How to Buy the Best Deli Meat

Fill your sandwiches with the best meat.

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The Most Processed Deli Meats (2:26)

With keto and other high-protein diets becoming increasingly popular, deli meats have been added to people’s shopping lists. These meats are great for making lunch and are easy to have on the go. But, deli meats have been notoriously criticized for having additives and being unhealthy. That’s not the case with all meat from the deli — as long as you know what to look for. Check out these tips from Dr. Oz's food experts to help navigate the deli counter and ensure you get quality meat.

Order at the Deli Counter

Always opt to order your deli meat straight from the counter and avoid pre-packaged meats. In order to package the meats, processed ingredients and preservatives are added to keep the meat fresh. Therefore the meat at the deli counter is always fresher. Food journalist Mark Shatzker suggests knowing the differences in the ingredients in which deli meat you buy. Not all deli meats are created equally, and the cheaper the meat the more likely it is to contain fillers. He suggests looking past the ham and trying something different, like mortadella. 

Dr. Caudle suggests looking for roast beef or chicken at the counter since they will slice the meat from a whole cut right in front of you. If you prefer packaged meats, be sure to look at the ingredients to make sure you know what you’re eating. If you don’t see ingredients, ask the staff at the deli counter to help you decipher.

Order the Most Natural Option

There are two kinds of options when ordering deli mean. First there is formed meat, which is when as variety of cuts are thrown into a tumbler and combined. There is also whole cut, which is a section of meat that thas been cooked and then sliced for you to eat. While whole cut meats may be on the pricer side, they are worth ordering at the deli if you are trying to get the healthiest option.

Eat Fresh Deli Meat

Slime on your deli meat does not necessarily mean it has gone bad, it could just be from the proteins in the meat. It does, however, create an environment for bacteria to grow. Owner of authentic charcuterie shop and restaurant Olympia Provisions, Eli Cairo, says the only way to tell if your deli meat has gone bad is by the smell. If your deli meat smells like ammonia, it's time to throw it out.

Buy Reduced or Low Sodium

To reduce your daily sodium intake, Dr. Caudle recommends opting for low or reduced-sodium meat, as well as meats with no added sugar. Processed deli meats can contain up to three grams of sugar per slice and are usually high in fat and salt. Opt for ham or turkey which are both very lean types of meat. Overall, roast beef, turkey, and chicken beat out other deli meats when comparing the fat, salt, and calories. They are the healthiest options for you to pick from at the deli.

According to the World Health Organization, an 18 percent increase in colon cancer has been found when 50-gram portions of processed meat are eaten daily. That is equivalent to two slices of deli meat per day. While there are healthier ways to enjoy deli meats, make sure to limit your weekly intake and combine with a healthy and balanced diet of lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.

Related:

The Lowest Sodium Deli Meats That Still Taste Good

How to Buy the Healthiest Food at Your Local Deli Counter

Deconstructing Deli Meats