Want healthy meals your kids will love?

Be choosy- Deli Meat

ham flowers

School is starting on Wednesday for us (hooray), and we will be back to brown bagging our lunches.  Choosing lunch meat for sandwiches should be done with as much care as all your other groceries.

Promise me you won’t purchase lunch meat just because the word “Healthy” is splattered on the packaging!  Promise?

So, what should you look for?

  • Fewest ingredients rules! This is always the best rule of thumb.  Some lunch meat packages contain more than 20 ingredients with the majority of them things you cannot pronounce.  Always check your labels!
  • Purchase organic or hormone free where available.  But don’t be fooled. Sometimes, although the animals may be organic, this is no guarantee they haven’t added loads of ingredients to the lunch meat.
  • “Sectioned and formed” vs. Whole cuts:  Whole cuts are seasoned with salts and sugars, while sectioned and formed are various pieces of animal products, bound with artificial ingredients.  Obviously choose- Whole Cuts
  • Avoid Nitrates!  These are carcinogens.  Your children do not need nitrates.
  • Best bet- Cook up whole turkey’s and slice your own.  Or custom order slices from your local farmers.

Here is another thing we learned when Anna was making our Bento lunch.  The lunch meat flower:

  • Simply fold slice of meat in half
  • Score the edge of the sliced side
  • Roll into flower.
  • Secure with a toothpick.

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

Learn More about Natalie

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Great topic!! I’m with Mindy and Mary on Boar’s Head. We used to buy it all the time when we lived in Provo, but I haven’t found it at any stores close to me. Amy, if you’ve found it closer to you, let me know!

Yeah, I used to eat Boar’s Head all the time, until I read this post: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2010/03/are-all-dietz-watson-or-boars-head-lunch-meats-natural.html (about 1/3 down the page is info on Boar’s Head and MSG).

I buy the few lunchmeats we eat anymore from a farmer who grows the animal, slaughters and prepares her own. She does not hesitate to tell me exactly what is in the meat or try to tell me it’s “all natural” when it isn’t.

We don’t eat much deli meat, but when we do it is usually Boar’s Head deluxe ham. Now I have to go read that link and probably look for a new lunch meat. Sigh.

Lunch meat is a toughie! We have a local “sprouts” store nearby, that sells freshly-sliced nitrite-free lunchmeat. It’s delicious. I even freeze it for later when it’s on sale.
If only school lunches were any better…

I have been happy with Hormel Natural Choice meats. We don’t eat a lot of meat, but for the kids it has been great in their lunches. No nitrates, nitrites…. A good compromise when you cannot get your hands on fresh right away.

I find that I usually become discouraged when I read the label of most products in the supermarket. Even our fruits and veggies aren’t considered safe anymore, I don’t know what everyone is going to feed their children unless we all plan on becoming organic farmers or are in contact with one. I also think it’s sad when brands like Maple Leaf comes up with their all natural selection meats or what have you and all these mothers fall for it.

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