Grocery Shopping 101: Your Guide to the Deli Counter

Article posted in: Nutrisystem for Men
assorted deli meats on a cutting board

Your Nutrisystem weight loss plan comes with meals and snacks made with the most nutritious ingredients, including PowerFuels that provide you with protein to support lean muscle. When shopping for yourself, you want to get the same kinds of lean protein. Sliced meats and cheeses from the deli counter are convenient PowerFuels that you can enjoy in sandwiches or salads, but remember to limit yourself to two-ounce servings of meats and one-ounce servings of cheese to stay on track to your goal.

And keep in mind these simple deli guidelines to help you choose the best cold cuts for steady weight loss:


Selecting the right products starts with understanding this trio of potential pitfalls of deli items.

Sodium: Many cheeses and processed meats come with substantial amounts of salt. While your body needs sodium daily, excessive amounts of the mineral cause your body to retain water, leaving you feeling bloated and, over the long term, increasing stress on your cardiovascular system that can lead to high blood pressure and stroke. The Recommended Daily Allowance for sodium is 2,300 milligrams. An average slice of deli bologna has about 300 milligrams while an average slice of American cheese can have more than 450 milligrams. Many items now come in low-sodium varieties—choose them whenever possible.

Fresh-sliced vs. pre-packaged: When the waiting line at the deli is long, you may be tempted to simply pick up cold cuts and cheese that come to the store already sliced and packaged. But be aware that these items often contain even more salt and lots of preservatives to help them stay fresh after they’re purchased. Skip the pre-packaged and instead look for the kiosk, now found in many stores, where you can place your deli order while you do the rest of your grocery shopping.

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Is deli meat healthy? What is the healthiest sandwich meat? The best meat choices are those that are the least processed, with turkey and chicken breast topping the list. They are lower in calories and saturated fats than other kinds of meat. Be aware that “honey-roasted” varieties may come with extra sugar and calories, while seasoned flavors such as “Southwest” or “Cajun” style often have more sodium than the standard.


Sliced roast beef and roast pork are minimally processed and have more protein than poultry, but also more calories and fat. Ham and other cured meats are loaded with protein, but they are typically high in sodium as well as fats. Smoked ham tends to have more sodium than boiled or baked varieties. Ask for uncured ham (where available) or the low-sodium option. And as with turkey, beware of “honey” in the name, which can indicate added sugars.

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Processed meats, such as bologna, salami and the like, come with more calories, fats and sodium than other kinds of cold cuts. Depending on the variety, they may also have flavorings, fillers and other kinds of additives that increase calories without providing more nutrients. If that’s not reason enough to avoid these items, consider that a study by the World Health Organization has linked consumption of processed meats to an increased risk of cancer.


What is the healthiest deli cheese? Sliced cheese is a common companion to deli meats that adds healthy calcium as well as protein to your sandwich or salad. But sliced cheese also can come with a hefty dose of saturated fats and salt. Swiss cheese has almost twice the protein of American cheese and less salt, but also 50 percent more calories and fat. The stronger taste of Swiss may mean that you need fewer slices, so your sandwich is healthier overall. Provolone and cheddar are usually lower in calories than Swiss, but higher in salt. With all types of cheese, ask for low-sodium and low-fat versions when they are available.

The healthiest choices are always those with the highest concentration of nutrients and the fewest calories.

Check out this handy guide to better understand what you should order and avoid while at the deli counter or convenience store:

Deli convenience eating out guide

Haven’t taken the steps to start your journey with Nutrisystem? Get started with a weight loss plan today!