Healthy Homemade Options to Replace Deli Lunch Meats


Recently my brother in law e-mailed me an article about the health dangers of eating processed meats.  The article talked about the link between cancer and the consumption of hot dogs and lunch meats.

According to the article from The Huffington Post:

“At least 58 scientific studies have looked at the issue, and the jury has rendered its verdict, which is now beyond reasonable doubt. The more hot dogs people eat, the higher their risk of colorectal cancer. And it’s not just hot dogs. Any sort of processed meat — bacon, sausage, ham, deli slices — is in this group. And here are the numbers: Every 50 grams of processed meat you eat on a daily basis (that’s about one hot dog) increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. And just as there is no safe level of smoking, no amount of hot dogs, bacon, sausage, ham or other processed meats comes out clean in scientific studies.

The problem goes beyond colorectal cancer. An NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study found a 10 percent increased risk of prostate cancer for every 10 grams of increased intake of processed meats. Other studies have linked these same products to leukemia and ovarian cancer. Exactly how processed meats do their dirty work is not clear; it could be their nitrites, saturated fat or other ingredients. “

I was already aware of this problem and I have developed a variety of alternatives for sandwiches over the years, but this article was a real eye-opener for my brother in law and caused him to re-think what he was willing to feed his family.  While I was happy to hear that my sister’s family would be avoiding these potentially dangerous foods in the future, it got me to thinking what will they use instead?

Most American families rely on good old lunch meats to solve the daily lunchbox dilemma, so what should we do if we are trying to stay away from dangerous additives and chemicals in commercially prepared lunch meat?  Thankfully the answer can turn out to be a double duty time and budget saver.

The next time you go grocery shopping, skip the deli counter and buy a whole turkey breast, or chicken breasts or a pork loin.  Make sure to buy more than you would normally prepare for your family’s dinner.  Roast or grill the meat using your favorite herbs, spices and seasonings.  Carve just enough for the dinner and then very tightly roll the rest in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator.

The next day when the meat has completely chilled, it can be sliced very thinly with a sharp knife or an electric knife for deli style sandwiches or cubed and tossed with mayo and other ingredients for a chunky style deli salad.

By preparing your own lunch meat you can be sure that all of the ingredients are natural and healthy (especially if you buy organic and ethically raised animal products), you save time by making dinner prep do double duty as lunch prep and you save money by buying whole meats on sale rather than paying premium prices for prepared deli meat.

Update September 8, 2011

To see my Homemade Deli Meat Tutorial post click below:

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  1. Hi Jennifer. I’m just starting out on my family’s green journey – we have always been healthy eaters but are now trying to switch to organic, have started growing herbs and veges, and are getting rid of commercial cleaning products/cosmetics etc. I still have a lot to learn though! So I’ve been reading lots of green blogs, including yours :)

    I’m really curious about this article you’ve posted, as we do eat ham every now and then. How is it that there have been 58 scientific studies which have come to the same conclusion about processed meats… yet none of them have properly established WHY processed meats are carcinogenic. I’d totally stop eating ham if there was a good reason to, but personally I need to know why/how something is bad in order not to do it. Any ideas?

    • It is frustrating isn’t it? How could there not be definitive answers for a health issue like this? In the research I have been doing, it seems that the problem with cured meats like some hams, bologna, salami, hot dogs etc, may be that nitrates are used to preserve them. It is suspected by many people that the nitrates are the trigger for some of the health issues related to eating processed meats such as colon cancer however, as you correctly pointed out, no one single ingredient has been singled out officially.

      The good news is that we don’t have to choose between sandwiches or good health because it really isn’t too much trouble to make a roast, cool it and then carve it up just like our grandmothers used to do. In fact, I like this method because it lets me kill two birds with one stone, one roast is plenty for dinner tonight and lunchboxes tomorrow.

      I hope you are having fun so far on your green journey and thanks for stopping by!

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