Ever walked by the canned food aisle and wonder exactly how long or what hidden chemicals went into those cans? In fact, all foods that are processed into a pre-made package had some sort of additive added to it. Not only are preservatives added to pre-packaged food, but may not be exactly good for you either. One of the worst parts about food sold on the shelves of grocery stores is that the companies who make them rarely tell you that they place additives in their products. So what is a person to do when they are grocery shopping? Check out these 15 tips to help you make better decisions when troubleshooting your grocery list.
1. Peanut Butter
One of the most delicious and easiest ways to make a sandwich is using peanut butter. However, you may think that what you are eating is just smashed peanuts made into a whipped spread, but is it really? Many store bought peanut butters contain more than just peanuts, and most of those additives are bad for you! Always make sure to look at the ingredients list. If there are buzzwords such as “partially and or fully hydrogenated oils” or “palm oil” avoid them completely. These additives are unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats, which are not good!
Instead, make better choices by choosing an “all-natural” or “old-fashioned” peanut butter (not peanut spread) while looking at the product’s ingredients. When you do buy peanut butter, look for a container that has less than 3 grams of sugar. In general, a good jar of peanut butter has about 200 calories per serving, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 7 grams of protein. Yet the best way to get healthy peanut butter is to make some in a food processor with raw peanuts. Peanuts are an inexpensive nut and are plentiful too! What’s great about making your own peanut butter is that you become more aware of what you are placing in your mixture, and avoid the unnecessary additives.
Hummus has become quite a popular choice of dipping sauce compared to other higher calorie dips in the market. Hummus is a traditional spread in mid eastern regions, but has become one of the many favorite foods in the US. Hummus is made from pureed chickpeas, olive oil, and a variety of spices. Many grocery stores sell Hummus in premade containers in a variety of flavors such as roasted garlic and Tuscan red pepper. Many brands of Hummus differ in ingredients yet all contain some sort of preservative to keep them fresh. When chemicals such as sodium benzoate is used as a preservative, and is combined with vitamin C and potassium benzoate, the potential to form carcinogens are very high.
The safest way to enjoy hummus is to make your own. Plus you will save money too! For the amount of money you spend on a container of hummus, you can make twice as much at home. Take your dried chickpeas and heat them on the stove with your favorite seasonings immersed in water. Then drain your beans adding lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed paste), and olive oil. A quick and healthier alternative to premade hummus, this method is also tastier as well.
3. Pasta Sauce
Pasta and cream based sauces are notorious for containing additives and unnecessary amounts of sugar. Commercial pasta sauces contain more fat, salt, and sugar than what is required to have a flavorful sauce. Grocery items such as Newman’s Own Alfredo contains 8 grams of fat and 410 mg of salt. That is 17% of your recommended value of salt in a day for the average individual. Many pasta sauces lack the fiber that should be included in sauces, yet are removed due to the amount of additives added to the sauce. With more than half of the pasta sauces containing more than 500 mg of sodium in their serving, it is a great alternative to consider making your own sauce with healthier ingredients.
The best way to make a natural tomato sauce is to make your own. To make fresh tomato sauce, you first want to boil some hot water in a pot and immerse your tomatoes into it for 15-20 until the tomato skins start to wrinkle. Drain your water, and puree your softened tomatoes. Add a tablespoon of organic cornstarch to thicken your sauce, then add your choice of spices with a splash of lemon juice. Depending on how much tomato sauce you make, this tomato sauce can be a great alternative to bulk up on instead of buying store bought sauces filled with unnecessary additives.
4. Canned Fruits and Vegetables
The average supermarket contains more than a third of their shelves filled with canned food items. Foreign additives in canned food items are susceptible to being absorbed in the body, which is not good from a health standpoint. Items such as canned fruits and vegetables contain a thin layer of plastic inside the aluminum can as a way to keep the food fresh. But is this really the safest way to keep food fresh? Many canned goods lack the proper protection it needs from external factors when they are being shipped and carried from place to place. This is a real health hazard to consider if you were to buy a leaking aluminum can by accident.
The best way to avoid these potential hazards is to buy fresh produce. You benefit from the amount of nutrition in fresh fruits and vegetables compared to what you would get from food in a can. Plus, the taste is a lot better and satisfies your appetite too. The amount of volume that you get in fresh food is much more than you will get from food packed in a can. Another great tip to buying fresh produce is looking into your local farmer’s market as well. You can’t go wrong with checking out fresher options in your local area, and will even save, or pay the same amount of money as you would buying canned food items.
5. Trail Mix
Trail Mix is one tasty snack, but is notorious for excessive sugar, oils, and preservatives. Trail Mix was first introduced in 1999 when a group of filmmakers got lost and survived on a bag of nuts and berries without going hungry. Trail mix may be great for the outdoor enthusiast who can benefit from the density of the snack, but not the average person who can benefit more from a fresh batch of trail mix. Formerly a naturally nutritious snack, trail mix has become more processed since its discovery, which no longer makes it a wise choice of snack. Today, packaging companies distribute bags of trail mix filled with sugarcoated dried fruit and nuts covered in salt. Store bought trail mix is far from healthy, and can benefit so much more making your own at home.
