Going out to lunch can often mean choosing between taste and nutrition. Greasy burgers, sugary sodas, and heavy sandwiches are convenient but not always the healthiest options. However, your local deli offers quick and satisfying meals that can also be good for you.
With some simple swaps and smart choices, you can enjoy healthy lunches from the deli case. This beginner’s guide will walk you through the 5 healthiest lunch options at your local deli. You’ll learn how to identify better-for-you ingredients, build nutritious sandwiches and salads, and make smart drink choices.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to guilt-free, delicious deli lunches. Time to take your midday meal from greasy to nutritious!
Choose Whole Grain Breads and Wraps Lunch
The foundation of any good deli lunch is the bread or wrap holding it all together. White breads and refined wraps may be common choices, but they lack nutritional value. Whole grain options provide important fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Look for 100% whole grain or whole wheat breads. Read ingredient labels and choose options with whole grains listed first. Look for at least 2-3 grams of fiber per slice. Options like whole wheat, rye, or pumpernickel provide nutrition without sacrificing taste.
Whole grain wraps are also excellent choices. Look for wraps made with whole wheat, brown rice, or other whole grain flours. Spinach, tomato, and other veggie wraps add extra nutrients. Corn tortillas and 100% whole wheat lavash or flatbreads make healthy wrap alternatives too.
Choosing whole grains provides more filling fiber to help you feel satisfied. By swapping out refined breads and wraps, you’ll get important nutrients and avoid the blood sugar spike of simple carbs.
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Load Up on Vegetable Toppings
Don’t stop with just whole grain breads and wraps! Piling vegetables on your sandwich or wrap makes for an even healthier and more nutritious lunch option.
Skip the deli meat in favor of veggie-focused fillings. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms all make excellent sandwich toppers. You’ll benefit from their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
If you want some protein too, add nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, or avocado for healthy fats. Hummus, bean sprouts, or grilled veggies like zucchini, eggplant, or onions are other great vegetable protein sources.
Don’t be shy with your veggie toppings! Create a rainbow on your plate with bright, colorful produce. The more veggies, the more nutrients you’ll benefit from.
Choose Lean Deli Meats
Sure if you really want to have deli meats it’s best to choose the options. Processed meats tend to be high, in saturated fat and sodium. It’s important to consume them in moderation. However there are choices that’re better, than others.
Look for lower-fat options like turkey, chicken, and roast beef. Stay away from higher-fat choices like bologna, salami, and pastrami. Be aware of sodium content too, and ask for low or reduced sodium options when available.
When in doubt, choose a smaller portion. Opt for just 1-2 slices or ounces of lean meat rather than piling half your sandwich high. Pair it with plenty of nutrient-packed vegetable toppings too.
Other tips? Skip the creamy, high-fat dressings and sauces, ask for your meat sliced fresh instead of pre-packaged, and remove the skin from poultry before eating. Following these best practices will help you enjoy deli meats in a healthier way.
Build Nutritious Salads Lunch
A salad is one of the healthiest lunch options at the deli, but only if you build it right! A salad loaded with fatty meats, cheeses, and creamy dressing isn’t doing you any nutritional favors.
Begin by selecting a foundation of vibrant leafy greens such, as spinach, kale or a mix of field greens. Then incorporate an assortment of flavorful vegetables, like tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and avocado.
For protein, stick to grilled chicken, salmon, or plant-based options like nuts, chickpeas, or tofu. As for dressing, choose oil and vinegar, lemon juice, or a light vinaigrette. Stay away from heavy creamy dressings like ranch or blue cheese.
A salad made with lots of vegetables, lean protein, and a light dressing provides a nutrient powerhouse in your take-out lunch. Balance out your meal with a hearty whole grain like quinoa or brown rice too.
Pick Smart Beverage Options
Don’t let an unhealthy beverage undo all your smart deli choices. Sodas, juices, and sugary iced teas can load you up with added sugar and calories. However, you have healthy drink options!
Water is always the healthiest choice to hydrate while avoiding calories. Jazz it up with citrus slices or cucumber. Opt for seltzer or sparkling water if you want some bubbles.
Low-fat or nonfat milk provides bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D. Opt for unsweetened varieties to avoid extra sugar.
