combination that is not only delicious but easy to make when you are in a hurry.
Need inspiration? Check out a fantastic recipe from Abbey Sharp.
Another plant-based protein to try is a falafel. A baked chickpea patty can be a filling lunch with tons of flavor thanks to the addition of onion and garlic. Yum!
Alternatives to Sandwiches
Now that we’ve conquered the sandwich fillings, be sure to choose whole-grain alternatives to complete the sandwich. This could be whole grain bread, pita, wraps, or crackers.
Not into bread? Try adding these sandwich fillings to a whole grain like barley or pasta. Or feature it in a trendy bento box.
Try to avoid processed meats, like deli meat, to prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
But remember, a classic sandwich can still be a healthy lunch option. Just replace processed meat with non processed alternatives like fish or plant-based foods such as legumes, nuts, and vegetables.