Eating processed meat causes cancer as much as cigarettes, asbestos, arsenic and other known carcinogens. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that bacon, hot dogs, ham, sausage and lunch meat are just as carcinogenic as smoking. They increase risk of colorectal, or bowel cancer. School-age children and teens are probably at the greatest risk. School lunches and breakfasts rely on processed meat. Popular entrees are hot dogs, brats, pizza, sandwiches, wraps, diced meat salads, subs and breakfast sandwiches. Every day in school kids eat ham, turkey, bacon, pepperoni, salami, lunch meat, cold cuts and sausage patties. Here are healthy meatless school lunches and breakfasts minus processed meat. Serve these kid-pleasing entrees using vegetarian food swaps. Make ahead and refrigerate for quick school lunches.
Meatless FLT sandwiches (falafel, lettuce and tomato, a bacon-free version of the BLT): Make a batch of falafel burgers (use the boxed kind like Ziyad for quick prep). Spread falafel mix thin like lunch meat and fry in olive oil. Serve in pita pocket sandwiches, wraps or on whole grain bread. Top with child’s favorite veggies: tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce, cucumbers and onions. Serve a side of ranch dressing. This is good for quick school breakfasts.
“No processed meat” pizza: Hold the ham, bacon and sausage. Top pizza with cooked cubed chicken breast, buffalo sauce, cheese and tomatoes. Make a veggie-overload pizza with peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese, olives and tomatoes. Try a sweet and sour chicken pizza topped with cooked chicken breast, colored peppers and pineapple. Reheat and serve for speedy breakfasts.
Falafel Cobb Salad: Skip the bacon, ham, turkey or cubed lunch meat on salads. Crumble falafel, cook like ground beef and serve on a bed of spinach. Top with avocados, tomatoes, zucchini, cheese and Italian dressing.
Cheese dog: Serve a string cheese stick as you would a hot dog, on a whole grain bun. Top with mustard, catsup, sports peppers or chopped veggies. Or form falafel into “faux” dogs. Or use soy tofu hotdogs in place of processed meat hot dogs.
Meatless vegetarian subs: Slice miso (fermented tofu) thin and fry like bacon or ham. Serve with sliced cheese, hummus, vegetables and condiments like a sub sandwich. Fry sliced extra firm tofu and serve as lunch meat. Make meatless veggie burgers as you did falafel. These are perfect for cold lunches.
Processed meat alternative breakfast sandwiches: Skip the sausage or bacon on egg sandwiches. You can even skip the egg. Toast or grill an English muffin or asiago bagel. Serve with hummus and tomato, cream cheese and cucumber or sliced cheese and lettuce.
Vegetarian omelets: Stuff omelets with sauteed onions, mushrooms, peppers and cheese. Make huevos rancheros with salsa, cheese, sour cream, cilantro and black olives. How’s that for hearty school breakfasts.
Anti processed meat antipasto: Swap lunch meat and pepperoni for vegetarian antipasto. Cook garden rotini pasta and add chopped cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, grape tomatoes and cubed mozzarella cheese. Dress with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Meatless soups: Substitute cubed cooked squash or pumpkin for ham, bacon and sausage in any soup recipe. Load up the vegetables: cabbage, purple cabbage, carrots, celery, onions, peppers, tomatoes and broccoli. Make hearty vegetarian bean or pea soup using chipotle or Wright’s liquid smoke in place of smoked processed meats. Pack soup in Thermos for hot school lunches.