Is there such a thing a low sodium deli meat? Can low sodium deli meat be part of a low sodium diet? No matter what reason you are trying to avoid too much sodium, learn more about low sodium deli meat options.
Low Sodium Nutrition
There are many reasons why someone might want to limit how much sodium they eat. A low sodium diet is important for nearly everyone. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that everyone eat no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day. Most of us are eating nearly double that amount of salt.
A low sodium diet is especially important for people with many health conditions. Cutting back on the salt can help control Chronic Kidney Disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and kidney stones. It is also recommended that older adults reduce their sodium to 1,500 mg per day.
Is Low Sodium Deli Meat Healthy?
“Reduced Sodium” Does Not Mean Low Sodium Deli Meat
As you can see from the table below, deli meat that marketed as “low sodium” does not necessarily mean that the meat is low in salt. For a product to be labeled as “reduced sodium”, the food must have at least 25% less sodium than the regular version.(1) Because regular deli meat is so high in sodium, a 25% reduction doesn’t really make it healthy option for a low sodium diet.
As always, the best way to make sure a food is really low in sodium is to look at the Nutrition Facts label.
A Warning About Low Sodium Deli Meat Additives
Even if a deli meat is low in sodium, there are many other factors to consider before calling it “healthy”. Unfortunately, many processed meats (including deli meat) have food additives that are harmful to some people.
Increased Cancer Risk
Multiple studies have linked eating processed meat with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.(2, 3) Of note, these studies have also connected too much eating red meat with cancer.
Specifically, nitrite and nitrate additives are suspected to be the major cancer-causing component of processed meat.(4) Nitrates and nitrites are found in many processed meats such as deli meat, sausage and bacon. They are added to make food products last longer.
Good news! Not all deli meats have nitrates or nitrites added to them. Look at the ingredients on the food label to make sure your deli meat is free of nitrates and nitrites. For example, you may find “sodium nitrate” as an ingredient.
It is important to remember that even low sodium deli meat can have nitrite and nitrate additives.
Phosphorus & Potassium Additives
Phosphorus and potassium additives are especially important to look out for if you have kidney disease. When your kidneys are not working as well as they should, they cannot get rid of extra potassium and phosphorus. Potassium and phosphorus can build up in the blood and cause many complications including heart arrhythmias, bone disease and faster progression of kidney disease.
Unfortunately, many processed foods have potassium and phosphorus added to them. Deli meat is a common culprit of added potassium and phosphorus.
To make sure deli meat does not have these additives in it, check out the ingredients on the Nutrition Facts label. For phosphorus, look for any ingredient that has “PHOS” in it. To see if potassium is added, simply look for the word “potassium”.
Low sodium products are more likely to have potassium food additives. Potassium chloride is commonly used as a salt substitute, and has very large amounts of potassium in it.
Learn more about potassium and phosphorus in kidney disease.
Purines & Gout
Gout is a common condition characterized by high levels of uric acid. Purines are found in many processed foods, including deli meat. Purines metabolize to uric acid and can make gout worse.
If you have gout, I recommend avoiding foods high in purines including deli meat, other processed meats like sausage & bacon, and beer.
Sodium in Deli Meat
Here is a table of many common deli meats from the most popular brands across the country. Note that the nutrition content and ingredients used in deli meat change all the time. This table should only be used as a guide. Always check the label of the specific product you buy to check for sodium and additives.
