Consumer Reports’ tasters recently tried 18 packaged turkey slices, and although none would beat meat sliced off the bone, some are worthy alternatives if you want to save a little money or skip a deli line.The top-rated products tend to be tender, flavorful and made from whole meat sliced from the breast rather than reformed from various pieces. And the worst? To quote CR’s tasters, Market Pantry Ultra Thin roast turkey slices from Target are “slick” and “sour.” Land O’Frost smoked turkey slices are “rubbery, with a chewy rind.”
All earned a Good score for nutrition, based on fairly low energy density (calories per gram of food), fats, sodium, sugars and iron. Per two-slice serving, the recommended products have 45 to 60 calories, zero to 1 gram of fat, and 360 to 620 milligrams of sodium. Two of the three Hillshire Farm products have the most sodium; Market Pantry Less Sodium and Applegate have the least.
Sodium nitrite and nitrate are often added to sliced turkey as preservatives, but those compounds, which occur naturally in some foods, may form nitrosamines, which can cause cancer in lab animals. Three tested products — Applegate Naturals and two Hormel Natural Choice Deli products, Roasted and Smoked — claim “no nitrates or nitrites added.” Kirkland Signature has no label claim, but the maker told CR that it doesn’t add nitrates. The other products that were tested have added nitrites.
Bottom line: The 10 recommended turkey slices include six CR Best Buys: Kirkland Signature Sliced (Costco), Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh, Market Pantry Ultra Thin Less Sodium (Target), and Bar-S Deli Shaved, all Roasted, plus two Smoked products, Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh and Hormel Natural Choice Deli. Among the top roasted choices, Kirkland Signature (Costco) and Oscar Mayer Carving Board are thick, flavorful whole-meat slices. Kirkland Signature comes in three 14-ounce packages, so if you choose it, plan to feed a crew. (The package recommends eating it within seven days of opening it.)
Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh slices are thin and tender, with a hint of smoke. Among the top smoked choices, Oscar Mayer Carving Board and Hormel have thick slices that taste like turkey-ham. Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh has thin turkey slices with a big smoky flavor.
BREAD NUTRITION: BAGEL OR CROISSANT?
When white bread is too boring for that turkey sandwich, what’s a healthful alternative? CR looked at nutrition stats for 33 bagels, croissants, flatbreads, pitas, rolls and tortillas, and scored each based on calories, fats, sodium, sugars, iron, calcium and fiber. CR found Very Good products in most categories.
Scoring just Fair, generally because they’re relatively high in fat: Udi’s Gluten Free Plain Bagels, Trader Giotto’s Focaccini (Trader Joe’s), Nature’s Promise White Flour Tortillas, and Kirkland Signature Butter Croissants (Costco). Four flatbreads that testers checked all received a score of Good. By comparison, sliced wheat bread (Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain 100 percent Whole Wheat) rates a Very Good; sliced white bread (Wonder), a Good.
Bottom line: Even among the Very Good breads, nutrition and weight vary, so check the numbers. Usually 100 percent whole-wheat breads or those with whole-wheat flour as their first ingredient are more healthful than others.
The nutrition of a sandwich depends largely on what’s between the bread:
— Sliced turkey. 60 calories, 1 gram of fat
— Peanut butter and jelly. 250 calories, 16 grams of fat
— Beef bologna and cheese. 280 calories, 25 grams of fat
— Tuna (light, in water) and mayo. 165 calories, 12 grams of fat.