Where does the time go?! I can’t believe it’s already been seven months since I posted 12 Everyday “Food” Items to Trash & Replace – holy moly, it’s gonna be the holidays before we know it. Did I say that out loud? Um…I meant, uh…summer! Swimming! School’s out!
Speaking of summer, I hope the first month of it has treated everyone very well so far, full of fun in the sun! *Shameless plug time!* If you missed it, don’t forget to check out my most recent post, It’s Summer! Choosing Safer Sunscreen for You & Your Family.
Anyway, I really hope that my previous Trash & Replace post helped everyone to start cleaning out some of the junky products from your fridges and pantries, which hopefully were replaced by better choices! Remember, every change counts!
12 Everyday “Food” Items to Trash & Replace ranks in my Top 5 highest-viewed posts, so if you haven’t read it yet, head on over and check it out! I discussed and provided better alternatives for:
- Peanut Butter
- Pasta Sauce
- Salad Dressing
- Chip Dip
- Whipped Topping
- Barbecue Sauce
- Pancake Syrup
Since it was a success, I thought it would be great to follow it up (albeit a little belated) with another set of items that can easily be replaced with better choices!
So, let’s keep it going! Here are 8 more items in your kitchen that can be replaced with a better choice, along with my recommendations for doing so. (As always, selection may vary by region or by grocery chain, but I can bet there will be a similar substitute in whichever grocery store(s) you frequent.)
Pickles should be a no-brainer, right? They’re just fermented cucumbers, so shouldn’t it be pretty hard to mess that up? Well, guess what – most jar pickles you see in the supermarket contain:
- Sky-high sodium content
- “Natural flavor” (which can mean/hide many other ingredients)
- Calcium chloride (preservative/firming agent)
- Polysorbate 80 (emulsifier)
- Sodium benzoate (artificial preservative)
- Alum (firming agent)
- Yellow #5 or FD&C yellow 5 (artificial color)
- High fructose corn syrup or corn syrup (for sweetness + addiction factor)
Pretty gross, right? And you thought you were just getting cucumbers and dill…
Not to mention that the cucumbers they’re using are conventional (meaning not organic), so you’re likely getting some nice synthetic pesticide residue too. Cucumbers made the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, ranking as #12 this year. This means that out of 48 types of produce tested for pesticide residues after a normal wash, they were the 12th worst. As such, they’re an item you should always buy organic if you can.
BETTER CHOICE: I may be a tad biased on this one, but I recommend homemade all the way! Check out my post Homemade Garlic Dill Pickles for a how-to that you can tweak to your liking. Since you control the ingredients, you control salt content, plus can opt for organic cucumbers.
Making your own is really so easy once you’ve done it a time or two. With a steady hand and properly-sharpened knife, you can even make thinly-sliced “stacker” pickles! Bonus: I’ve noticed that I can pack way more pickles in a jar than I get with store-bought.
If you prefer to buy, I’d recommend Woodstock Organic Kosher Dill Pickles. Everything Woodstock is absolutely fantastic! Farmer’s Garden by Vlasic pickles are available in a few varieties, though they’re not organic, nor non-GMO certified. They’re cleaner ingredient-wise, but some varieties still have ingredients like Gum Arabic, Natural Flavor, and Calcium Chloride (a rock salt used as a firming agent, generally recognized as safe). While not really harmful, these are still extra additives you can avoid by homemaking.
#14 Soy Sauce
Looking into choosing the “right” soy sauce is truly the definition of going down the rabbit hole, folks. This one made my head spin a little.
I’ll do my best to sum up my research as succinctly as possible, to explain why the soy sauce in your fridge right now might not be the best choice:
A) GMO Ingredients – Regular and low-sodium soy sauce contain wheat and soybeans (two of the biggest GMO, pesticide-riddled crops in the U.S.), plus Sodium Benzoate, an undesirable preservative.
