HOW TO CLEAN OUT YOUR KITCHEN & DECIPHER FOOD LABELS TO MAKE YOUR HOUSEHOLD ADDITIVE FREE

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Feel like a bit of a spring clean?  Ok so maybe it’s not quite spring yet here in Oz, or perhaps you’re still enjoying a lovely sunny summer in other parts of the world… Consider this some fabulous forward planning to get you spring cleaning ready! It’s so cleansing to cull and sort  – but can be such a pain in the butt too!  Never fear!  This blog will help make your additive free spring cleaning super easy :-) Why am I talking about spring cleaning?  Because cleaning out your kitchen of all things containing additives is one of the first big steps towards making a positive change to eat fresh, additive free food.

When it comes to making the change to additive-free foods, the pantry, fridge and freezer need to be attacked before restocking with wonderful fresh clean food alternatives.  Not only does it eliminate temptation for little hands to seek foods that aren’t good for them, it’s also a great way for everyone to commence their education on all things additive-free.

The aim here is to find what additives are in foods by reading the labels and ingredients of all products to determine if they’re ok to eat.  Remember, there’s always hidden ingredients (not always listed or named to trick us), so depending on how chemical-free you are wanting to be, it could be best to do away with a lot of products and stick to fresh homemade foods.  To know what to keep and what to toss, all you have to do is follow these four simple steps and you’ll have an additive free kitchen… It’s that easy!

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1.  ARM YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS AND RESOURCES

  • Make sure you have a comprehensive list on hand with all the additive names and numbers (and their sneaky alternative names).  Check out my fact sheets where you can find the additives listed by number or alphabetically with clear indications which ones are not good for you.  Click here for a list of additives to avoid by name or number.
  • Have several boxes and garbage bags for items you’re not keeping and permanent markers to mark products one they’re checked.  It’s also worth checking out places or people who may benefit from the products you are going to toss.
  • Now is also a good time to assign a tool and task to each person (see tips below)

2. FIND THE INGREDIENT LIST FOR EACH PRODUCT

  • Never trust the advertising and labelling on the front of product packaging!
  • Labels such as “no preservatives” “no artificial colourings” etc do not necessarily guarantee it’s a safe item to eat.
  • Look for the ingredient list on the label/packaging and read each ingredient carefully.
  • Tip:  Because of dodgy labelling laws, words like ‘flavours’ and ‘natural’ and the illusive 5% margin/gap*, there is not always the whole truth or a guarantee that is all that’s in the product.  If wanting to go the whole hog, best to stick to fresh organic produce and make your own as much as possible instead of processed foods with this margin for error.  Otherwise, add to your list of ingredients to avoid the words such as ‘natural flavouring’ and ‘flavours’ to be sure to be sure…

* the 5% labelling gap is basically a law that states if the ingredient is less than 5% of the products total ingredients, it doesn’t have to be identified… Convenient for hiding sneaky additives and unwanted nasties

3. READ EACH INGREDIENT

  • Search the ingredient list for additive numbers or names and ingredients that don’t seem familiar (i.e.: anything that isn’t immediately recognisable is questionable… apple is easy enough to know, acesulphame potassium maybe not so much)
  • Not all additives will be listed as a number!  Some tricky manufacturers will use their name or alternative names to make it just that little bit harder to recognize.  All additive lists on my website have alternative names to help you decipher such things…
  • Tip:  There will be a lot of unfamiliar names – what a great conversation starter for the kids to become educated on why fresh real foods are best!
  • This is a great job to share or do with your family so kids can see how many ingredients go into something that seems quite simple or natural
  • It’s also worth comparing the same product but different brands to see how they can have different ingredients (despite being called the same thing) (e.g.: strawberry jam from one manufacturer can contain very different ingredients than to another brand).
  • Likewise, check out different products by the same brand – some can be ok, and others not, so you can’t trust the ‘brand name’ as an indication all things they make are ok.
  • Tip:  Ingredients are listed according to how much is in the total product.  Which means the first thing listed is the ingredient that you will find the most of in the whole product.  So if you see sugar as the first or second ingredient, and milk down the list, then you know your yoghurt is more sugar than milk and best to avoid no matter what additives are or aren’t present! Mind you, this doesn’t mean that if an additive is last on the list, it is a negligible amount and not worth worrying about.  ANY amount of additives best to avoid is NOT ok.

