Home Food Storage and Healthy Food Choices
by Gary D. Palmer
“Our products do not contain aluminum, artificial fragrances, artificial flavours, dyes, mineral oil, parabens, petrolatum, phtalates, artificial preservatives, triclosan or other unwanted artificial ingredients.” Thus states The Green Beaver Company, a Canadian firm manufacturing “healthy all natural personal care products”, as they describe the toothpastes which they include in their lineup of products.
This is all part of a growing trend, a trend to go back to the natural, and the organic. Many consumers now actively seek products that are not filled with unknown and, to them, suspect chemicals. They don’t want cosmetics that have gone through much animal testing on the way to marketability. They want products that are environmentally safe and people friendly.
This thinking, however, is not limited to toothpaste and face creams. Our food supplies are also now coming under increased scrutiny by those who want to address these legitimate concerns. The typical North American now enjoys unprecedented choice, convenience and abundance when it comes to choosing food supplies for fridge, freezer or kitchen cupboard. Yet, is there a hidden price being paid? The answer to that depends upon what you feel about food additives, and to just what you consider to be an additive. Even fresh food can sometimes be suspect. Is it possible that those tomatoes might have a trace of pesticide residue left upon them? What really is in that waxy substance that is used to make those apples so shiny and attractive?
Often preservatives are necessary. They can extend shelf life, add flavor, and hinder bacterial growth. They are what have made possible much of the abundance and variety that we enjoy today. But is there anything that we can do to cut back on at least some of these chemicals that we almost unknowingly consume each and every day? Well, that is one area in which home food storage can play a role.
Consider a package of beef jerky. It is relatively inexpensive, easily available, and tasty. Check out the package cover. It likely says right on it, “High in Protein – Low in Fat.” That certainly sounds like a nice, healthful snack, but what’s all of that in the list of ingredients? There’s beef, water, sugar, soy sauce, salt, spices, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed corn protein, sodium erthorbate, sodium nitrite and mesquite smoke. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. There’s no other choice. This is on a “take it or leave it basis.” You could, of course, look for another brand, but, again, you cannot remove what has already been added, and there is sure to have been something added.
Yet, making beef jerky at home is also a possibility. You’ll probably want a dehydrator and some lean ground beef. You will probably want to add some things yourself, but now you do get to choose. There is a commercially available product sold under the brand name Jerky Works. They provide jerky making tools and flavorings. Typically, you would mix one of their flavor packets and one of their cure packets with one pound of that lean, ground beef. Yes, this means there are still “additives”, but now you are only adding Dextrose, Salt, Natural Spices, Hickory Smoked Flavor, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, and Imitation Maple Flavor in the seasoning, and salt and sodium nitrate in the “cure”. Is that better?
Many would say, “yes”, but if you are saying, “no”, you still have the option of doing your own flavoring and curing. One recipe calls for flank steak, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and seasoning salt. Is that even better? It might be, but you might want to consider the fact that Worcestershire sauce also has a list of ingredients – malt vinegar, white vinegar, blackstrap molasses, soya sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt, sodium benzoate), brown sugar, salt, spices, onion powder, garlic powder, tamarind concentrate, caramel color, anchovies, citric acid, spice extract, polysorbate 80, sulphites and natural flavor as found in one brand.
One could choose another recipe, but the simple fact is that you are unlikely to be able to entirely eliminate these so-called food additives whether you are buying it from the store, or whether you are doing your own food processing. Even salt, which is so often used and so often termed a “natural” ingredient, is actually a chemical – sodium chloride, so with it, you are still adding chemicals. On the other hand, by doing it yourself you do get to exercise control. You pick. You choose. They’re additives which you will have approved.
Beef jerky might not be something that would appeal to a vegan, but it does make for a good example. The fact is these choices can be made in relation to all sorts of food storage. Check out the additives in that can of tomato sauce. What could you eliminate if you made your own sauce? Would a food washer put your mind at ease when it comes to those pesticide residues? Are you a hiker and enjoy trail mix, but have trouble finding something suitable for you personally? Again, you can do it yourself, and control it yourself.
Home food storage can indeed save you money, but it can also allow you to make more healthful food choices.