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What Is the Healthiest Deli Meat?

author image Sara Ipatenco
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.
What Is the Healthiest Deli Meat?
Deli meats can be very high in sodium.

If you enjoy a deli meat sandwich, you may be wondering what type of lunch meat is the healthiest choice for your meal. Not all deli meats are created equally, and certain choices are significantly better for your health than others. Once you know the nutritional differences between your different deli meat choices, you will be able to prepare a healthier sandwich.

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If you want to maintain or lose weight, counting calories is one way to accomplish your goal. The calorie count of your deli meat choice is important because you must plan meals that do not contain more calories than you are able to burn during the day. Eating more calories than you are able to burn off through physical activity and exercise will lead to weight gain and will prevent you from losing excess pounds. Turkey breast is your lowest-calorie choice, with 22 calories per 1-oz. slice. Second best is chicken breast with 29 calories per slice. One slice of pastrami has 41 calories, and one slice of ham contains 46 calories. Your highest-calorie choices are bologna with 87 calories per slice and salami with 119 calories per 1-oz. serving.


The total fat content is another consideration when choosing the healthiest deli meat. If your diet includes too much fat, particularly saturated fat, you may be at a increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and weight gain. The healthiest lunch meat in terms of fat content is turkey breast, with just 0.35 g of total fat per 1-oz. serving. Chicken breast contains just 0.40 g of fat, and pastrami has 1.63 g of total fat, with less than 1 g being saturated. Ham contains 2.41 g of total fat and 0.82 g of saturated fat. Your least healthy options are bologna with 7.89 g of total fat and 3.11 g of saturated fat, and salami with 10.36 g of total fat and 3.66 g of saturated fat.


Most deli meat contains a large amount of sodium per serving. You should not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and eating a deli sandwich may put you close to this number, depending on how many slices you put between your bread. Turkey breast once again comes out as the healthiest with 213 mg of sodium per 1-oz. slice. Pastrami is close behind with 248 mg of sodium. Bologna contains 302 mg of sodium, and ham contains 365 mg. Chicken breast contains 374 mg and salami is the least healthy with 529 mg of sodium per slice. Look for low-sodium options to reduce the negative effects of added salt.


Deli meat is a source of protein, which helps your entire body function properly and supplies you with energy. Salami contains the most protein with 6.08 g per slice, chicken breast contains 5.16 g per slice and ham is close behind with 4.65 g per 1-oz. slice. Turkey breast contains 3.58 g of protein per slice and bologna has 2.88 g. Most varieties of deli meat contain around 0.30 mg of iron, with the exception of pastrami, which contains 0.62 g per slice. You will also get small amounts of zinc and potassium from all types of deli meat.

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