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Technology has given birth to new food preservation techniques that make it easier than ever to stock up on grab-and-go snacks and meals for your busy family. However, what you may not know is that a great many pre-packaged foods contain preservatives that do not contribute to good nutrition. If you want to start cutting preservatives from your family’s diet, there are five steps you can take that will help put you all on a path to clean eating.
1. Eat More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
While canned fruits and frozen vegetables are convenient to make, especially when you are pressed for time, their processing often robs them of their nutritional value. In addition, canned fruit is often packed in heavy syrup rich in added sugar. To reap all the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables, buy them fresh and eat them as soon as you can. For example, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries can be added to oatmeal or a whole-grain bowl of cereal, and fresh vegetables can be sliced into a crisp and refreshing salad for lunch.
If you are concerned about pesticides or other chemicals when it comes to buying fresh fruits and vegetables, take the time to purchase them locally so you can get information on how they are grown and harvested or buy organic selections that experience minimal processing.
2. Give Sweet Drinks the Boot
Regular and diet soda, fruit punch, drinking pouches, and ready-to-mix drinks all contain dyes and preservatives that add no nutritional value to your family’s diet. These drinks also contain a great deal of sugar; for example, one twelve-ounce can of soda can contain as much as forty grams of sugar, which is equal to over nine teaspoons. Even ready-made smoothies that are labeled as being healthy may contain more than a few preservatives.
To promote clean drinking in your family, install a water filter on your kitchen tap or keep bottled water on hand. If your kids want something that will satisfy their sweet tooth, teach them how to make a smoothie from fresh fruit such as strawberries, cantaloupe, and bananas. Add a touch of organic agave syrup or a packet of Stevia if you want to increase the sweetness. If you buy vegetable juice from the store, choose an organic brand and check the label to ensure it does not contain added sugar.
3. Take Stock of Your Condiments
Preservatives might be present where you least expect them, and one place they might be hiding is in the condiments you use every day. Salad dressings, mayonnaise, mustard, and prepared marinades often contain food coloring and a variety of preservatives that give them a longer shelf life. To cut down on preservatives in this area, read labels carefully and consider replacing your current salad dressing with a cleaner product, such as Hampton Creek Italian or ranch dressings. These products are made with just a few ingredients and contain no artificial dyes. They can be used to create veggie dips and marinades.
4. Cut Out Grab-and-Go Snacks
Pre-packaged snacks, lunches, and ready-to-bake meals are packed with so many preservatives that the ingredient list takes more than a few minutes to decipher. While snacks and meals like this might be a convenient choice, they usually contain little nutritional value and may leave you feeling unsatisfied. As a result, you may binge on unhealthy foods later on in the day.
While cutting out pre-processed foods may take a little planning, even the busiest of families can manage it. Plan trips to the grocery store carefully and then take one night a week to package your own snacks and to prepare and freeze homemade meals. You can even make this into a family activity so it is more enjoyable for everyone. Include bagged snacks such as sliced apples, celery and carrot sticks, whole wheat pretzels, and organic cheese bites for bagged lunches or to grab on the way to soccer practice.
5. Say No to Fast Food
While you probably already know about the connection between fast food and obesity, what you may not know is that most fast food selections contain a huge amount of preservatives as well. Much of this food is designed to endure sitting under heat lamps until it is wrapped and served, which requires a great deal of processing. To avoid the consumption of these preservatives, cook meals at home and carry a healthy sack lunch to work or school.
Following these five steps to cutting preservatives from your family’s diet can help improve their overall nutrition and create habits that may put them on the path for a lifetime of clean eating.
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