|Sodium||Nitrate or Nitrite Additives||Potassium Additives||Phosphorus Additives|
|Turkey (per 2oz)|
|Boar's Head Honey Smoked Turkey||480||No||Check label||Yes|
|Boar's Head 46% Lower Sodium Turkey Breast||360||No||Check label||Yes|
|Boar's Head No Salt Added Turkey Breast||55||No||Check label||Yes|
|Butterball Oven Roasted Turkey Breast||450||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Butterball Rotisserie Seasoned Turkey Breast||460||No||Yes||Yes|
|Hillshire Farms Ultra Thin Oven Roasted Turkey Breast||490||No||No||Yes|
|Hillshire Farms Premium Carved Oven Roasted Turkey Breast||450||No||No||No|
|Hillshire Farms Lower Sodium Oven Roasted Turkey Breast||340||No||Yes||Yes|
|Hillshire Farms All Natural Slow Roasted Turkey Breast||350||No||No||No|
|Oscar Mayer Smoked Turkey Breast||480||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer Natural Slow Roasted Turkey Breast||510||No||No||No|
|Applegate Organics Oven Roasted Turkey Breast||380||No||No||No|
|Applegate Naturals Oven Roasted Turkey Breast||250||No||No||No|
|Ham (per 2oz)|
|Boar's Head Virginia Ham||590||No||Check label||Yes|
|Boar's Head Simplicity All Natural Uncured Ham||390||No||Check label||Check label|
|Boar's Head 42% Lower Sodium Ham||480||No||Check label||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Ultra Thin Black Forest Ham||610||No||No||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Honey Ham||570||No||No||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm All Natural Honey Roasted Ham||360||No||No||No|
|Hillshire Farm Premium Carbed Slow Roasted Seasoned Ham||420||No||No||No|
|Hillshire Farm Lower Sodium Honey Ham||370||No||Yes||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Lower Sodium Smoked Uncured Ham||390||No||Yes||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer Natural Applewood Smoked Uncured Ham||460||No||No||No|
|Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Honey Uncured Ham||460||No||No||Yes|
|Applegate Organics Black Forest Ham||410||No||No||No|
|Applegate Naturals Slow Cooked Ham||440||No||No||No|
|Beef (per 2oz)|
|Boar's Head Broil Top Round Roast Beef||310||No||Check label||Yes|
|Boar's Head No Salt Added Roast Beef Round||40||No||Check label||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Ultra Thin Roast Beef||490||No||Yes||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer DeliFresh Slow Roasted Roast Beef||410||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer Natural Slow Roasted Roast Beef||390||No||No||No|
|Applegate Organics Roast Beef||400||No||No||No|
|Chicken (per 2oz)|
|Boar's Head Everroast Oven Roasted Chicken Breast||440||No||Check label||Yes|
|Boar's Head Golden Classic Oven Roasted Chicken Breast - 42% Lower Sodium||350||No||Check label||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Oven Ultra Thin Oven Roasted Chicken Breast||520||No||No||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Premium Carved Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast||530||No||No||No|
|Hillshire Farm Ultra Thin Sliced Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast||540||No||No||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer DeliFresh Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast||520||No||Yes||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer Natural Slow Roasted Chicken Breast||460||No||No||No|
|Applegate Organics Smoked Chicken Breast||450||No||No||No|
|Salami (per 2oz)|
|Boar's Head Roasted Salami||590||No||Check label||Yes|
|Hillshire Farm Ultra Thin Hard Salami||920||No||No||No|
|Oscar Mayer Hard Salami||1020||Yes||No||No|
|Applegate Genoa Salami Trio||960||No||No||No|
|Bologna (per 2oz)|
|Boar's Head Pork & Beef Bologna||530||No||Check label||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer Bologna||500||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oscar Mayer Turkey Bologna||360||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Tips For Building a Better Sandwich
Watch Meat Portion Size
All of the nutrition information in the table is for only 2 ounces of meat. This is only about 2 slices of deli meat. Large sandwiches packed with deli meat could easily have 6 ounces (or more!) of meat. Six ounces of deli meat could easily have 1500mg of sodium – which is the amount some people should have in an entire day!
Use just a few slices of deli meat and bulk up your sandwich with other healthy and tasty ingredients!
Consider Using Unprocessed Meat
You don’t necessarily need to use deli meat to make a delicious sandwich. Use leftover meat or chicken for sandwiches. Or, cook a few chicken breasts weekly to have leftovers to use on sandwiches and salads for a quick, easy and low sodium lunch!
Don’t miss an opportunity to add veggies to your meal! Lettuce, onion, bell pepper or cucumber adds a satisfying crunch to nearly any sandwich. I also love to add tomato or avocado to make sandwiches a bit more interesting.
You could even make a sandwich made completely of vegetables. Try grilled eggplant, zucchini, red onion and bell pepper with hummus and a slice of cheese. Yum!
Avoid Processed Cheese
Not all cheese is created equal. Processed cheeses like American or nacho cheese tend to have much more sodium compared to “natural” cheeses like cheddar or colby.
Generally Swiss and mozzarella cheese are great low sodium options. However, sodium amount can vary quite a bit depending on the brand. Always check the Nutrition Facts label for sodium on whatever kind of cheese you buy.
