Skip to content

These Are The 10 Best Low-Sodium Lunch Meats to Buy

Lunch meat is one of the foods that contributes the most sodium in American diets. You can still eat it as long as you buy these picks.
Processed deli meat cold cuts

Lunch meat is one of the most convenient sources of protein, but it also happens to be one of the foods highest in sodium. That sodium comes from manufacturers using a variety of salts to cure and preserve the meat. It also helps to add flavor. While a reasonable amount of sodium can accomplish these goals, too much sodium can also be negative for your health. That's why, as a registered dietitian, I recommend opting for low-sodium lunch meat when you're looking for an easy grab-and-go option for a meal or snack.

While the deli meats can certainly be part of a healthful diet, there are some factors to keep in mind before choosing the right package to buy. Besides the benefits of choosing nitrate and nitrite-free meats, I'll also go over why you should cut back on sodium in your lunch meat, the benefits, and the best options to buy.

Why should you buy low-sodium lunch meat?

Sodium is an essential nutrient. As an electrolyte, sodium controls the movement of fluid within the body. This is important in making sure the right amount of fluid is inside and outside of our cells.

A problem arises, however, in cases of high sodium consumption. When you eat foods high in sodium, water retention can also increase. This high amount of water retention, especially in blood vessels, can result in high blood pressure and can add undue stress to veins and arteries.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt. When selecting food items high in sodium, like lunch meat, look at the percent daily value on the far right-hand side of the nutrition facts panel. Choose options that provide 10 percent or less of your daily value.

Those with kidney disease or high blood pressure should be extra cautious of sodium; however, all of us could benefit from consuming less. As mentioned earlier, because lunch meat is one of the highest-sodium foods in the grocery store, it makes it an easy target for reducing your sodium consumption.

Is deli meat unhealthy?

While the average salt content of deli meat is not ideal for many people, there are healthful components of deli meat.

  • Low-fat protein sources: Most deli meats, like turkey, chicken, ham and roast beef, are very lean sources of protein with low fat content.
  • High-protein foods: In addition to minimal fat, deli meats have high protein content; on average, lunch meat contains about 7 grams of protein per ounce of meat.
  • Contains important micronutrients: Micronutrients, like iron and B12, can also be found in deli meat.

While limiting your salt intake, look for the following 10 low sodium lunch meat brands.

Under 100 milligrams (mg) per serving

Under 200 milligrams (mg) per serving

Under 400 milligrams (mg) per serving

Conclusion

Whether rolling around a slice of cheese, as part of a sandwich, or as a protein source on your salad, deli meat can be a healthful and convenient meal or snack item. Keep this in mind and choose the best low-sodium deli meat and side items for your health.

Additional reporting by Kelsey Hampton, MS, RDN, LD, CSSD