If you want real fruit juice, choose 100% varieties without added sugars. Limit to a small size, as juice lacks fiber and is high in natural sugar.
Choose unsweetened tea and add your own touch of honey, stevia, or fruit if desired.
Made with fruit, veggies, and protein, a smoothie can be a nutritious on-the-go meal. Choose low-sugar ingredients and avoid excessive toppings like whipped cream.
Drink smart by opting for mainly water and nutritious drinks without added sugars. Don’t undermine your healthy lunch with beverage choices packed with empty calories.
Moderation and Variety are Key
Eating healthy at the deli is all about balance. You can enjoy any of your favorite menu items, just follow the 80/20 rule.
Make whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and veggies the stars of your meal 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, feel free to indulge in higher calorie options in moderation.
Pair your favorite roast beef sandwich with carrot sticks instead of chips. Get that pasta salad you love, but have a side salad too. And always, always savor your choices! Eating healthy meals you genuinely enjoy makes maintaining healthy habits so much easier.
Vary your choices as well. Don’t get stuck in a lunch rut ordering the same turkey sub or salad every day. Take advantage of all the delicious healthy possibilities the deli offers. Try new whole grain breads, experiment with veggies, swap in different proteins to find options you love. Variety ensures you get a diversity of nutrients and keeps your tastebuds happy.
With balance and moderation in mind, you can healthily satisfy any deli craving. Keep these tips in mind for guilt-free lunches that please your tastebuds and nourish your body.
The 5 Healthiest Lunch Options at Your Local Deli
In summary, here are the top 5 healthiest lunch options to enjoy at your local deli:
- Whole Grain Sandwich – Choose whole grain bread or wraps and pile them high with fresh vegetable toppings. Add lean protein like turkey or hummus if desired.
- Veggie-Packed Salad – Build a salad starting with dark leafy greens and loading up with fresh vegetables, chickpeas or other plant-based protein, and light dressing.
- Lean Deli Meat Sandwich – Enjoy a sandwich with 1-2 slices of lean roast beef, turkey, or chicken breast paired with veggie toppings. Ask for low sodium options.
- Smart Beverages – Avoid sugary drinks and instead choose water, unsweetened tea, sparkling water, or a small low-sugar smoothie.
- Deli Side Dishes – Take advantage of healthy deli side dishes like house-made grilled veggie platters, fresh fruit cups, bean salads, or steamed mixed veggies.
With these nutritious and delicious options in mind, you’ll be prepared to make smart choices when grabbing lunch from the deli. Follow these tips and you can feel good about enjoying flavorful food that’s good for you too.
The Key is Making Smart Swaps
Healthy deli choices are all about making simple swaps to lighten up your lunch favorites. Here are some easy food tweaks to try:
- Whole grain bread instead of white
- Spinach wrap rather than refined flour tortilla
- Double the veggies, hold the creamy dressing
- Mushrooms instead of sausage
- Hummus for mayo
- Mustard or oil & vinegar instead of mayo-based salad dressing
- Light cheese slices instead of full-fat varieties
- Sparkling water rather than soda
Small changes make a big impact! With smart substitutions, you can still enjoy the deli flavors you crave while boosting nutrition.
Ready to Get Started?
Now you have all the tools you need to navigate the deli counter and come away with healthy, balanced meals. Follow these tips on your next deli run:
- Do your research – Check out the deli’s website or call ahead to plan healthy choices. Look for whole grain bread options, lean proteins, and veggie sides.
- Ask questions – Don’t be shy! Ask the counter staff for recommendations on healthier options, lower sodium meats, fresh vs packaged ingredients, etc.
- Load up on veggies – Pile those nutrient-rich vegetables onto your sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
- Go easy on dressings and sauces – Stick to simple oil and vinegar or mustard instead.
- Make smart swaps – Trade white bread for whole grain, chips for fruit, and soda for seltzer.
- Try new things – Vary your choices to discover new healthy favorites.
- Savor your food! – Choosing options you genuinely enjoy makes healthy eating truly sustainable.
The deli may seem like a nutritional minefield, but with the right knowledge, you can create standout healthy lunches. You’ll feel satisfied, energized, and thrilled with your nutritious finds. Here’s to healthy and delicious deli dining!