When made with the right ingredients, trail mix can be an energy packed snack. Very easy to make in large quantities, homemade trail mix can also save you money while having much more trail mix in your pantry! You can use all types of ingredients such as sun dried fruits, coconut flakes, raw nuts, bran, and some chocolate chips. You can achieve the same amount of flavor, without the preservatives and unnecessary additives that you would get from store varieties. Trail mix is such a convenient snack, it should be a staple to have when energy levels are low. You still receive the energy punch and satisfaction you would have with store bought mixes, however reap the benefits from avoiding the unhealthy additives and take control of your health!
6. Salad Dressing
Many salad dressings on the shelves of stores carry more additives than most items sold. The terrible fact is that salad dressing is supposed to compliment a salad, not ruin it! Salad dressings are much higher in additives than others, but all carry high amounts of fat. If you swap for a fat free dressing, the fat content may be low, but the fat content is replaced with sugar alcohols and other unhealthy additives. Many people ignore the serving size of salad dressings of two tablespoons, and dismiss the ingredients in the salad dressings they buy. You can become more aware of what you consume by reading the labels on products and using proper portions.
Making your own dressing is very easy to make. The best choice for dressing is to steer clear of the heavy buttermilk dressings and swap for vinaigrette. When you make your own vinaigrette, find a healthy base such as olive oil. Add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to balance out the flavor of the oil. Even research your favorite DIY salad dressing recipes to compliment your salads and veggies. It’s a good thing to make your own salad dressings because you benefit far more in healthier fats than you would in the processed trans fats in store bought dressings.
7. Microwave Popcorn
One of the top snack choices in the US is microwaved popcorn. This is such a convenient snack, but is not so convenient for your health. The packet’s lining in microwavable popcorn contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is listed by the EPA as a carcinogen. This chemical can lead to infertility in women, and other cancer and diseases. Plus, many food manufacturers won’t tell you what hidden additives are in their brand, which is toxic to your health. Back away from any popcorn box that says “artificial flavors” and try making your own!
Making popcorn is very easy. In only about five minutes, you can achieve popped popcorn and not have to worry about dangerous chemicals lurking inside. Use two tablespoons of popcorn kernels tossed into a brown lunch bag. Coat the kernels with coconut oil, hemp seeds, and red palm oil. Staple the top of the bag and shake until the kernels are covered evenly. The health benefits of these “superfood” ingredients are a far better choice than typical store bought popcorn.
8. Granola Bars
Granola bars are convenient to have on hand, but aren't necessarily convenient for your health. Many granola bars may list catch phrases such as “promotes energy” or “filled with fiber.” This may be true, but what you don’t know is that many packaged granola bars contain hidden sugars and additives. The best choice of granola bar from the store would be a variety that promotes higher protein than carbohydrates. This requires reading food labels and understanding what ingredients are good and avoiding the harmful kind. Your health depends on it!
You will never go wrong making your own granola bars. What’s great about making granola bars is that there are all different types of ways to make them. One way to make healthy and tasty granola bars is to mix your dry ingredients together such as rolled oats, raw granola, sun-dried fruit, and raw nuts. From there, incorporate your favorite “glue” ingredient such as natural peanut butter, real maple syrup, or soaked date puree. Mix together your mixture with the “glue” ingredients, and spread it over a waxed paper covered cookie sheet into the freezer. After they reached desired firmness, cut your slices and enjoy!
Many smoothies sold in grocery stores are just as deceiving as selling diet soda. These so called healthy smoothies are supposed to replace the sugary drinks when in fact they are just as harmful to your health. In fact, many studies have been made that prove that most pre-made smoothies have the same amount of sugar as a can of soda. Fruits contain sugar, but the types of sugars found in store bought smoothies are filled with man-made processed sugars dangerous for the body. These smoothies are from healthy, and would benefit more from eating real fruits and vegetables instead of drinking them. However, if you like smoothies make yours at home instead of buying them.
If you don’t have a blender or juicer, invest in one. They come in handy when you want to make mixtures of all kinds, and should be a kitchen staple. To make a smoothie, you want to include antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables to receive healthy satiety. From there, you can include coconut water, your choice of low fat milk, or fresh squeezed juice. Add a protein source such as protein powder, Greek yogurt, pasteurized egg whites, or cottage cheese. Swap the heavy syrups for a super food ingredient such as chia seeds, flax, or nut butters.
Labels that claim to say 100% juice are far from the truth. In fact, many food companies use fancy words to cover up their labels from the hidden ingredients that are actually inside. For example, the word “concentrate” is a common term found on premade fruit juices, which is just another name for syrup. Other terms used to deceive people are “flavoring” or “flavored” which is far from the real source, and should be avoided. Food companies don’t tell you that their juices contain additives, and it usually requires one to use their head when it comes to buying premade juice. Always swap for making your own juice using real fruits and vegetables when you can.
