Selecting Ingredients

The ingredients that make up the foods in your daily diet depend on your budget and your cooking experience. It is simple buying a making a box of macaroni and cheese. It is almost as simple making macaroni and cheese from scratch.

Click here for homemade macaroni and cheese recipe.

Box Mac and Cheesew-7878

Organic Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade Mac and Cheesew-4661

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

When it comes to prepared macaroni and cheese you have two options; regular and organic. Organic costs a little more but does not have artificial colors and flavors like the popular variety in the blue box.

Box Mac and Cheesew-4507

Natural cheeses have a white to pale yellow color. The bright yellow color of cheddar cheese and come from natural sources like annatto or from artificial yellow food coloring. In the boxed version above, no specific type of cheese is identified. It is just a cheese sauce mix.

This example applies to all foods and ingredients you buy. You have a choice between minimally processed foods, and highly processed foods. Many nutrition experts recommend avoiding foods made with ingredients you can’t pronounce or identify. Homemade or organic macaroni and cheese does not have sodium tripolyphosphate.

Reducing Your Chemical Footprint

Eating less processed (prepared foods) not only reduces your exposure to man-made chemical additives it reduces the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet. Even if you add salt to your foods, there is a good chance it provides far less sodium than the sodium on prepared foods. The reason is simple. Take the photo above. In addition to salt (sodium chloride) you have:

  • sodium tripolyphosphate
  • sodium phosphate

Both add sodium to your diet. The result? One serving (there are 3 servings per box) has over 700 mg of sodium. Don’t be fooled by the 580 mg listed on the box. That is for the mix and does not include sodium from milk and butter/margarine. Eat the entire box and you have 2,100 mg of sodium. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2,300 mg.

The ingredients in boxed prepared foods is nothing compared to the ingredients in frozen foods and prepared cakes and other baked goods. Here is the ingredients list from one brand of nationally distributed chocolate doughnuts.

Doughnut Ingredients-3954

This example illustrates another issue plaguing Americans; sugar. It is the first ingredient listed. Americans eat too many foods high in refined sugar and flour. I am not advocating eliminating sugar and flour. I am recommending limiting foods made with sugar and flour. Most provide a lot of calories and few beneficial nutriants.

To reduce your chemical footprint, reduce from your diet:

  • Boxed foods
  • Frozen entrees and meals
  • Deli foods
  • Sweetened yogurts
  • Frozen desserts like ice cream

Eat Fresh

Fast food restaurants want you to believe their foods are wholesome and good for you, but except for a few ingredients like lettuce, tomato, and other fresh vegetables used for sandwiches, you are not eating the same quality of foods you can make at home. Chicken, beef, and ground beef made specifally for fast food restaurants to prolong shelf-life and reduce costs.

When you make a grilled or roasted chicken breast sandwich at home, you have chicken breast plus any added herbs and spices. A fast food chicken sandwich is made using dozens of ingredients that are not sold to consumers like:

  • Autolyzed yeast extract
  • Disodium inosinate
  • Disodium guanylate
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sodium phosphate

There is a lot of sodium in fast foods and processed foods.

One hundred percent beef, does not mean you are getting 100 percent chuck, round, or sirloin. It means 100 percent of the meat came from cattle. It can be tongue, liver, heart or other edible parts.

The only way to control what you eat is to make it yourself with known ingredients. You can read restaurant ingredients list, if available, but their formulas can change without notice. If it saves money, you can bet it will find its way into the food.

Organic or Non-Organic

More organic foods are being introduced every day, and the price of organic foods is dropping as the demand increases. But, are organic foods better for you?

If you are buying organic fresh fruits and vegetables and organic meats, the answer is maybe. Yes, they reduce your exposure to man-made pesticides and organic meats can have little or no antibiotics, but you may still not be getting tree or vine ripened fruits and sick animals may be given antibiotics. There is a huge difference in taste and texture between a vine ripened organic tomato and an organic tomato picked green to survive shipping to your local grocer.

Organic produce sold at farmers markets should be fresh off the farm. If you’ve ever grown your own produce, you know there is a significant difference in taste and texture.

As you move away from fresh produce to prepared organic foods, the health benefits diminishes until there are no real benefits. Organic snack foods and canned foods can have as mush sodium as their non-organic counter parts. If you are sodium sensitive or have high blood pressure there is no difference between sodium in organic and non-organic foods. Sea salt has the same amount of sodium as rock salt.

As more and more organic prepared foods hit the market, it is buyer beware. In many cases, less processing means better foods for your body.

Understand Your Ingredients

Knowledge is power. For many years, the food industry fought informing consumers about what is in their foods. The battle is not over. Their philosophy is what you don’t know won’t hurt you. It takes time researching foods. The information is out there, but many people ignore it.

The more you understand the ingredients in your foods, the easier it is to make informed decisions about your diet and the foods you eat.

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