B) Dangerous Production Process – Apparently, many brands commonly found in grocery stores do not use the traditional soy bean fermentation processes (that takes months) for producing their soy sauce. Instead, they use a disgusting method artificially sped up to take merely days, done with heavy chemicals – hydrochloric acid, to be exact. It essentially results in a chemical bath that they neutralize with more chemicals. Other undesirable chemical by-products result. Fun, fun. For the nitty gritty, here is a good explanation.
C) Does Lower Sodium = More Chemicals? – I’m finding conflicting information. Some claims state that any reduced-sodium soy sauce isn’t made using the fermentation process, but is instead produced using the acid method I described above, using it on vegetable proteins. However, on Kikkoman’s product page for their less sodium soy sauce, they state that it’s brewed “exactly the same way” as regular soy sauce, the only difference being that some of the salt is extracted after fermentation. If that is true, it does also beg the question of how they do that – is it another undesirable chemical reaction?
D) Beware Soy Sauce Alternatives – I was disappointed to discover that Bragg’s Liquid Aminos isn’t the savior we’re led to believe. While it’s non-GMO, gluten-free, and its only two ingredients are “vegetable protein from non-GMO soybeans and purified water,” I’ve discovered two things. One, it’s not a low-sodium soy sauce alternative. The serving size is listed as 1 tsp = 320 mg (13% daily value), whereas other soy sauces like Kikkoman present their serving size as 1 Tbsp. One tablespoon of regular Kikkoman contains 920 mg sodium (38% daily intake). Three teaspoons equals a tablespoon, so when you compare in equal portions, Bragg’s has 960 mg vs. Kikkoman’s 920 mg. Feeling misled? I am. And two, Bragg’s uses the acid hydrolizing process I named above – it is not a fermented product.
For some more reading, feel free to check out this article, packed with good info.
BETTER CHOICE: After learning more than I ever imagined I’d know about soy sauce, my research left me with several key ways to choose better soy sauce:
- Look for a product that states it is “naturally brewed”, “naturally fermented”, “aged”, or created using “traditional methods/brewing”.
- See what you can find on the company’s website! I found that Kikkoman describes their entire fermentation process with a handy click-through.
- Buy organic if possible, as you will not have to worry about GMO soy beans/wheat, nor preservatives like Sodium Benzoate.
- Don’t buy low or less sodium versions. Instead, you can dilute regular soy sauce with water to reduce the sodium content if desired.
- If you can find one that is unpastuerized, all the better – the beneficial enzymes and bacteria from the fermentation process come out alive, all the better for our bodies.
Several products jumped out at me, and seem to be quite well-received online. Check out San-J Organic Tamari Wheat-Free Soy Sauce, Kikkoman Traditionally Brewed Organic Soy Sauce, or Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu Unpasteurized Soy Sauce (being the highest quality one, Ohsawa’s is also the most expensive).
We actually just bought a 20 oz bottle of the San-J Organic Tamari, and let me tell you – it is super good!
For another alternative, many people swear by coconut aminos, which are produced from raw coconut tree sap and sea salt, then aged. Check out Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos, which are 100% soy free and also organic.
#15 Canned Sloppy Joe Mix
If you’re a Manwich person, you’re not going to like me for a hot second, but bear with me. Do you have Manwich in your cupboard right now? Yeah? Go grab it, escort it to the nearest trash can, dump the contents, then recycle the can. And don’t look back. Ever.
Have you ever looked at what’s in a can? It’s über disgusting, people! Here are the ingredients of Manwich Original:
Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Syrup, less than 2% of: Salt, Sugar, Chili Pepper, Dehydrated Green and Red Bell Peppers, Tomato Fiber, Guar Gum, Spices, Xanthan Gum, Dehydrated Garlic, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid.
Even worse, here are Manwich Bold ingredients:
Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Less than 2% of: Mustard, Worcestershire Sauce Solids (Molasses, Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Caramel Color, Garlic, Sugar, Spices, Tamarind, Natural Flavor), Dehydrated Onion, Molasses, Dehydrated Red and Green Bell Peppers, Tomato Fiber, Mustard Bran, Dehydrated Garlic, Mesquite Smoke Flavor, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Spices, Wine, Carob Gum, Natural Flavors.
