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Your guide to deli meats

Wondering what’s healthier among ham, roast beef, turkey and other cold cuts? We slice up better-for-you deli meats.

Deli meats are a sandwich staple for school and work lunches. But while they tick the convenience box, they don’t necessarily meet the good-for-you criteria. If luncheon meats such as ham, bacon and salami are popular in your household, here’s what you should consider.

A healthier cold cut

If you want to choose a healthier deli meat, keep your eye on the following two criteria:

Sodium content

Regularly going overboard on sodium can increase blood pressure, which is bad for heart health, so it’s wise to cut back where you can. Deli meats are notoriously high in sodium, but ones that contain less than 750mg per 100g are best. For context, 2000mg of sodium is the recommended maximum daily intake for adults.

Saturated fat content

Again, with heart health in mind, consuming too much saturated fat can elevate cholesterol levels. Deli meats can be particularly high in saturated fat so, to make a healthier choice, aim for cold cuts that have less than 2g saturated fat per 100g. Over the course of a whole day, the average adult should consume no more than 24g saturated fat.

Pork products


From champagne and smoked to honey-roasted, there’s a variety of hams on offer. Ham tends to contain less sodium and saturated fat than other deli meats made from pork. With about one per cent of saturated fat, it’s the healthiest among pork products.


The saltiest of deli meats, just one bacon rasher can have more than 25 per cent of the maximum daily recommended sodium intake. Trimmed shortcut bacon is better than untrimmed middle rashers, as it has about two per cent saturated fat, while the latter has over seven per cent.

Prosciutto and salami

Prosciutto and salami are on the saltier end of the spectrum. Prosciutto has about seven per cent saturated fat, while salami has significantly more saturated fat than any other deli meat. For example, Hungarian salami has 12 per cent saturated fat and Danish has 14 per cent.

Poultry products

Sliced chicken and turkey are on par with ham in terms of saturated fat, but contain even less sodium, making them the best choice of all deli meats.

Beef products

Classic roast beef and pastrami have a similar nutritional profile to sliced ham. Some varieties of pastrami provide slightly less sodium than others.

Easy swaps

The latest research links the consumption of processed meats, such as ham, bacon and salami, to an increased risk of bowel cancer. To cut back on cold cuts, try these healthier alternatives:

➜ Swap ham in a sandwich for egg and lettuce
➜ Swap a bacon and egg burger for a cheesy vegetable omelette
➜ Swap prosciutto on a cheese board for a small bowl of olives
➜ Swap salami on your pizza for mushrooms and prawns
➜ Swap sliced deli chicken in a wrap for shredded barbecued chicken
➜ Swap sliced deli turkey for a spoonful of ricotta
➜ Swap rare roast beef in a salad for lean beef stir-fry strips.


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