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4. MARK IT, KEEP IT, BOX IT OR BIN IT

  • Decide if the ingredient is ok.  Is it on the list as an ok additive, or is it one to avoid?  Check out the list of additives by clicking here.  You will notice on my lists the additives are coded into three categories.  Green = good, orange = bad and red = avoid.  I recommend avoiding all the orange and red additives to be safe.  When it comes to food additives, in my eyes, if something’s questionable, it’s best to not even bother… If you can’t find an ingredient by name or number on my lists or don’t recognize it’s name, feel free to ask me on Facebook or contact me here.  Include a pic of the packaging, label or just the ingredient name you’re not sure of and I’ll find out for you!
  • Once you know if the ingredients are ok or not (it only takes one food additive best to avoid for it to be considered a big no), Mark it!  To save confusion, it’s best to mark the package with a great big tick if it’s ok, or a cross if it’s not.
  • Finally, all you need to decide now is whether you Keep it (and pop the big ticked items back in the pantry), Box it (to give to some unsuspecting person who is yet to realize the benefits of going gluten free) or Bin it (because it’s really not worth spreading the lovin’).

Simple huh?

Now here’s a few tips to help you out…

* If you have been following my blogs and have an idea for how additive free you wish to go, adjust your clean out plan of attack accordingly.  So if aiming to go the whole hog and be fully organic as well as additive free, you need to add in a whole other elimination criteria (which actually makes it quite simple!) and determine whether something is certified organic or not.  If not, it goes.  If it is certified organic, still check the ingredients for additives!  Why?  Because some sneaky organic things can still contain preservatives… I discovered this the hard way (hello organic wine :-)).  Which leads me to also mention, if you haven’t discovered the beauty of organic wine, I urge you to start now!!  Put simply, truly organic and preservative free wine means no more headaches or hangovers (ok if drinking in moderation of course!)… Yay!… Oops! I digress…

* If you have other food sensitivities (click here to find out what I mean by that slightly ambiguous word sensitivities), now is also the time to adjust your kitchen clean out rules to include what bothers you (or your family).  For example, if salicylate free, check out my lists by clicking here to see what foods are high in salicylates and add them to your ‘foods to avoid’ list as you’re cleaning out your kitchen.  Likewise, if going gluten free, follow the same steps, but also look for ingredients specifically containing gluten.  Need help with this?  Keep a check on my website and Facebook, I have a super duper ebook coming soon and it’s all about How go gluten free!  All the strategies, info and tips you could ever need to get you or your family gluten free in one book.  Stay tuned!!

* I have clients who use this kitchen clean out time as a great family activity.  It opens up discussion and awareness of the need for change. How do you make it a family thing?  Assign tasks to everyone!  From the littlest helpers – assuming the rather responsible task of manning the marker for a big tick or cross; or perhaps being the box it, bin it, keep it –er person… to the older kidlets – reading the label ingredients and checking it they’re ok.  It’s a great way to start educating them about food additives and ingredients, plus it opens their eyes to the number of nasties there can be in processed food compared to fresh or organic products.

So what are you waiting for?  In four simple steps, you too can have an additive free kitchen, ready to stock up with fresh, real foods for your family!

Happy additive free spring cleaning!

Loren x

PS: Still think this is all too hard?  Well I have some great news for you!  The Food Werewolf Database has just taken a giant leap forwards and design is finished and development is halfway complete… Yay!  What does this mean?  When version 1.0 is fully developed, I will have a quick easy tool to help design tailored additive free menu plans and shopping lists for clients to take all the hard work out of going additive free.  Then we start making minor adjustments to have it ready for everyone to use, and cleaning out your kitchen becomes a simple check for the product on the database to determine if it’s ok to keep or not!  Hooray!  Stay tuned!