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Best Practices: How to Select Deli Meats for Your Cholesterol-Lowering Diet


Updated April 15, 2014

Best Practices: How to Select Deli Meats for Your Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

Ways to include deli meats in your cholesterol-lowering diet.

olgna, istockphoto

For some of us, the addition of meat is the best part of a sandwich or wrap. However, if you have started watching your cholesterol, adding those plentiful layers of deli meat could sabotage an otherwise heart-healthy meal. Animal meats contain varying amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol – both of which could increase lipid levels in your blood. If you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet and would like to include cuts of deli meat in some of your dishes, this list will assist you in selecting lean deli meats to place in your next sandwich or wrap.

Deli Meats Lower in Fat Content

Deli cuts from ground poultry, such as chicken and turkey, typically contain lower amounts of saturated fat compared to other deli meats. However, you should make sure you select certain parts of bird to ensure that you are getting the leanest cuts of meat. White meat, which includes muscles from the breast and the wings of the bird, usually has a lower saturated fat and cholesterol content compared to dark meat, which usually includes muscle tissue from the thighs and legs of the bird. For the following portions:

  • One slice of roasted turkey breast (57 grams) contains 0 grams of saturated fat, and only 35 grams of cholesterol.
  • Four slices of roasted chicken breast (52 grams) contains 0 grams of saturated fat and only 25 grams of cholesterol.

By substituting a high-saturated fat deli meats with a leaner portions of chicken or turkey, you can reduce the amount of fat that you introduce into your diet.

Deli Meats Higher in Fat Content

Some deli meats that are higher in fat, and may introduce excess cholesterol and saturated fat into your diet. These meats include:

  • Pastrami – Two slices (57 grams) contains 1 gram of saturated fat and 31 grams of cholesterol
  • Salami – One slice (28 grams) contains 0.8 grams of saturated fat and 21 grams of cholesterol
  • Bologna – One slice (23 grams) contains 2.6 grams of saturated fat and 13 grams of cholesterol
  • Ham – Two slices (42 grams) contains 2.4 grams of saturated fat and 21 grams of cholesterol
  • Roast beef – Two slices (53 grams) contain 2 grams of saturated fat and 40 grams of cholesterol

Although one slice of any of these deli meats may not greatly affect your lipid levels, heaping on multiple slices onto your sandwich or into your wrap can add more fat – and calories – to your diet.

Selecting Deli Meats: Best Practices

If you have a craving to include deli meat into your cholesterol-lowering diet, these helpful tips will ensure that you are including healthy cuts of meat that will not cause your cholesterol levels to greatly increase:

  • Consume animal meats in moderation. Adding animal meats regularly to your diet – especially on top of other foods you may be eating that are high in fat – can introduce even more fat into your daily intake.
  • Select deli meats that are labeled as lean and low in fat. This will ensure that the meat is lower in saturated fat than its high fat counterparts. These meats typically have less fat within the meat, or may be sliced a little bit thinner than typically cuts to reduce fat.
  • If you have an option for some poultry, opt for cuts from white meat instead of dark meat. For example, one cup (140 g) of chicken consisting of mostly white meat contains only 1.8 grams of saturated fat and 119 grams of cholesterol, whereas the same portion of mostly dark meat contains up to 3.7 grams of saturated fat and 130 grams of cholesterol.
  • Switch it up with meat substitutes. Many meat substitutes, such as soybean patties or tofu, offer the same delicious taste and texture to a sandwich or wrap without the added saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • When in doubt, check the label. The above listings are averages, so your deli meat may be higher or lower in saturated fat and cholesterol content. Therefore, you should always consult the nutritional label on the package to check the fat, cholesterol, and caloric content.


Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 12th ed 2010.

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