With lunch meat, it’s easy to throw together a quick sandwich to take to work, but is eating lunch meat too unhealthy?
What could be more convenient that placing a piece of lunch meat between two slices of bread for a quick lunch? Although most lunch meats are inexpensive and make sandwich creation a cinch, they may not be the healthiest option when it comes to nutrition. How unhealthy is eating lunch meat and are there ways to make this convenience food better for you?
Is It a Nutritional Wasteland?
While eating lunch meat may not be the healthiest meal option available, sometimes you need to throw together a quick sandwich. The good news is you can buy low fat lunch meats that are relatively low in saturated fat and total calories. The bad news is that even low fat lunch meats are usually high in sodium, sometimes as high as 1,000 milligrams of sodium per serving. Considering the recommended sodium intake for an adult is only 2300 milligrams, this could be problematic, particularly if you’re prone to high blood pressure or have a history of heart disease.
The other problem with eating lunch meat is that they have high levels of a preservative called sodium nitrite which are converted into chemicals called nitrosamines in the stomach. These nitrosamines have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. If you eat one of these sandwiches every day, you could get a whopping dose of these unhealthy chemicals.
On the positive side, lunch meats are a good source of protein and low in carbohydrates which help to keep your blood sugars stable.
Choosing a Healthier One
If you’re unwilling to give up the convenience of eating lunch meats, there are some steps you can take to choose a healthier one. To reduce the fat and calorie content of your sandwich meat, choose low-fat or fat-free lunch meats whenever possible. There are a variety of low-fat and fat-free turkey lunch meat options and even a ninety-eight percent fat-free bologna made by Oscar Meyer. To reduce sodium intake, look for lunch meats that are labeled “low sodium”. Another way to reduce both the fat and sodium content of your sandwich is to use less meat and pile on extra veggies instead. If you’re concerned about the level of nitrites in lunch meats, look for one that’s uncured. These can be found in many natural food markets. Keep in mind that because they lack sodium nitrite, their shelf life will be shorter.
The Bottom Line?
If you’re in a hurry, eating low fat, low sodium lunch meat isn’t necessarily an unhealthy option, particularly if you add extra vegetables. Still, it’s a good idea to vary your diet and not eat it every day.