Deli Meats: Safe or Scary?

Filed under: Expert Advice: Family Time, Expert Advice: Home Base

Does deli meat make a good lunch? Credit: stu spivack, Flickr

Deli meats are not only a staple in most kids' lunchboxes, they're also now thought of as "diet food" by many, thanks to the Subway ads touting the weight Jared Fogle lost while eating the chain's sandwiches. Is there something magical about cold cuts that will lead to weight loss?

Absolutely not -- Jared simply reduced his caloric intake to drop the weight, and chose to do it by eating no breakfast, and then a sandwich for lunch and dinner. But are deli meats like bologna, salami, roast beef, and turkey good for you and your kids?


Bologna: Bologna is one of the dreaded "processed meats," meaning it contains the carcinogen sodium nitrite. The amount of processed meat considered safe to eat, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research? None. Plus, some brands also contain the neurotoxin MSG (monosodium glutamate).

Salami: Also a processed meat, salami, like bologna, should be eaten only rarely, if at all.

Roast Beef: Roast beef is a much better option as it contains no nitrates and has a fraction of the salt and saturated fat of a processed meat like bologna. But it's still a red meat, so roast beef shouldn't be daily fare for your child.

Turkey: With half the saturated fat of red meats and no nitrates, plain roasted turkey breast is the best choice when it comes to cold cuts. Choose a brand with the fewest ingredients: organic varieties tend to contain nothing more than turkey breast, water, and salt, while mainstream brands can also have sugar and various additives.

Jennifer Schonborn is a holistic nutrition counselor, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sign up for her newsletter and free consultation at

Related: Lunch Meats Linked to Lung Disease

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.