our everyday life

Is Lunch Meat Unhealthy?

by Maggie McCormick, studioD

A sandwich featuring lunch meat is a convenient option for school or at work. Lunch meat alone or along with crackers is a delicious snack. However, there are health concerns when it comes to deli meat. Eating these meats regularly can increase your risk of cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.


The nutritional content of lunch meats is generally good. Two slices of lunch meat have around 100 calories, depending on the particular type of meat. As part of a sandwich, this makes for a relatively low calorie lunch. Where you do need to be careful is in looking at the fat content. Certain lunch meats, like bologna, have much higher fat contents than meats like ham or turkey. If you're watching your weight, this could be a concern.

Cancer Risk

Lunch meats have been processed using a variety of techniques in order to preserve the meat. The World Cancer Research Fund found that those who eat even a small amount processed meats on a regular basis increase their risk of bowel cancer by 20 percent. To reduce your risk, limit the amount of processed meat that you eat. Instead of eating a sandwich every day, alternate between sandwiches and salads.

Lunch Meat During Pregnancy

Precooked meats can cause the disease listeria, which pregnant women are about 20 times more likely to get, according to Baby Center. This can transfer to the baby through the placenta or birth canal, potentially causing death. Because of this, lunch meats -- including hot dogs -- should be off the table unless they are served steaming hot. Pregnant women can enjoy a hot dog at a barbecue, but should opt for a vegetable sandwich rather than using deli meat.

Healthier Alternatives

Lunch meat is fine to eat occasionally, but you should limit your consumption. Instead, try packing last night's leftovers, which can contain healthier bits of meat. You might also consider vegetarian sandwiches, burritos, salads or a slice of pizza loaded with vegetables rather than meat.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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