This post may upset some readers, because they may have one or more of these items in their kitchens. However, this is solely my opinion, and I think it’s important to voice it because I don’t believe in going through life with blinders on.
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If you think I’m condescending, opinionated, rude or judgmental, I apologize in advance, because that is not my goal. I’m not claiming to be a health guru, far from it. However, there has to be a baseline of products and ingredients where we should all be able to say, “I can easily do better than this”. With all the GMOs, pesticides and chemicals going into our real food, why do we want to add to the list of poisons that we’re ingesting?
I am shocked at the continuously rising number of people whom I know personally, or friends of friends who have died of cancer, have cancer, Alzheimers, MS or some other terrible disease or condition. I do realize that I may not have any control over whether I get cancer one day (sometimes cancer reaches the healthiest person we know), however, why not try to avoid unnatural products and chemicals as much as possible?
I know many people who put their hands over their ears and stick their heads into the ground when they start to hear these facts. Truthfully, it’s easier to stay in the dark about beloved products they have been using their whole lives. I know what it feels like to find out that something I’ve been using has changed their ingredients and have added something I’ve made my mind up not to use–it’s maddening, frustrating and disappointing all at once.
Making changes in the kitchen is not always easy, but I think we have to be open about listening to the information, doing our own research and making a decision based on as many facts as we can gather. I am on a journey to try to become healthier day by day, and think we all can make an effort, even if it’s with baby-steps. Years ago, I used to use cake mixes now and then, but one day I read the ingredients and was horrified; from that day on, I never bought another box. Is it significantly more time-consuming to make homemade rather than using a box? Honestly, it’s probably an extra 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the recipe, but homemade cakes also taste so much better.
Wrigley’s gum was what I grew up on, but since they added aspartame to all of their products (almost all gum contains aspartame now) I just completely stopped buying it, and all other gum. Sugar is bad, but aspartame is worse.
Although I can’t make gum, the same doesn’t apply to other products. For example, I used to love Mounds candy bars, but the ingredient list now looks more like something you might see in a high school chemistry experiment:
CORN SYRUP; SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE ( CHOCOLATE; SUGAR; COCOA; MILK FAT; COCOA BUTTER; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER) ; COCONUT; SUGAR; SALT; NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR; HYDROLYZED MILK PROTEIN; SODIUM METABISULFITE, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS; SULFUR DIOXIDE, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS; CARAMEL COLOR; MILK
Do I have to do without? No, I make them myself and they taste fantastic! Click the photo for the recipe.
I can already predict some of the comments that I will probably receive on this post :
“We’re all going to die, so what difference does it make?”
“I know someone who ate really healthy, but got cancer, and my grandpa who smoked a pack a day lived to be 90.”
“For every study that says x, there is a study that says y.”
I’m sure there will also be comments from the other side:
“Your cooking isn’t healthy, you use sugar and white flour.”
“You use a lot of butter and cream, and that’s not healthy.”
“You’ve got recipes on your blog that are deep-fried! How healthy is that?”
All I am going to say is please use some common sense. I’m not at either extreme, and I do try to buy as little processed and packaged food as possible. I know that if I make french fries at home from homegrown organic potatoes and fry them in an organic oil, I’m going to have significantly healthier fries than if I ate them from McDonald’s. You do realize this, right? Sometimes I think people think “apples are apples”, and that is definitely not the case, even with apples!
And let’s talk about the words homemade and “scratch” and actual ingredients. For me, homemade and scratch contain no processed ingredients, for example: butter, sugar and flour for shortbread qualifies as both homemade and from “scratch” and silly as it sounds, is a three-ingredient recipe. If you are using a cake mix, with oil and eggs, to me, this is not from scratch, and not homemade (the majority of your ingredients, the cake mix, was not made at home). Also, this is not a three-ingredient recipe, because if you use a Duncan Hines cake mix, there are 16 ingredients in the mix, plus butter and eggs, which equals 18 ingredients.
Please don’t be fooled by recipes claiming they only have three ingredients when they are
cake mix, Jello and Cool Whip, for example.
Without further ado, I’d like to share a list of 10 products I think can easily be removed from kitchens and replaced with something much healthier. They are just products I often see in popular recipes. I could easily add another 10, but I just want to focus on these right now. Hopefully, this will inspire you to think about these ingredients in future. Even if we are not being told the complete truth about these products/ingredients or they actually may not be as bad for us as some research claims, do you still want to risk your health, or better yet, your children’s health when there are other much simpler alternatives?
Also remember this important fact when reading labels: ingredients must be placed in descending order on labels, so that consumers will know that the first ingredient is the highest quantity of all the ingredients, and the last is the least. Here is my list in no particular order~
Christina’s List: 10 Cooking & Baking Products That Should Never be in any Kitchen
1. Margarine. With all the research showing that butter is better, one would think that the margarine industry would be out of business by now, but old habits die hard. Click photo for the recipe for Cream Girdle Scones.