Everything I’ve put in red is a no-no. If you know me, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup are 100% banned from our kitchen, so those are the worst offenders I see on this list, but Caramel Color isn’t far behind – it’s been linked to cancer (usually soda is the #1 source where people consume it, but it pops up in other junky dark-colored products). The Mesquite Flavor and “Natural” Flavor? Highly suspect. It’s so vague, and can mean/hide many things, usually not good ones. The couple ingredients I put in bold are, well, generally accepted as safe, but are on the “undesirable additives” list.
Depending which variety we’re talking, Manwich also contains 5 – 10 g of sugar per serving (which is only 1/4 cup, totally itty bitty), and sodium content that’s 18% of your daily value per serving. Again, totally undesirable.
I try not to harp too much on organic vs. conventional, but since the main ingredients in this mix are tomatoes and green/red peppers, it’s worth noting that tomatoes and bell peppers also fall on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, so this means that you ideally want to be consuming organic ones, if you can.
BETTER CHOICE: I know this might sound like work, especially if you’re used to just reaching for a can, but homemade is the absolute way to go on this one. Once you’ve made it once, you’ll find that it’s super quick and easy. And delicious!
After I realized how gross Manwich is and went in search of better alternatives, I found this amazing recipe. We’ve never, ever looked back. [Note: Instead of tomato sauce, we use one 14.5 oz can of Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes, Fire Roasted & No Salt Added. Also, her recipe calls for ketchup, so it’s important you’re not using junky ketchup that itself contains High Fructose Corn Syrup! See #8 in my prior 12 Everyday “Food” Items to Trash & Replace post.]
There are some really fabulous variations of this recipe floating around out there on the internet, especially on Pinterest, so go explore! I’ll be honest though – we’re so addicted to this recipe that we always want to do it this way when Joes are on the menu!
#16 Margarine, Butter, and Everything in Between
Oooh this is a controversial one. Butter is one of those condiments where people defend their favorite like a life choice. This topic is pretty broad because there are so, so many choices out there. There’s butter, and then there are butter substitutes, like margarine.
Let’s start with margarine. This article sums everything up about margarine beautifully, and here is one of the best quotes:
“Margarine is a manufactured food product… It was never designed to be healthy, nutritious or beneficial; it was designed to be an imitation, an inexpensive substitute [for butter].”
Why is it so bad for us? It’s partially hydrogenated (meaning forced into a partial solid state), and this process creates tons of trans fats. Trans fats are terrible for us, causing increased risk of heart disease, increased bad cholesterol levels, and increased blood insulin levels. Margarine historically was made from animal fat, but now is processed from vegetable oils, and the method of extracting these oils is horrific (and is also why you should get rid of any vegetable oil in your pantry right now – read this if you have doubts). Likewise, the process of turning the vegetable oil into margarine is equally horrifying, and includes contact with plenty of industrial chemicals, like bleaching agents, plus plenty of really undesirable additives to make this mess palatable.
The moral of that story? Margarine is terrible for you, no doubt about it.
You may not realize it, but your go-to product may in fact be margarine. I grew up on Country Crock, which is not butter. They refer to the majority of their products as “buttery spreads”, but they are made from soybean or canola oil. Most contain no actual dairy. The products that do (and therefore can be called “butter”) still contain canola oil. Fail. Not surprisingly, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is essentially liquid margarine. Ugh.
Land O’Lakes does a much better job, as they have many products that are real butter (ingredients are sweet cream and natural flavoring). Who knows what the “natural flavoring” is, but thank goodness there’s actual dairy. Some of their butters do contain canola oil, so those definitely should be avoided. My motto is to never buy low fat/fat free anything, as you’re getting an unwelcome dose of extras. Compared to the two ingredients in their unsalted butter, look what Land O’Lakes Light Butter’s ingredients are (per their website), which shows just how many chemically extras you’re getting by going “Light”:
I think it goes without saying that picking real, simple butter is key. But is that even so simple? There are some additional considerations that definitely muddy the waters.
