Over the last decade, an increasing number of studies have told us to avoid the preservatives used in most packaged foods. Adopting a no preservatives diet, however, can be tricky. Preservatives are used in everything from boxed macaroni and cheese to the lunchmeat found at the deli counter. Many foods that can be considered healthy from a caloric or nutrient standpoint still contain chemical preservatives that can be harmful to our bodies. As more and more people try to cut preservatives out of their lives, however, it is becoming increasingly easy to adopt a preservative-free diet. From farmer’s market produce to organic TV dinners, natural options are easier to find than ever before.
Is the No Preservatives Diet Worth the Effort?
It is all too easy to pretend that preservatives do not exist. In most cases, preservative-laden foods taste, look and smell no different from their preservative-free counterparts. The most obvious difference between the two is the price. Although the cost of organic and natural foods has dropped drastically in the last few years, these products can still be significantly more expensive than traditional fare. At a time when many people are living paycheck to paycheck, it is understandable that few are willing to sacrifice affordability for a few health benefits. There is also the convenience factor to consider. Although preservative-free options are becoming more common, most items on the supermarket shelves are still loaded with preservatives. Few shoppers relish the prospect of combing the aisles, reading labels, especially at the end of a long day.
While barring preservatives from your cupboards may seem like a costly hassle, however, it is a hassle that many find to be worthwhile. Some of the most common chemical preservatives have been linked to cancer, hyperactivity and respiratory problems. Many people assume that by lowering their calorie intake and eating balanced meals, they are eating healthy. If you want to truly adopt a healthy diet, however, you should avoid preservatives whenever possible.
A Cupboard Full of Wholesome Ingredients
Adopting a no preservatives diet is similar to adopting any other new diet. You must develop shopping, cooking and eating habits over time. The first step to successfully removing preservatives from your kitchen is to stock you fridge and cupboard with an array of healthy ingredients you can turn to come mealtime. Many people are surprised to find that they can still do the majority of their shopping at their regular supermarkets. In order to separate the good products from the bad, however, you will have to read every label carefully. Common preservatives such as benzoic acid, sodium nitrite and sulfur dioxide will be printed on the ingredients list of any packaged food. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that contains ingredients with which you are unfamiliar. Make a note of anything that looks suspicious and look it up when you get home. If you find that the ingredient is harmless, you can always buy the product on your next shopping trip. While supermarkets are not required to list preservatives used on unpackaged fruits and vegetables, anything labeled “organic” is preservative-free.
Avoiding preservatives may mean that you will have to cook more for yourself and rely less on packaged convenience meals. This can be particularly difficult if you often find yourself turning to boxed or frozen meals at the end of a hard day. The best way to avoid this problem is to cook as much as you can when you have time and feel like it. Many homemade meals such as soups and casseroles freeze well and are easily reheated. Sauces can also be frozen or canned and put to good use with minimal effort. While it may not be possible to avoid the extra cooking entirely, you can control when you cook.
The No Preservatives Diet for Kids
Studies have shown that children are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of preservatives. Selling your kids on a no preservatives diet, however, can be difficult. Many parents find that they have the most success when they simply do not tell their children that the food they are eating is any different. Try to make the same favorites that you have always made, but use preservative-free ingredients. This will be particularly easy if your kids are already used to eating wholesome, homemade food.
If your kids eat a lot of processed foods, however, it may be difficult to introduce the no preservatives diet to children. Some packaged foods, such as macaroni and cheese, can be recreated using natural ingredients. Others, such as pizza pockets, are more difficult for the amateur home chef. Pushing a no sugar, no preservative diet may be hardest of all. Although refined sugars can be full of preservatives, and sugar has been linked to hyperactivity, most kids are addicted to the sweet stuff. Try to replace sugar with natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. Remember that many children respond best to gentle prodding and that taking a military attitude can have less than desirable effects. Fill your children up with nutritious staples, but allow them to have a treat every now and then. Like all diets, the no preservatives diet is a game of give and take.
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