Never take for granted what you read on a label, especially if it’s attached to the food you’re going to put in your mouth and swallow. Just because it says “heart healthy” or “sugar-free” doesn’t mean the product you just tossed into your cart isn’t full of other ingredients that will eventually kill you. That bit of advice includes restaurant meals ordered from the supposedly “healthy” section of a menu or drive through fast food that claims to use only the best and freshest ingredients. Don’t believe it, nothing processed is ever going to be as healthy or good for you as food and drink you prepare yourself.
Cooking Healthy Is Easier Than You Might Think
Fresh food isn’t that much of a pain to prepare, your health is worth a little extra effort and so is your wallet. Think about it. The average cost of a “quality” pre-made meal is about $7 to $10, and believe me, I use the word quality very loosely regarding these packaged health disasters. For the price of 5 of them you could easily buy enough fresh food to make 10 meals that would actually be good for you and still have leftover ingredients for a few more.
All you need is a good recipe book and the proper kitchen equipment. You will know your hands are the only ones touching your food, not some stranger in a food processing plant that may have skipped washing their hands after their last bathroom break. I realize that’s a gross reference, but it makes a point. Unless you stand there and watch, how can you be absolutely sure all that packaged food in your cupboards or freezer is contaminant free?
When You Can’t Avoid Buying Something Pre-Made
Some products have to be bought pre-made or do without because the natural ingredients just aren’t available in your area. In that case, at least make sure the product is guaranteed by an organization you can trust. Take agave nectar for example. Chances of finding the right ingredients to make your own at the local grocers are probably slim to none but it is delicious as well and very good for you. Keeping the following in mind when you’re forced to buy food or drink someone else prepared is always a good idea.
- When it’s not possible to make something yourself, at least make sure the product is “policed” by a reputable third-party organization. For example, Quality Assurance International ensures that agave nectar is the 100% natural product its producers claim, or they wouldn’t back it.
- When in doubt, there’s always Google. If you have questions about agencies responsible for quality control, all you need is an internet connection and a few minutes on a keyboard to see if you should trust what you read or not.
Close your eyes, take a bite or a sip and consider the true taste of what you just put in your mouth. When it comes to freshness let your taste buds be the judge. Maybe you’ve eaten processed foods all your life and have no idea what good food should even smell like but your sense of taste is going to know. Then again, there are some really delicious dishes in the frozen foods section you should probably avoid, so you can’t really trust your taste buds either. Confusing? Yes, and about the only way to avoid it is just stick to making your own food and drink whenever possible.
Keep Your Common Sense Handy
According to WebMd there are a variety of ways to make sure your food is safe regardless of where it came from. Mostly, it all comes down to simple common sense. Because vegetables have a “locally grown” sticker on them doesn’t make them any safer than something grown hundreds of miles away, but that doesn’t mean you should give up vegetables. In short, you don’t have to give up all your favorite foods or sacrifice taste for health but if you want to increase your chances of living out a full lifespan, sticking to the following rules would be a good idea.
- If it was cold when you bought it, keep it that way. Either buy yourself some of the cold storage bags to keep food cool for the ride home or at least keep an ice-chest in the trunk for shopping day.
- Keep thermometers in your fridge and freezer to make sure they are working as they should. It doesn’t take much of a temperature variation to ruin some foods and you might not realize until it’s on your plate that the fridge isn’t keeping things as cool as it should.
- It might test your patience, but never thaw food on the countertop. Allowing anything frozen to unthaw naturally in the fridge is safer than leaving it on the counter where it could spoil slightly, and you’d never know it if the flavor wasn’t affected.
U.S. citizens are lucky because they have some of the strictest “food cops” on the planet. Even so, one little lapse is all it takes to send you to the ER with a bad case of food poisoning. Just because that bag of fresh veggies or fruit says FDA approved doesn’t mean you can skip washing it. You can have the cleanest kitchen in the country but if the food isn’t just as clean what good are shiny pots, or sterilized cutting boards and utensils?