When you need to whip up a last-minute lunch for your kids, deli meats can seem like a savior. Just slap a slice of ham on bread, add some cheese, mustard, and lettuce, and you’re good to go. But for all the convenience that comes with deli meats, there are downsides for the health of your child and the planet.
To start with, deli meats aren’t healthy. They are a form of processed meat and have been deemed carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. Not to mention deli meats drive the demand for industrially-produced meat, which has been linked to a complex chain of practices that are generally awful for the environment.
Fortunately, there are a whole bunch of fantastic alternatives that busy parents can use in place of deli meats. Here’s a healthy list compiled by Treehugger writer Katherine Martinko.
Eggs: Cook hardboiled eggs and mash them up into a batch of egg salad to make sandwiches throughout the week. Put a fried egg in a bun with cheese, lettuce, and tomato, or scoop scrambled eggs into a tortilla with black beans, salsa, and cheese.
Falafel: You can buy quick falafel mixes that just require water (or make your own from scratch with dried chickpeas). Fry up a batch in the morning or night before, and insert into a pita with fillings like tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and onion.
Nut butter: Nothing beats old fashioned peanut butter and banana or jam sandwich. If your kid’s school is nut-free, try Wow Butter (made from soy) or sunflower butter.
Cream cheese: Slather cream cheese onto bread and you’ve got a great lunch. Add some spinach, pickles, sprouts for crunch.
Halloumi: Grilled or pan-fried halloumi is heavenly. Slip it into a pita or roll, along with some vegetables, for a chewy, salty filling.
Roasted vegetables: If your child is an adventurous eater, you might be able to convince them that roasted red peppers, eggplant, and zucchini with cheese are a tasty combination.
Hummus: Hummus is the most famous of the bean/legume spreads, but you can make delicious spreads from most beans. Add lots of olive oil, garlic, and seasonings. Add pickled vegetables, lettuce, crunchy sprouts, and cheese.
Veggie burger: Make a black bean or lentil patty, put it in a bun, add avocado slices, tomato, and whatever other toppings you’d use on a burger.
Tofu Banh Mi: Dredge tofu in cornstarch and fry till crispy. Pack into a roll with shredded carrots, cucumber, mayo, Sriracha, and cilantro.
Leftover (Good) Meat: If you buy high-quality, free-range meat to eat for main meals, you can turn the leftovers into a great sandwich or wrap fillings.