Aisle by Aisle: What To Do at the Deli Counter

To help make for healthier supermarket trips, we’ve filled you in on dos and don'ts for breads, cereals, dairy, bakery and frozen foods. Now we’re exploring the best choices when you roll your cart up to the deli counter.
deli case by Jackson Chu

To help make for healthier supermarket trips, we’ve filled you in on dos and don'ts for breads, cereals, dairy, bakery goods and frozen foods. Now we’re exploring the best choices when you roll your cart up to the deli counter.

Cold Cuts & Cheeses

There is such a wide variety of choices when it comes to deli meats, and they definitely come in handy for simple lunchtime sandwiches or a no-cook option on a hot weeknight. The most important thing is choosing the ones that are lowest in fat and sodium. Lean meats -- turkey, chicken breast and lean cuts of ham or roast beef -- are low in fat and a great source of healthy protein. Steer clear of higher-fat options like bologna, liverwurst and salami. Two-ounces of roasted turkey breast has 60 calories, 1 gram of fat and 11 grams of protein; the same amount of bologna has 150 calories, 13 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein.

Cold cuts are famously high in sodium. Ask the counter attendant about any low-sodium versions (especially if you need to watch your salt intake). Sodium content varies brand to brand, but reduced-sodium varieties often are about 50% lower than the regular ones. Either way, look for meats with no more than 300 to 400 milligrams of sodium per serving.

For sliced cheese, low-fat varieties are also your best option to keep fat, calories and cholesterol down -- Jarlsberg Lite and Alpine Lace Swiss are some good ones you might ask for.

Of course, knowing how much of what is in each each block of meat or cheese can be tough. You can't always read the food labels through the glass case. Instead, come prepared by visiting the websites of companies like Boar’s Head and Applegate Farms to get the info before your market trip.

Prepared Foods

Ready-made foods also fill the chilled cases, and you really should proceed with caution when browsing these. The chicken, egg, tuna and macaroni salads may look tempting, but many of these foods are brimming with mayonnaise and saturated fat. A 1/4-pound container of traditional macaroni salad has almost 500 calories and more than 20 grams of fat! Better choices would be salads with vinaigrette dressings and whole grains like brown rice salads or bulgur wheat. Still, you should keep portions to 1/2 cup or so to be on the safe side. While not full of mayo, they're often drenched with oil instead.

Making it more tricky, prepared foods usually don’t have a food labels either. You can get a general idea of the nutrition info by checking out some online grocery stores; they often provide nutrition information for all their prepared products. It may not be exactly the same as your local store, but it will at least give you a ballpark idea.

Olives, Pickles and Antipasti

Some deli counter sections may also offer an olive bar with marinated vegetables, fresh mozzarella cheeses, pickles and, yes, olives. Many of these foods (especially the olives and pickles) are packed in salty brine, so make sure to drain them well and use small portions to complement a less-salty meal.

[Photo courtesy of Jackson_chu / Flickr]
TELL US: What do you always pick up at the deli counter?

Next Up

The Best New Frozen Treats in the Ice Cream Aisle

Summer’s most nostalgic treats just got a new twist.

Aisle-by-Aisle Summer Shopping

Heading to the supermarket with a shopping list is one thing, but leaving with what you need is another entirely. Yes, they stock charcoal; but should you buy briquettes or hardwood? Your buddy loves shrimp; do you get large or jumbo? For every summer essential, there seems to be a confusing variation — cilantro or parsley, whipping cream or heavy cream. Here, a cheat sheet to a half dozen shopping conundrums. Remember it the next time you hit the store and you'll come out a winner.

Aisle by Aisle: Candy and Chocolates

With Halloween around the corner, here’s a rundown on some of the popular varieties and the best choices for those Halloween treat bags.

Aisle by Aisle: Choosing Healthy Cereals

Even some so-called “healthy” cereals seem good for you but are fall of sugar and few nutritional benefits. Whether you have a bowl for breakfast or munch on some for a snack, here are tips for picking the best cereals.

Aisle by Aisle: Browsing the Bakery

Choosing cookies, cakes, pies or fresh breads can be tricky -- here are a few tips to make the best choices when browsing the supermarket bakery section.

Aisle by Aisle: Buying Healthy Bread

Take a walk down the bread aisle at your market and see how long it takes to find a loaf without high-fructose corn syrup. It took me 30 minutes the first time I tried! Many packaged bread loaves have added ingredients that aren’t so healthy, even though their labels sport fancy words like "multigrain" and "unbleached flour." Follow these tips to get the best bread.

Aisle by Aisle: Navigating the Dairy Case

The dairy section can get a bit overwhelming, but here are some hints on what you should be looking for on your next trip to the market.

Aisle by Aisle: Smart Picks For Condiments

Most condiment aisles are jam-packed with all kinds of sauces, mustards, mayos and combinations of the three, and finding healthy options can be tricky. You don’t have avoid condiments altogether. It's all about using them wisely.

Aisle by Aisle: Sorting Through Frozen Food Options

It seems like the freezer section gets bigger and bigger everyday. Can frozen foods be part of your healthy diet and which should you stay away from? Here’s our take on the some of the more popular products lining the freezer aisle.

Pop Goes the Popcorn Aisle

Have you noticed all the popcorn snacks popping up on supermarket shelves? Some might even merit a spot in your shopping cart.