Eating healthier can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Maybe you’re worried that “health food” won’t taste as good as you’d like or that you’ll have to make a lot of changes that will be hard to maintain. The good news is that eating healthier doesn’t always mean having to sacrifice something. With the 5 tips below, we’ll show you how changing just a few small things can make a big difference in the amount of unhealthy ingredients you consume.
Switch to Natural Ketchup
Ketchup (or catsup if you are so inclined) is a staple in most American households. We put it on burgers, dip our fries in it, use it as an ingredient in salad dressing, put it on meat, and some people even put it on eggs.
Most commercial ketchup contains high fructose corn syrup, an unhealthy ingredient that seems to be popping up in every food in the market these days. The good news is that you can buy natural ketchup that is free of high fructose corn syrup and it tastes just as good as the regular kind.
You can find natural ketchup in regular supermarkets as well as health food stores. Even Huntz and Heinz have come out with natural versions of their ketchups.
Lose the Chemical Pickles
When you eat most store-bought pickles, you’re not only getting cucumbers and dill, but you’re also getting Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), an azo dye made from coal-tar derivatives that has been associated with all kinds of nasty side effects. It is considered to be the most allergenic of all of the food dyes and people with asthma are particularly sensitive to it.
Reported side effects of Yellow #5 in people who are sensitive to it include migraines, anxiety, itching, depression, skin rash, sleep disturbance, and more. Some studies indicate it may even increase the risk of cancer.
Despite all of this, you’ll find this not-so-wonderful additive in pickles for no other reason but to make them look prettier and “brighter.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t care if my pickles look bright or not. All I care about is how they taste and that they’re not going to poison me.
In addition to Yellow #5, some conventional pickles contain sodium benzoate, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors, all of which should be on your “avoid” list.
You can buy organic pickles that taste just as good if not better than “conventional” pickles. Look for pickles that are organic or only contain the essential ingredients – cucumbers, salt, dill, and vinegar.
Choose Natural Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is supposed to be simple: egg yolks, oil, and vinegar or lemon juice. Unfortunately, most commercial varieties also contain things like calcium disodium EDTA, a chemical salt used as a preservative that is on the FDA’s list of food additives that need to be studied closer because animal studies have found that it may be toxic to cells and may cause genetic mutation and reproductive problems.
For a healthier alternative, choose organic mayonnaise that is made without preservatives. As an added bonus, organic mayo is usually made with hormone and antibiotic-free eggs and you can find versions that use olive oil or canola oil instead of soybean oil. We promise you won’t miss your old mayo!
Select Your Dairy Products Wisely
You probably don’t decide to make a sandwich for lunch with turkey, mayo, lettuce, and genetically modified bovine growth hormone. Unfortunately, that’s what you’re eating if you use many of the U.S.-produced cheeses available in stores.
Bovine growth hormone, or BGH/BST, was developed by Monsanto. Studies have found that milk from cows treated with rBST may be less nutritious and contains higher levels of the growth hormone IGF-1. It is illegal to sell milk and cheese treated with this hormone in all 27 European Union countries, Canada, Japan, Canada, and Australia because of concerns over its safety. Europe has banned the import of U.S. cheese as well as beef due to concerns over the use of hormones.
The good news is that more and more U.S. cheese companies are choosing to use milk from cows not treated with this hormone. If the cheese is free of these hormones, the label will say “Milk from cows not treated with rBST.” You can also be sure that cheese imported from Europe is free of hormones even if it doesn’t say so on the package.
Choose Healthier Sweets
Let’s face it, even the healthiest person just feels like eating a cookie now and then. While we don’t recommend making a daily habit of it, if you’re going to eat candy and cookies or give them to your kids, you should consider choosing natural versions of their favorite sweet snacks.
These days, you can find healthier versions of your favorite cookies and candy that are remarkably similar to the originals. For instance, Newman’s Own makes a sandwich cookie called Newman-O’s that is similar to Oreo’s but without the high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. Another bonus is that Newman-O’s contain organic unbleached flour whereas Oreos contain enriched wheat flour.
There are all kinds of natural cookies on the market that taste just as good as the real thing. As far as candy goes, most conventional candy is full of dyes (including the yellow #5 mentioned in the section on pickles), high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and other unwanted ingredients.
You can find natural gummy bears sweetened with fruit juice that don’t contain a smorgasbord of artificial colors. There are also natural jelly beans, natural lollipops, and just about anything else you can imagine.
There’s absolutely no reason to be eating food, condiments, cookies, or candy laden with chemicals when perfectly good and sometimes even better-tasting natural alternatives exist. Sure, the natural versions may be a little bit more expensive, but as more and more consumers demand natural products and more companies produce products to meet that demand, prices are going down. Try shopping online to find better deals on organic products.