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Lunch Meat Swaps

Deli meats are convenient to throw into a sandwich or on top of a salad, but they don’t always support our health goals. Try out some of these alternatives to lunch meats in your next sandwich.

Reasons to leave out the deli meats:

  • Reduce sodium content

  • Reduce consumption of preservatives

  • Choose a heart-healthier protein source

  • Increase variety in your diet


  • Canned tuna. Easy, inexpensive, lean protein. Worried about mercury? “Chunk light” tuna is very low. “Solid white” or “albacore” is a bit higher, but limits on it are only recommended for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and women who may become pregnant.

  • Canned salmon. Very low in mercury, plus you get much more omega-3 fat.

  • Peanut butter. Healthy fat, protein, and comfort food. Throw in a banana and you have a serving of fruit with potassium to boot.

  • Roasted chicken or turkey. Cook up your own at home and use as a yummy filling for Chicken Burritos. Alternatively, most grocery stores offer rotisserie chicken. They’re usually not labeled with nutrition facts, the sodium should be about 300 mg per 100 g serving, depending on how it’s seasoned at your local store. Or you can pick up cooked chicken breast strips that contain no nitrites and less than half the sodium as processed lunch meat.

  • Veggies. Whole grain tortilla + hummus + your favorite raw or roasted veggies = delicious wrap. Try adding sliced cucumber and tomatoes or red peppers and spinach. For more protein add in some sunflower seeds, feta cheese, or low-fat Swiss, cheddar or mozzarella. Try this recipe – Fresh Rainbow Lettuce Wraps.

  • Chicken or egg salad. Eggs are another inexpensive source of protein, as well as other nutrients, including vitamin A and lutein. Sub in plain non-fat Greek yogurt for mayo, like in this Chicken Waldorf Salad. It adds a little tang and protein.

  • Instead of chicken or pork, use jackfruit. Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit and is often used as a substitute for pulled meat. Try one of these recipes – Instant Pot Jackfruit Tacos or Jackfruit “Ropa Vieja”.

  • Portobello mushrooms. Marinate the mushrooms in olive oil, salt, pepper, and any herbs and spices you like for about an hour. Then, grill or sauté them for 5-7 minutes. Eat as is or on a whole grain bun with provolone and caramelized onions or slice them up for fajitas. For skewers, put them on raw and cook them with other veggies, like peppers, onions, zucchini, etc.

  • Instead of beef or sausage, try beans, legumes, or lentils. Try one of these recipes – Veggie Burger, Roasted Eggplant Veggie Burger, Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Bolognese, or Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes.

  • Cauliflower steaks. Throw them on the grill and add pesto or chimichurri sauce to turn up the flavor.

  • Tofu. For a meat substitute, get the extra-firm tofu. Drain off the excess fluid, then wrap it in a clean, dry kitchen towel. Place a heavy object like a dinner plate or cookbook on top and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, cut it and marinate it and cook it up. Try one of the many tofu recipes on our website.

  • Tempeh. Tempeh is similar to tofu, but fermented and has a meatier texture, which makes it perfect to sub for ground beef in things like meatballs and burgers. Try this recipe – Tempeh Buddha Bowl.

  • Falafel. Made from ground chickpeas, it’s low in fat, high in protein and fiber, low in cholesterol, and contains lots of vitamins and minerals. Try one of these recipes – Baked Falafel or Open-faced Chickpea "Chicken" Salad Sandwich.

If you're looking for more delicious recipe inspirations, check out our Pinterest page or website.

Deli Meat Swaps
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Heart-Healthier Sandwich Fillings

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