Because toxins (no matter their source) bioaccumulate in the highest concentrations in fat, this becomes a huge issue with all dairy products, especially those with the highest fat content – hello, butter. Pesticides and dioxins (environmental pollutants) essentially have a direct route right into your food products, as do antibiotics and bovine hormones.
Buying organic dairy products is always a good choice, because you know that the dairy cows haven’t been fed feed that’s likely full of GMOs and synthetic pesticides, all of which can be transmitted through their milk right to you the consumer. Also, organic dairy is always from cows not treated with bovine hormones (rBST and rBGH) or given antibiotics.
I can’t neglect to mention the option of grass-fed butter. Grass-fed butter means that the cows’ diet is mainly (but rarely exclusively) composed of grass they graze. No doubt about it, grass-fed cow products tend to be much higher in levels of CLA (a good fatty acid), better Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid ratios and way higher levels of Vitamin A and E – all very good things. Grass-fed butters made big waves in the media when a study suggested that people who eat more grass-fed butter (and therefore get more CLAs) have lower risk of heart disease.
It really becomes a one-or-the-other type situation. If you go with organic butter, you know they’re eating cleaner feed. If you go with grass-fed butter, they’re eating grass, and the butter is better for you – but with the caveat that the cows aren’t grass-fed all year round. If your grass-fed butter isn’t certified organic, that opens the door that those cows are eating GMO feed during the months they’re not able to be at pasture.
To add fuel to the fire, there’s evidence that more harmful dioxin contamination comes from soil/grass contact than anything else. As this report states, “Ingestion of dioxins in contaminated vegetation and soil is considered the major pathway of exposure for food animals”. So this being the case, it really makes you wonder what levels of dioxins grass-fed animals are consuming and passing along to you. And does that outweigh the benefits received from the grass-fed butter?
Clearly, butter isn’t just butter, and isn’t not as simple as butter vs. margarine!
BETTER CHOICE: If you plan to use butter, pick a full-fat, unsalted version. Buy real butter with no soy or canola oils. That’s the easy part. Where you go from there is up to you.
If you don’t plan to go organic, a really good choice is Kerrygold Unsalted Butter (85% grass-fed in Irish pastures, then fed dried grass and local wheat/barley feed for the remainder). Bonus points that bovine hormones are illegal in Ireland! Also, Land O’Lakes Unsalted Butter Sticks, Unsalted Whipped Butter, or Butter w/Olive Oil & Sea Salt (if you want a tub) would be decent choices due to simple ingredients and no soy/canola oil. However, along with not being organic, LO’L doesn’t state that they use dairy from cows untreated with rBST/rBGH/antibiotics, so that’s a concern too.
If you want to go organic, I currently use and like Whole Foods 365 Organic Unsalted Butter sticks, and also wouldn’t mind trying Organic Valley Cultured Pasture Butter (the cows graze May – September in pastures; since it’s organic, any feed they receive outside that time frame would be organic). These are just two out of many, many organic choices.
Now, if you’re vegan, that would probably be the only time I’d make an exception and say to use any type of imitation spread. If so, a good choice would be Smart Balance Organic or Melt Organic. If you’re going to be consuming vegetable oils, at least they’re organic.
Last but very not least, I have to mention that you certainly can find ways to eliminate or greatly reduce your use of butter if you so choose. Organic coconut oil is a fantastic substitute, as is olive oil. We make a few recipes where butter simply fits better, and I reach for my organic butter. But overall, I’ve eliminated probably at least 75% of our use of butter, in favor of coconut or olive oil, for many reasons.
#17 Sprinkle Cheese
Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you saw all the bad press that the sprinkle cheese industry received after suppliers were discovered to be using excessive amounts of the cheap filler cellulose (an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp). The media went cuckoo bananas bonkers over it, which makes me chuckle because, truly, this is so minor compared to the other atrocities committed by the American food industry.