2. Corn syrup (especially high fructose corn syrup). I had cut corn syrups almost entirely out of my family’s diet until I read an article years ago that explained the process of how corn syrup is made. After that, I was completely finished with corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup, not only in my kitchen, but in any product I bought or served my family. I do occasionally use Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is derived from sugar as a substitute for corn syrup, plus the flavor adds so much to whatever I make with it. Click the photo for my World Famous Sticky Toffee Porridge recipe.
3. Aspartame and all other artificial sweeteners. When I was in college, my friend’s father who was a chemist for a large pharmaceutical company forbade her to eat or drink anything containing Nutrasweet (aspartame), and that was good enough for me, so I never did either. I’m not even going to post a link here because for every link I post, there can be one found refuting the information and that really goes for anything on the internet. Large corporations pay for their own research, and those studies are deemed reputable. Do the math yourself; do you really trust the FDA? I prefer to use organic sugar whenever possible.
4. Any hydrogenated (partially or otherwise) oils and palm oil. A word of advice on hydrogenated oils from the Mayo Clinic. Besides the health issues of using palm oil, there are many other reasons to stop buying products which include palm oil in its list of ingredients. Coconut oil is a superb substitute. Also, don’t be mislead and think that canola oil is on the “good” list. I mainly use extra virgin olive oil.
5. Crisco. Ingredients: Soybean oil, Fully hydrogenated palm oil, Partially Hydrogenated Palm and Soybean oils, Mono and Diglycerides, TBHQ AND Citric acid (Antioxidants). Do you really want to ingest this stuff after reading #4? Instead of Crisco, I use butter or lard, yes lard, from a reputable butcher or source that I know hasn’t added preservatives or other questionable ingredients.
6. Cool Whip. Why anyone would continue to buy and eat this chemical concoction is beyond my understanding, and the only thing I can think of is that they have just continued to put it in their shopping carts like their parents did without ever giving it a second thought. Please give real cream a try and leave the Cool Whip on the shelf (or fridge or wherever it is kept in the grocery store-I’m not sure) the next time you go shopping.
Just look at this list: water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (including coconut and palm oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skimmed milk, light cream, and less than 2% sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, and beta carotene (as a coloring).
7. Packaged cake mixes & frostings. I thought it was interesting that I could not find one single ingredient list for any Betty Crocker cake mix as every link I clicked on took me to a page that said “page not found”.
However, here is the list on a Duncan Hines cake mix: Wheat Starch, Salt, Dextrose, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Artificial Flavors, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Modified Cornstarch, Colored With sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- And Diesters Of Fats, Monoand Diglycerides), Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate). Contains 2% Or Less of Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake.
Now, if I had these few ingredients listed on one of my cake recipes: Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Cellulose Gum and Artificial Flavors, wouldn’t you think I was mad? However, when you pick up that cake mix off the shelf, put it in your shopping cart and bring it home to make your son his birthday cupcakes for his 5th birthday, you don’t even think twice about him and his kindergarten classmates eating those horrific sounding ingredients, right? Please DO think about it, because that’s what your feeding him.
Here’s an easy recipe for homemade yellow cupcakes which are so much healthier than boxed mixes.
8. Faux “maple” syrups. The number one ingredient is usually corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup-see #2. It never pours or tastes like real maple syrup, either. Click the photo for the pancake recipe.
9. Processed cheese products. Just the fact that the word “processed“ is in the name should be a red flag. Why not just eat real, unadulterated cheese? It’s so simple.
10. Hershey’s Genuine Chocolate Flavor Syrup. I need to hold back on what I really would like to say about this product, its name and the use of the word “genuine” and “flavor” in the actual description of the product! Please realize that this tastes nothing like real chocolate.
Once again, take a look at the ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Cocoa, Sugar, Contains 2% or Less of: Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 60, Vanillin, Artificial Flavor. The fourth ingredient is cocoa, which could actually be less than 10% of the product.
Watch this space, as I’m planning on making my own homemade syrup and will put the link here. In the meantime, you can make your own healthy magic shell!
I wonder just how many of you made it all the way down here? How many of you now hate me, will stop following me or think I’m absolutely wrong about everything I just posted?
I think it’s sad that it’s come to this. I don’t think anyone in history ever argued about the quality of their food the way we now do. There are discrepancies in what the facts truly are, no sense of reliability in how our food is grown, processed and labeled; we are cooking less whole foods and buying more prepackaged, processed and instant products, and we are polarized by the choices of the cheeses (or cheese products) we buy.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid.
I’d love to hear what you have to say.
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