On Monday we took a look at the produce aisles in your grocery store. Today, let’s take a walk through the deli and the bakery.
Today there are more options at the deli counter than just deli meats. There is often also a variety of pre-made options, everything from salads to roasted chickens, complete with vegetable and potato side dishes.
Let’s start with the deli meats themselves — whether already cut and vacuum packed, or freshly sliced there are three types of deli meats available to you:
1. Whole cut — exactly as it sounds, this means the meat was taken whole from the animal and cooked. Seasoning of some kind was likely added. Roast beef, corned beef and poultry breasts are generally whole cuts.
2. Formed meat — this is when smaller pieces of meat are literally pressed together to create the larger slab of meat as you see it at the deli counter. The meat is bound together using a non-meat additive or a meat protein.
3. Processed meat — this is any type of sausage. Smaller chunks of meat are bound with similar products as with formed meat, and stuffed into tubes. Meat by-products are also often used when making processed meats, such as tripe, stomachs and hearts. Most of what you may consider a “cold cut” will be sausage style.
Overall, deli meat is higher in sodium than if you bought fresh uncooked meat and sliced it for sandwiches (which overall, would be the healthiest choice). Smoked meats are the highest in sodium.
Your worst choices when it comes to fat content are: bologna, pastrami, pickle loaf, and salami.
Even though they may cost a little more, opt for whole meat cuts whenever possible, and choose sausage-style meat the least. Having your meat sliced thin or even shaved may also cut down on the amount of meat you use in a sandwich if you fluff it up, instead of layering on thick slices.
If you’re going to have a deli salad on the side choose carefully. Most of the pre-made salads are full of sodium, fats and possibly even sugar. Even the “healthier” bean or veggie options are covered in dressing.
If your grocery store offers pre-made salads in the produce section with dressing on the side, these are always a healthier option than the deli salads. Just go easy on the dressing, and any other toppings like croutons and bacon bits — if you need to use them at all.
The same goes for any hot side dishes your deli offers. There’s no way to know what is in the seasonings or cooking oils used — your best bet is to just stay away from these options all together.
But if you’re still looking to save some time and get a pre- made meal, opt for roasted over mashed potatoes, choose roasted or grilled veggies. The same goes for your meat — avoid breaded or fried, and go with roasted instead.
As it often does, your health may be taking the backseat to convenience when it comes to pre-made meals at the deli. You’re best bet is to avoid this section all together, but if you choose not to, at least you can go with the healthier options.
The bakery is often an area where you need some strong will power — full of delicious baked goods and bread. You probably already know that whole wheat is your best option. Look for packages that actually contain “whole wheat” in the ingredient list.
But did you know that if you’re concerned with keeping your blood sugar low after eating stone ground bread is your best choice. Stone ground bread doesn’t grind as finely as regular milled flour, leaving denser fiber particles.
And don’t be fooled by tortilla and pita shells. One slice of bread (35g) is one grain serving, often that’s just half a large tortilla or pita shell — so pay attention to your labels. The same goes for bagels. Some of today’s bagels are the equivalent to 5 slices of bread!
If you’re buying fresh bread, have it sliced at the bakery, and go thin. Opt for whole wheat as much as possible, and pay attention to the serving sizes listed on items like tortillas.
And as for all of those muffins, danishes, cakes and donuts. . . moderation is key. They’re all packed full of fats and sugars, not to mention white flour. What about bran muffins? Well depending on where they are baked they may not actually be any better for you. Aside from the addition of bran, they may not have any less calories and may actually have up to double the sodium content!
Without sounding like a broken record, you best bet again – – bake treats at home! Or find a local bakery (or farmer’s market!) that you know uses as few ingredients as possible, and those that they do use are of the healthier variety.
I’ll be back again tomorrow to take you around the rest of the grocery store.