Making your own juice is easy, and is a much better choice then buying a carton at the grocery store. You benefit from all of the antioxidants and vitamins in the fruits, which is great for your health and immune system. Buy or pick some of your favorite fruits such as apples and pears placing them into a juicer. If you don’t mind the pulp, (which is actually very good for you) use a blender for a thicker texture. You can even use vegetables too such as tomatoes, carrots, and spinach. This is one way to get in your daily dose of veggies in if you don’t particularly enjoy eating your vegetables.
11. Packaged Dinner Sides
Although a convenient way to make a meal, all pre-made dinner sides contain additives. They also contain high amounts of sodium, which is more than needed in a daily allowance. Pre made food choices also contain fats as well as trans fats. Trans fats are terrible for your health and dangerous too! Any type of label or ingredient that lists “hydro“ in its name is a trans fat and should be avoided. Many foods that contain these chemicals include boxed crackers, cookies, instant potatoes, boxed dinners, and chips.
Try swapping the packaged meals and start making your own. For the amount of money you would spend on buying a bag of ships, you can bake your own. For example, cutting slices of fresh sweet potatoes into the oven for 30-45 minutes you can achieve that sweet and salty taste that everybody craves! For dinner, instead of buying boxed mac and cheese make yours from scratch. Use real ingredients such as whole-wheat pasta shells, skim milk, free-range butter, and cheese. Use the same process, but include your alternative ingredients.
12. Packaged Deli Meats
Many people don’t realize that many packaged meat brands are cold cuts of sausage filled with chemicals. Some may think they are buying a cut of meat when it is actually grinded cuts of foreign meat compressed together. If you can decipher the ingredients on the back of the product, have an eye for foreign words. If something doesn’t sound edible, don’t buy it! Some of these products include hot dogs, bologna, and ham. Usually the cheaper a package of lunchmeat costs, the lower of meat quality it is. Read the fine print, and invest in buying real and natural meat products.
Instead of buying packaged meat, look into your grocery store's deli. Every deli has a meat department with much more fresher cuts of meat. They also go through the process of sanitizing their meat area so that you don’t have to worry about foreign germs lurking around. The meat is real and can decide on the cut and quality of your choice in mind. Also, your local deli worker can help assist you on any questions you have about the present meat being sold. For the amount of money you buy for packaged meat, you can invest in deli cuts instead.
13. Dried Fruit
Many dried fruit varieties sold in stores are dried through machines adding additives for preservation. Plus dried fruit is filled with more sugar compared to fresh varieties. This is extremely damaging to your health especially if you are looking to cut sugar out of your diet! With misleading information on food labels, the type of sugar found in dried fruit is fructose. Fructose is especially bad for the liver because it is quickly converted in the liver into VLDL, a form of cholesterol that leads to fat storage. It is best to stick to fresh fruit rather than a bag of dried cranberries coated with sugar.
If you enjoy dried fruit, try doing it yourself. Plus, you are aware of the sugar content and can benefit from the natural sweetness already found in the fruit being dried. Depending on the weather, it is best to do this in the summer time. It may take a few days, but the results are great! Using your choice of fresh fruit spread your variety over a cookie sheet outside to dry. It really is that simple to make and is so cheap too!
14. Packaged Seasonings
Pre packaged seasons are notorious for having additives. Some companies have recognized the harmful side effects of these chemicals and have removed them unlike other labels that have not. Ingredients such as whey (milk), sugar, potato starch, citric acid, yeast, natural flavor, and cellulose are just a few of the chemicals that shouldn’t be included in your spices. Many of these additives are unnecessary for the flavor of the seasoning, so why include them? Stay safe and natural by making your own the next time you want to add spice to your dinner.
Before you make your own seasonings, it is best to find your spices from an organic label to avoid any additives in your spices too! From there you can get really creative with your seasoning mixtures. For example, to make a taco seasoning, mix together chili, garlic, and onion powder. Then mix crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano, paprika, cumin, sea salt and black pepper. Depending on how much you make, you can use it all immediately, or store it in an airtight glass jar using it when needed.
15. Fruit Flavored Yogurt
Food companies have taken healthy items such as yogurt, and have turned them into processed junk food. Giant food companies such as Groupe Danone (Dannon) and General Mills (Yoplait) are filling the market with processed yogurt filled with additives. What’s disturbing too is that most companies won’t tell you what they have added. Some ingredients on labels include some of the additives, but not all of them. Yogurt has been a healthy food for ages until corporations have altered the nature of yogurt by adding sugars, colors, and preservatives. The easiest way to make sure your yogurt is free of additives is to choose a brand with quality ingredients.
If you were to make your own yogurt, it would be extremely long and tedious! Yogurt must go through a fermentation process, which requires much patience and precision. Instead of removing yogurt from your diet for good, swap it for healthier alternatives such as plain Greek yogurt. This type of yogurt is packed with protein and is filling too! Avoid any fruit flavored varieties since they fall into the category of having unnecessary sugars. To get the healthiest kind of Greek Yogurt, pick a variety that is high in protein and low in sugar.
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