Here’s the thing. Yes, cellulose is a natural ingredient. In fact, it’s pretty much the same thing you’re consuming if you eat any plant material. But the reason this blew up so huge is because suppliers were exceeding the allowable levels of cellulose (2-4% max) in sprinkle cheese. Some came close to 10%. It’s not really a “health crisis” per se, but it’s more so a false advertising issue. If you sell something and call it “100% Parmesan Cheese,” that’s not truthful if a percentage of it is actually plant material. Pardon my radical thinking, but when I buy cheese, I expect 100% real cheese.
Here’s my stance on sprinkle cheese. Real cheese is found in the refrigerated section, where it’s cold. Sprinkle Parm is found in the inner, non-fridge aisles of the grocery store. The fact that this product can sit indefinitely at room temp in a plastic container and not spoil is a pretty big red flag.
Ingredient-wise, the cellulose should really be the least of anyone’s worries. Depending which brand you use, there are all kinds of extra additives like Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (from GMO soybeans, no doubt), Artificial Color, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Phosphate, Maltodextrin, and Rice Flour (why is rice in cheese?!). It’s all stuff that shouldn’t be in cheese. And, as usual, any of the “Reduced Fat” versions are the absolute worst for extra fillers/additives (my mantra: never buy reduced fat/fat free anything).
BETTER CHOICE: Again, I’m probably gonna get a groan from those who are keen on reaching for a container. Hear me out though: Do you like the taste of real cheese? When you’re at an Italian restaurant and get freshly-grated Parm on your meal, do you do an inner happy dance? Nothing beats freshly-grated, am I right?! You can hold that power in the palm of your hand. Grate your own Parmesan as needed!
You don’t have to become a cheese connoisseur to do this. Of course, it’s true that the higher the quality of cheese you opt to buy, the better, and the better for you. If you can, look for cheese labeled as being from rBST/rBGH-free cows, and buying organic is an even better option, especially if you consume Parm once a week or more.
I sheepishly admit that I’m not buying the best I theoretically could. I buy Frigo Parmesan wedges when they go on sale 2 for $4. The ingredients are simple though, and worlds better than sprinkle Parm in a jar: Parmesan Cheese (Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes).
Granted, it’s not organic, and it’s not labeled as being from rBST/rBGH-free cows (I really wish it were), but you know what? I let this one slide. I’m in the process of eliminating dairy from my diet, and there are just a couple dinners we make that call for Parm. For those instances, Frigo has sufficed.
Pro tip: Regardless of which Parm wedge you use, it lasts longer when stored in an air-tight container, and it helps to not touch the cheese with your hands while grating (I use a napkin, paper towel, or the package itself to hold the cheese).
By the way, we use and love this grater, but I’m kind of sad I didn’t get this one with the measuring cup attached! Word to the wise though, don’t buy the most dirt-cheap grater – you have to be sure it won’t rust.
#18 Sour Cream
This is a pretty straightforward one. There are plenty of well-known sour cream brands out there, pretty much in the same neighborhood price-wise, so are any really that much better than the others? Absolutely.
Well, first and foremost, I’m going to harp once again that you should never buy low fat/fat-free anything because of all the extra chemical junk they toss in. For example, let’s compare the ingredients of two Breakstone’s products (per their website):
Breakstone’s All-Natural Sour Cream: CULTURED PASTEURIZED GRADE A MILK AND CREAM, ENZYMES
Breakstone’s Fat Free Sour Cream: CULTURED PASTEURIZED GRADE A NONFAT MILK, DRIED CORN SYRUP, FOOD STARCH—MODIFIED, CREAM, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF MALTODEXTRIN, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, XANTHAN GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE
Ew, ew, ew. What in the world is corn syrup doing in sour cream?! Not to mention the food starch, maltodextrin, artificial color, and xanthan gum you’re consuming because you want to save 30 calories and 6 g fat per serving. No, just no. Use regular, just use less.
Another consideration when buying dairy products (as discussed in the butter section) is the source of the dairy. Whenever you can, you always want to buy dairy that states it’s from cows not treated with rBST/rBHG. (Most organic products don’t state it because it’s implied due to it being organic.) Likewise, remember that any dairy that’s not certified organic can come from cows who eat feed that is likely GMO and full of synthetic pesticides, and have been given antibiotics, which get passed to you through the product.