Watch Our For Pickled Toppings
Remember that it is not just the deli meat that can make a sandwich a high sodium option. Pickled toppings like pickles, picked banana pepper or jalapenos can add a surprising amount of sodium. Three small dill pickle slices has about 170mg of sodium!
If you love that pickled flavor, try making your own quick pickled vegetables as a sandwich topper!
Be Choosy with Your Bread
Bread can add a surprising amount of sodium to your sandwich! Some breads pack nearly 450mg of sodium per slice!
I recommend looking for a bread that has less than 175mg of sodium per slice. Also, make sure to choose a healthy whole grain bread so you don’t miss out on fiber. Make sure your bread has at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.
My personal favorite bread is Brownberry Oatnut Bread – which has 150mg of sodium and 3 grams of fiber per slice.
Be Mindful of Condiments
Loading up on condiments can quickly turn your low sodium sandwich into a salty meal. A little is absolutely okay! But, be mindful of how much of any condiment you add to your sandwich. The sodium can add up quickly!
Sodium amount in 1 teaspoon*:
- Yellow Mustard: 55mg
- Dijon Mustard: 115mg
- Ketchup: 45mg
- Mayonnaise: 30mg
- Italian Dressing: 50mg
- Pesto: 50mg
- Guacamole: 17mg
- Hummus: 21mg
*Sodium amount varies based on brand. Use these sodium amounts as a general guide. Note that this is the sodium amount in only 1 teaspoon; many portion sizes are much larger.
Add Healthy Sides!
I like to think of every meal as an opportunity to eat more fruits and vegetables. Most of us should be eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Instead of salty traditional sandwich sides like potato chips or French fries, try a side salad or fruit. Or, simple carrot and celery sticks are quick and easy!
16 thoughts on “Low Sodium Deli Meat: A Dietitian Weighs In”
Melanie. My husband is in late stage 4 CKD and will have transplant surgery Sept. 20. He has never been on dialysis. Can you recommend an appropriate food plan to help keep his GFR stable (17) until surgery?
Hi Deborah! That is such exciting news about your husband! I can’t provide individualized information for people without knowing much more about medical history, labs and current eating habits. I would highly recommend meeting with a dietitian at your medical facility to see what he can do to keep his GFR stable until September!
I was told by a dietician- No whole , whole grains – only white bread( I’m on dialysis)
Everyone has different nutrition needs! I will say that new guidelines came out in 2020 that encourages more whole grains for people with kidney disease – even those on dialysis! You might want to share this article with your dietitian!
Hi I just found out I’m stage 3A kidney disease. I’m also a diabetic and dairy sensitive and have IBS. I pick and choose what will make me feel better/when eating. Carbs are easy to digest but not good for diabetes. While wheat bread is better for diabetes but not for kidneys. Dairy is out even boarshead imported Swiss bothers me. All acidic vegetables are out because of IBS. I don’t likes eggs. Help
Hi Melanie! I think that this article might be helpful to you! Also, I usually do recommend wheat bread for CKD, despite the higher phosphorus amount because it isn’t absorbed. I hope these resources help!
Question about nitrates. A dietician who blogs on a Mediterranean site said that food that claim no nitrates use a product made from celery that is actually worse. Thoughts?
Hmmm. I’m honestly not familiar with this ingredient. I’d imagine it depends on the product, how much of this ingredient is actually in this food and the consumers medical history!
Celery extract has naturally occurring nitrates so it’s not better for cancer protection but won’t contain phosphate additives.
Do you have any data to suggest that celery (in whole food or “extract” form) has any impact on cancer?
Do you have any homemade oat bran bread or muffin recipes? Good to know about the Oat Nut bread, thank you!
Hi JJ! Mmmm! I love muffins and yummy brunch breads! I don’t have any ready right now, but I’ll add it to my list of recipes to add to the site. Thank you for the suggestion!
Melanie, thank you so much for this informative information. I now know which brand of deli meats to steer clear of and to look for potassium levels as well. Thank you!
Thank you, Nancy! You are so welcome! I’m so happy to hear you found this helpful.
Thank you very much for this healthy,information.lt will help me how to prepare foods which low in sodium.
Low sodium,healthy kidney.
You are so welcome! Thank you for your comment. Best of luck to you on your journey to kidney health!