Some of us love to be in the kitchen cooking and creating delectable food to nourish the body. Others of us use the kitchen more for separating real mail from junk mail and haphazardly scrounging together something that resembles a meal. I belong to the first of those groups. My kitchen is my haven. If I’m having a stressful week, there’s likely a batch of fresh cookies packaged up to share with friends. Saturdays many times consist of a new recipe simmering on the stove or a crockpot full of goodness making the whole house smell mouthwatering. And then on Sunday afternoons, you’ll find me prepping my lunches and snacks for the whole week. It’s well known that 80% of how we look is based on how we eat. Like you mom always told you, “you are what you eat”. The more I’ve learned over the years about nutrition, the more time I’ve spent in my kitchen preparing food that will enrich my health and the lives of those who sit at the table with me.
You are hopefully well aware of a few cardinal rules of eating: fill most of your plate with veggies, eat clean sources of protein, add in fruit once or twice a day, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water all day. A few other rules of nutrition: local sources of food are great and work hard to avoid toxic ingredients like additives and preservatives.
Let’s talk a little more about additives and preservatives. Many processed food products – those found in the middle isles of the grocery store – are loaded with ingredients to elongate shelf life and enhance flavor and stability. Some aren’t as threatening, but with others it’s downright mind boggling and infuriating when you realize what they are. Let’s take propylene glycol, for example. I recently turned around a bottle of BBQ sauce and found propylene glycol as the second ingredient. If you do a simple google search, you’ll find many uses for it, including a de-icing fluid for aircrafts and anti-freeze for marine and RV purposes. I’m not sure about you, but I think I would prefer to stay away from these potentially toxic ingredients. A good word of advice when looking at nutrition labels: if your grandmother never heard of it and you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from it. Another word of advice: if a product has more than five ingredients, try not to eat it. The more processed a food is, the more ingredients it has, and the less likely it’s a good idea to make it a regular part of your diet.
Knowing what I know about toxic ingredients, this summer I decided to make my own versions of some common food items. Remember, I love being in my kitchen so when I made my first batch of homemade mayo, I was so excited. Then I perfected a green garlic sauce that is delicious on everything from a steak to grilled veggies. Just this last week I made homemade Sriracha. Not only was it much easier than I thought it would be to make it, but it was fun and it tastes just like the “real thing”. One of the most gratifying parts of making these all on my own is the fact that I know exactly what is in them – no toxic additives and preservatives. Instead, they are jam packed with nutrients our body needs to be healthy.
You may not be interested or able to make your own products like this. If that’s the case, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and start paying close attention to the nutrition labels on everything you put in your cart. If you aren’t sure of what an ingredient it, I urge you to google it and start learning what you’re eating. Whether you make your own food or rely on more packaged goods, start replacing foods full of additives and preservatives with nutrient dense, wholesome options. If you’re like me and love the kitchen, try your hand a making as much of your own food as possible. As for me, my next adventure is going to be making my own ketchup. I’m hoping it turns out to be as easy and tasty as my other new favorites. Wish me luck in finding the perfect recipe.