Pre-packaged lunch meats and deli meats are used as a quick lunch solution for many people, but there are reasons to be wary of this choice. These types of meats are not only poor in nutrition, they can also be harmful to our health.
In 2015, a report was released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer showing a link between cancer risk and processed meats, including sausages, hot dogs, bacon, pastrami, ham, beef jerky, and deli meats. These were shown to increase our risks of colorectal and other cancers, according to experts.
This can be sad news for those who enjoy having sandwiches for lunch. However, it doesn’t mean you must say goodbye to sandwiches forever! In fact, we have some healthier sandwich alternatives (sans deli meat) for you below.
How to Make Your Sandwiches Healthier
Here are some ways to upgrade your sandwiches and support better health in the process:
Use Meat-Free Proteins
For proteins, try whole-food meat-free alternatives like beans (especially chickpeas), organic tofu, tempeh, portobello mushrooms, a black bean or lentil burger patty, or simple peanut butter for a PB&J (or PB and banana, or PB and honey). These can go in between two slices of bread or you could put them in a pita pocket or wrap.
Choose Healthier Meats
For meat alternatives, try fresh tuna, chicken, or egg salad and use avocado or Greek yogurt instead of mayo. Other ideas are homemade organic roast turkey or grilled chicken slices.
Load Up the Veggies
The more vegetables, the better—so load them up! Choose fresh or roasted veggies you love. Here are some good ideas for sandwiches:
- Red onion
- Roasted red peppers
Combine these with one of the proteins mentioned above for a healthy and satisfying sandwich.
Dress It Up!
Now that you’ve subbed something else for the deli meat, adding a nice dressing to your sandwich can upgrade it even more. Try these:
- Mashed avocado
- Any flavor of hummus: plain, roasted red pepper, black bean, white bean, etc.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Plain, unsweetened Greek or non-dairy yogurt
And don’t forget about basic condiments like mustard (stone ground is great), ketchup or hot sauce.
Use Better Bread (or No Bread)
While we’re on the subject, let’s make the whole sandwich healthier by using a whole grain bread. Skip the white bread and try an organic sprouted whole grain alternative.
If you can’t do wheat or gluten or just want to reduce your consumption, try nixing the bread altogether. Here are some ideas:
- Toss the fillings on top of spinach or romaine and make it into a salad
- Make it a grain salad with a base of cooked whole grain rice, barley, farro or quinoa
- Use your proteins and veggies to make a hearty soup like minestrone or chili
We can do a lot for our health by reducing processed foods and replacing them with healthier foods, and that includes processed lunch meats. Try these alternatives. You might just find your new favorite healthy lunch option!