About a year ago the WHO came out with one of the most confusing recommendations, that Deli and Processed Meats cause cancer. This led to many outrageous reactions due to something that was communicated poorly. Needless to say Deli meats and processed meats do not directly cause cancer but that it is highly correlated with increased cancer risk as I’m sure you’ve all read in Emilie’s blog post a while back “No! Not my sweet, sweet bacon!” back in November of 2015 (If not I highly recommend you do).
It’s been a year since that WHO report came out and whatever your reaction to the WHO recommendations are; there are many good Health reasons to avoid processed meats and deli meats. But it’s not exactly easy, as it’s definitely created many issues in meal planning for busy families. Now with School resuming for the kids, school lunches may be causing your family a huge amount of stress as many people were reliant upon deli meats for school lunches or your own brown bagged lunch. Rest assured we’ve got some ideas for you to rely less on deli meats to help make healthier food choices for you and your family!
Egg, Salmon or Chicken Salad
No surprise that this is at the top of the list. Using healthier versions of Egg, Salmon or Chicken salad is a fantastic, creative and budget friendly way to make use of some leftovers or some canned salmon. Be sure to try some healthier alternatives to these classic recipes by using a lot less Mayo, reducing the egg yolk content of your egg salad, replacing mayo with avocado.
SIDE NOTE: While Tuna Salad is a fantastic option, there are some things to be aware of when using Tuna. The first would be related to the Mercury levels in Tuna, so choose “light” tuna and look for Skipjack or Tongol on the label as it has less mercury than “white”/ Albacore Tuna. There are different recommendations on how much to have per week or per month for different populations:
General Population: 150g/ week
Women who are or may become pregnant and nursing moms: 150g per month
Children 5-11 years old: 125g per month
Children 1-4 years old: 75g per month
Make sure you stay within these recommendations otherwise Mercury levels could build up in your body, which could lead to some nasty side effects, which is why I generally recommend Salmon salad over Tuna. salad
While this may sound odd, it’s actually a fantastic way to use your leftover Meatloaf in a fun way. Having a small cut of meat loaf with some ketchup sandwiched between two slices of whole wheat bread can be a lot of fun for the kids. Plus the meatloaf was basically the predecessor for deli meats anyways, but using more nutritious ingredients with less preservatives is a sure fire way to make sure you and your family is well nourished.
It’s funny that everyone was so up in arms about the WHO report when recommendations to reduce red meat consumption for health benefits have existed since the 1950s. Either way Vegetarian sandwich options are a fantastic way of making sure you and your family are well nourished and having some of the best nutrition possible. Try vegetarian food items like Hummus, Falafel (which is super easy to make at home or readily available for purchase at your local supermarket) or to pack a high protein vegetarian option like Cottage Cheese or Greek Yogurt into your lunch!
Homemade Chicken Lunchmeat
Homemade chicken lunchmeat is really more fancy sounding then it actually is. You can choose whatever your favourite chicken recipe is and then just thinly slice either the white meat or the dark meat and just use that as the protein in your lunch! Plus using chicken like this can free you from the boring sandwich as well! You can use the same chicken recipe to put on a salad, some crackers, put in a wrap or a pita or just eat it as a snack on it’s own! PRO TIP: This is also a great way of getting rid of those turkey leftovers for when Thanksgiving comes around!
Ditch the Sandwich!
Lunches can get boring if you’re having a sandwich consistently, why not ditch the sandwich and try something entirely different that reduces your reliance on deli meats anyways? Try some amazing salads (Bean, grain, veggie, potato, rice or pasta based), wraps, pitas or even a smoothie! There are a lot of amazing options out there! Be adventurous and try out many other options because good nutrition and health is about balance and enjoying what you eat. In many situations this may mean changing up your normal routine!
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
Owner, Founder and President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management