BETTER CHOICE: Buy hormone-free! Most sour cream packages don’t mention rBST/rBGH (trust me, I’ve looked), but checking a company’s website can sometimes yield more information. Also, here’s a nice list of hormone-free companies from blogger Mommy Goes Green (it’s from 2013, so I can only hope that some companies who weren’t on board then are now).
As I mentioned above, buy the full fat version to avoid undesirable added ingredients.
I’ll admit, I actually haven’t switched to organic in this category because we use so, so very little of it. We use it for taco night and for two crockpot recipes we rarely make (chicken paprikash and chicken stroganoff) so I just go with Daisy Sour Cream because it’s got one ingredient (cultured cream) and Daisy states on their website that they are hormone-free.
Of course, the best choice is to buy organic sour cream. No hormones, no antibiotics, no GMO feed. A couple popular products in that category are Organic Valley Sour Cream and Horizon Organic Sour Cream, but again, there are so, so many brands to choose from.
Like pickles, you’d think that honey is a no-brainer, right? How can some honey be better than other honey? Well, once again, the complete opposite is true. The topic of honey is exceptionally broad, and I really encourage everyone to learn all they can about it.
Here is a really great infographic from honeycolony.com that summarizes the difference between pasteurized, imported, and local/raw honey.
As you can see, the very worst type of honey is cheap, store-bought, pasteurized honey. The quality of the honey can be compromised straight from the hive if the bees’ natural process has been changed by humans. Instead of leaving some honey for the bees to feed on, some commercial beekeepers take all the honey and give the bees High Fructose Corn Syrup to eat instead, which results in unhealthy bees and less-nutritious honey. Cheap honey is pasteurized and filtered, both of which take away the beneficial qualities. Filtering removes the pollen, which is the part you most want to be in your honey!
The U.S. imports tons of honey, but there is often an issue with lack of regulation and fraudulent documentation, so it’s tough to know what you’re really getting. It’s not fair to demonize everything imported, because some of it is okay. Here’s some 2011 data from Food Safety News, just to give you an idea:
- The U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months.
- About 48 million pounds came from trusted and usually reliable suppliers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay and Mexico.
- Almost 60 percent of what was imported – 123 million pounds – came from Asian countries, traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.
Chinese honey is a huge problem in itself, because it’s often contaminated with lead and dangerous, illegal antibiotics. It’s illegally smuggled into the U.S., and is sometimes routed through other countries to hide the point of origin.
Because labeling of honey is so unregulated, it’s really tough to know if your “pure” honey is really pure or not. There are all kinds of rumored ways to “test” honey’s purity – check out this article. (Please, if you’re going to try to light your honey on fire, be very careful and take proper precautions!)
There’s also the issue of straining vs. filtering, some of which comes down to semantics. Straining can be as simple and innocent as simply removing the larger undesirables (i.e. chunks of honeycomb wax, bee wings, etc.), while filtering is detrimental because it removes all particulate matter, including the pollen. Most commercial filtering involves heating the honey to high temps for easier filtering, which ruins the nutritional value.
BETTER CHOICE: Whenever possible, buy raw, local honey. While there’s no legal definition for what constitutes “raw”, reputable beekeepers agree that:
“Raw honey hasn’t been tampered with…and still includes vitamins A, C, D, E, certain amino acids, and high concentrations of B-complex vitamins. It also contains beneficial enzymes such as amylase, which helps us to digest starchy food such as bread. Raw honey’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties can also help improve the digestive system.” ~ honeycolony.com
Finding a local beekeeper can be as easy as 1, 2, 3! You can search by state at honey.com, or use Google to your advantage by searching for “[your city, state, or county] beekeepers” and you’ll likely get tons of hits. Most databases are pretty user-friendly, and even include links to beekeepers’ social media pages along with their contact info.
