Many recipes contain ingredients that are completely unhealthy, from chemicals added as “flavor enhancers,” or preservatives to give the item a more stable shelf-life, these items are always unnecessary. There are plenty of fresh herbs and spices that can replace those ingredients, without adversely affecting the recipe. Here is a list of my “Top 10” offenders and their healthier substitutions:
Chicken soup mix: A totally unnecessary chemical-filled product, since the chicken you put into your chicken soup gives it plenty of flavor if you let it cook long enough. Add Herbamare (see table salt) to taste, turmeric to give it a nice golden yellow color, and dill, parsley, fresh onions and garlic and you’ll never miss that chicken soup mix again.
Crisco shortening: I can’t believe this product is still around – so unhealthy! A much better alternative is organic coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature. It works amazingly well in baking and the type of saturated fat it contains is actually good for you! If you don’t like a coconut flavor added to your baked goods then use the one that says “ideal for cooking”. I like the Omega Nutrition brand.
Bottled lemon Juice: Most bottled lemon juice has sulphites in it – the same ingredient used in wine to keep it from going rancid. Sulphites can cause allergies/sensitivities in many people. Besides, bottled lemon juice tastes awful – if you don’t believe me, try to switch over for a few weeks and then try the bottled version again…..I assure you, you’ll pour it down the drain after that. Always use fresh squeezed lemons instead. It’s worth the extra minute it takes to squeeze the lemon juice as it adds a natural flavor to your food that you simply can’t duplicate.
Margarine and other fake butter: Are people still even buying this stuff? Yuck, nothing but hydrogenated oils, chemicals to keep it stable and unhealthy fats. Always use pure 100% butter (organic is best, of course, but I also like Breakstone’s butter). For a parve (non-dairy) alternative, the soy-free Earths Balance brand is your best option and does well in baking too. While it is not as crispy for cookies and a little tricky to handle in pie crusts the end result is still delicious and well worth the slightly extra effort.
Onion soup mix: This product is unfortunately laden with chemicals and preservatives, as well as food coloring in some cases. Although the newer versions did start omitting MSG – a highly allergenic/sensitive ingredient used to “enhance flavor” – it still isn’t a healthy option to use in your soups or any other recipe. For some reason, we Jews love our onion soup mix and put it in everything, from soups to vegetable kugels (souffles). Instead, for each package called for in a recipe, substitute 1 tablespoon onion powder, 3/4-1 tsp sea salt, and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper. My sister-in-law gave me the following option as well: 8 teaspoons dried onion flakes (make sure it does not contain Sulphites), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Makes about 3 tablespoons and can be kept in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.
Spice blends: So many brands of spices make spice blends that contain a myriad of chemicals, artificial flavors and of course MSG. Either organic brands or Pereg, an Israeli company whose spice blends only contain one thing: real spices. And yes, you can definitely taste the difference.
Splenda: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Splenda is chlorinated chemical-laden sugar. Use organic raw sugar, sucanat, or any other sweeteners mentioned on my blog post Oh, the Sweet Life – you’ll be glad you did! Do you really want your baked goods to have a chemical aftertaste to save a few calories and to harm your health? It’s simply not worth it.
Table Salt: The common table salt is 99.9% sodium chloride (it’s salt that’s been chemically stripped and processed). Although, initially table salt had just sodium and chlorine as, later on, salt manufacturers started adding iodine to it to prevent people from suffering from iodine deficiency diseases. Sea salt, on the other hand, is the unrefined salt that is obtained by simply evaporating the water from the seas or oceans. While sea salt is 98% sodium chloride, the remaining 2% is made of other important minerals like iron, sulfur, magnesium and other trace elements so it’s a much better choice. Another option, and one of my favorites, is Herbamare, a sea salt and herb blend that adds a flavorful salt substitute to your recipes and is lower in Sodium. (Don’t use in baking, however, unless you like your desserts to have a faint hint of vegetable flavor )
Vegetable bouillon cubes: Along the same lines as onion soup mix and chicken soup mix, these vegetable bouillon cubes are generally mostly chemicals and artificial ingredients. Even when they do contain “natural” ingredients, they are ridiculously high in sodium. Many recipes calling for vegetable stock can be successful with water and some Herbamare added. My preference in most cases, though, is Organic Vegetable Broth from the Imagine brand, found at most health food stores. Not too high in sodium, it contains real vegetable ingredients and comes in a carton with no preservatives.
White vinegar: White vinegar is devoid of any nutritional value and is very acidic to body tissues. Substitute fresh lemon juice instead (which is alkaline, therefore healthier for your body) OR raw apple cider vinegar – I like the Bragg’s brand. Raw apple cider vinegar has a strong taste, so don’t just randomly substitute it for white vinegar; it will work great in some recipes but not others. And yes, those “pieces” in it are perfectly normal and very beneficial to your intestinal tract! Some people use a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar before each meal to alkalize body tissues and aid in digestion.
As you can see, there is always a healthier, better alternative — why don’t you give some of the above choices a try, I would love to have your feedback!Read More