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The hottest cold cuts.

* Which has more fat: Louis Rich Oven Roasted White Chicken or Hillshire Farm Deli Select Pastrami? (The chicken has five times as much.)

* Which has more sodium: Smok-A-Roma Smoked Turkey Breast or Hebrew National Cooked Corned Beef? (The turkey breast has 75 percent more.)

Welcome to the wacky world of luncheon meats, where ham and bologna can be fat-free and where "salami" can be made of turkey.

As it turns out, navigating the luncheon-meat aisle isn't all that tough...as long as you read your labels. Here's a little help:

1. Look for "95% Fat-Free." Packages aren't shy these days. If the meat has little fat, you'll know about it. And if the "% Fat-Free" number on the label is less than 95, leave the pack on the rack.

Why 95 percent? Because it means that a two-ounce serving contains about three grams of fat. That's probably no more than you'd get from the two slices of bread you slap around the meat.

Supermarket shelves are overflowing with 95%'ers. You've even got a slew of fat-free turkey breasts, chicken breasts, and bolognas to choose among. Most taste just like their fattier cousins.

They aren't really fat-free, of course. Companies inject water or broth into the very-lean meat they start with. That means less meat--and less fat--per slice. If they can get the fat down to less than a half-gram per serving, they're allowed to put a "Fat-Free" or "No Fat" claim on the label.

2. Keep the sodium to 400 ma. When we eliminated low-fat luncheon meats with more than 400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving, we ended up with just a half-dozen (not counting the imitation meats). Only one-Russer Light Cooked Ham-wasn't a sliced turkey or chicken breast.

3. Watch those serving sizes. The USDA says that a "serving" of luncheon meat is the number of slices that comes closest to weighing 55 grams (almost two ounces). That works out to about six of the thinner "deli" slices. But a single, thicker slice can also be considered a serving, as long as it weighs at least 28 grams (one ounce).

So double the numbers for one-slice, one-ounce servings before you comparison shop. That's what we've done in our chart.

LUNCHEON-MEAT TIPS

* Poultry. Chicken breast or turkey breast should have the least fat. Just plain chicken, turkey, or chicken roll could include skin or the fatty wing, thigh, or back.

* Ham. Chopped ham has from four to twelve times more fat than boiled, baked, or cooked ham.

* Corned Beef, Pastrami, & Roast Beef. Hillshire Farm, Healthy Choice, Louis Rich, or Hebrew National has far less fat than the greasy stuff served at most delis or sandwich shops.

* Bologna & Salami. Don't assume that they're better if they're made with poultry. Two ounces of Mr. Turkey or Butterball Turkey Bologna has 10 grams of fat. Healthy Choice Beef Bologna has two grams.

* Veggie. Now you're in "Best Bite" territory. Yves Veggie Cuisine Deli Slices was the best-tasting but, frankly, none managed to imbue their soy, tofu, or wheat gluten with the flavor and texture of turkey, ham, chicken, or roast beef.

* Nitrites. Sodium (or potassium) nitrite is a preservative that adds flavor and helps prevent meats from turning grey. It may react with chemicals in food or in the stomach to form tiny amounts of cancer-causing nitrosamines. The vitamin C that's added to packaged meats diminishes the small risk.

* Condiments. Slather your bread with regular mayo and you can ruin even the best-intentioned sandwich. Try mustard, ketchup, or low-fat mayonnaise. And add plenty of tomato, lettuce, and sweet onion.

* Eating Out. Most restaurant deli meats are fatty. Turkey's your best bet. Roast beef is second.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related nutritional chart
Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jul 1, 1996
Words:613
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