If you decide to buy store-bought honey, first look at the honey itself. Do you see particles? Honey that has been filtered removes all or most of the pollen, so high-quality, unfiltered honey should have flecks that the eye can see. If your honey is completely translucent, clear like yellow glass, it’s likely highly processed and excessively filtered.
Next, check the label. Don’t buy anything adulterated (with extra ingredients added, like added sugar in any form, especially high fructose corn syrup). The only ingredient in your jar of honey should be honey!
Look for key words on the label, but remember that there are no legal definitions to these words, so you cannot take anything as a 100% guarantee. Still, look for “raw”, and if you see “strained” that’s a good sign. The label should also state where the honey is sourced from. As always, you can’t go wrong by buying organic honey.
Look for True Source Certified honey, easily identifiable by a logo on the product label. The True Source initiative was created in response to Chinese honey smuggling, to protect consumers and the U.S. honey industry by uniting legit, ethical apiaries. TSC honey requires extensive documentation and adherence to certain standards all the way from the hive to the shelf, and TSC products come with an ID number that allows you to look up where the honey came from.
If you have any doubts, check the company website to see what you can learn. Any company with nothing to hide should be proud to state what their practices are.
#20 Canned Tuna
Guilty pleasure alert – I love making tuna salad, especially when I use it to make giant tuna-salad salads. We create a gi-normous salad full of greens and goodies like chickpeas, broccoli, cucumber, and tomatoes, then top it off with a serving of homemade tuna salad – no salad dressing needed! It’s exquisite.
That being said though, we made the switch a while ago to safer tuna. While tuna isn’t a huge red flag item to worry about (compared to many of the other items I list), there are some concerns. Likewise, there are some better choices you can make.
One of the biggest concerns with tuna is actually environmental responsibility. Did you know that many common brands of tuna contribute horribly to over-fishing and ocean destruction? Even worse, “dolphin-safe” tuna doesn’t mean “ocean-safe”, as many companies do great harm to sharks, sea turtles, and other marine life.
BETTER CHOICE: Check out Greenpeace’s list that rates common tuna brands from best to worst, in an environmental sense, and you can click on each brand to see details. While the list isn’t all-inclusive of all brands out there, you want to look for tuna that was caught by troll or pole-and-line methods. You can also look for the blue Certified Sustainable Seafood logo on the label.
From a personal health standpoint, out of all the “light” tunas, skipjack is the absolute safest in terms of mercury levels. (Other “light” tunas include yellowfin, bluefin, or tongol tuna; their levels can be very high as well.) Don’t buy “white” tuna, which is usually albacore, and has the reputation for some of the highest mercury levels.
In terms of packing, buy water-packed, not oil-packed. Oil-packed tuna presents an added oil quality worry, as well as adding fat content. On average, water-packed tuna tends to contain more beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, an added bonus. For packaging, look for tuna that’s been packed in BPA-free cans, wherever possible.
My personal favorite is Natural Sea Chunk Light Tuna (No Salt Added). It’s CSS-certified, pole-and-line-caught skipjack tuna, which is water-packed in spring water, then packaged in a BPA-free can. It’s honestly the best tuna I’ve ever had. When these go on sale/BOGO at my local market, I stock up like crazy!
Whew! That was a long one. *takes a breath*
I really hope this post was helpful in identifying some more items in your fridge or pantry that can be replaced with better choices. Nothing is more important than your family’s health, but it’s also great to get a better product for your hard-earned buck.
Speaking of bucks, if at any point while reading this you thought to yourself, “Ehh, organic options are too expensive!”, I urge you to check out my previous post Healthy Body, Healthy Bank Account: Eating Well Without Spending a Fortune, which can help you get started.
Though of course, not every better choice costs more. Something as simple as reaching for a regular sour cream rather than a fat-free one costs no more (and actually may cost less).
I know that change is uncomfortable. Breaking old habits is tough. Finding something worth switching to might seem like a pain in the rear, and, yeah, it totally can be. But once you pick a better product, you’re all set, and it becomes a new, better habit.
Wishing you healthier, happier days!