Growing up I went through a phase of eating strictly ham, mayonnaise, and mustard sandwiches for lunch. I soon said screw the ham, what I really liked was mayonnaise, mustard, and bread. So lunches changed to mayonnaise and mustard sandwiches.
I'm not sure what happened between then and middle school and high school, but for the next 7 years, I relied on peanut butter sandwiches almost daily. I also went through phases of snacking on ham or turkey roll ups. As you can see my dietary preferences and habits changed as a kid and continue to do so.
I don't have food rules, I don't label foods as 'good' or 'bad' and I am by no means the 'food police.' So, while I'm a firm believer in allowing all foods to fit. I also believe there are healthier alternatives to processed meat sandwiches.
As I look back now, apparently I was never really a fan of processed meat sandwiches, but for no particular reason. At the time, I had no ideation of health implications.
The World Health Organization has since classified processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, sausage, ham, and some deli meats) as carcinogens. Meaning, excessive consumption has been linked with cancer diagnoses. While deli sandwiches are an easy go-to, there are so many other healthy sandwiches out there.
See a few of my favorite simple, alternatives below.
1. Canned Tuna or Salmon
Call me crazy but I love a good tuna sandwich. As much as I loved mayo as a kid, somehow my taste buds have changed yet again. I now mix my tuna with avocado, or maybe a little Greek yogurt or salad dressing. I usually add dijon or honey mustard, relish, and apples or celery pieces. Whether I put it in a pita pocket or toss it on a salad, it's a simple go-to and keeps me full for hours. Tuna and salmon are both great sources of protein and omega-3s.
2. Grilled Chicken Breast
Some people batch cook chicken each week to keep on hand for different meals each night. If this is you (or you want this to be you) try using your prepared chicken to mix up your lunch. Personally, I love pesto chicken sandwiches, but plain chicken with spinach and mustard can be equally delicious.
3. Peanut Butter and Fresh Berries
Peanut butter and jelly tastes good, but fresh berries are really the way to go. I love the natural sweetness of the fresh fruit and I think the flavor is much better than most jams or jellies. I love peanut butter with strawberries, blueberries, or even sliced peaches. This tastes great on an English muffin or sliced bread.
4. Hummus and Veggie Wrap
I like to use my leftover roasted veggies for this one. I combine whatever veggies I have on hand with hummus, greens, and maybe some mustard to have a simple and delicious lunch.
5. Black Bean Wraps
Another good wrap idea. Black beans are a good source of both protein and fiber. I like to mix it with cumin or taco flavored spices, a whole grain (quinoa or rice), peppers, onions, spinach, roasted veggies, or even some hummus.