Convenience foods are everywhere these days, a sachet of this, a favouring mix of that… In my search for a long term healthier lifestyle for my family, I have taken to actually reading the labels on products that I’m looking at in the supermarket.
Packet mixes and convenience food items have been the biggest shock of all not only because it has been a revelation to see a heap of “E” numbers in the list, but worse to see just how close Salt often is to the start of the list of ingredients. Why does where an ingredient is placed on the list matter? It matters because it is standard practice to list the ingredients on the label in the exact order that they appear in the product by percentage of the total product.
So… in a fit of laziness and former habit, a packet of dry Guacamole mix ended up in my shopping basket and had already been whisked past the scanner and added to my bill before I took my brain out of neutral.
I wanted it for a quick and easy dip and was in a supermarket with a 4 year old and an 8 year old, so yes indeed, I was already stretched for patience between the constant begging for sweets and anything else in a package that contained neon colours (edible or not) and little one deciding that he wanted to ride in the shopping trolley, and then not, and then yes and then no again…
Stretching multi-tasking to it’s absolute limits is never recommended and nor are kids in supermarkets at any hour of the day, as most parents will have learned the hard way.So, the packet mix is stashed in my eco-friendly canvas cloth shopping bag and the deed has been done.. at home a closer inspection reveals that the first ingredients are “onion, lactose, salt, garlic, citric acid, tomato powder, lemon powder, parsley, paprika, leek, and anti something agent” (E551) that roughly translates from Dutch into English as an “anti-clumping agent” . So salt is the third biggest ingredient.. ouch.
Yes it does taste good… but at the end of the day I’m trying to wean my Salt addicted Hubby off vast volumes of the stuff so that (a) he doesn’t have a heart attack and (b) I don’t have a heart attack worrying myself to death that he might have one… and (c) so that the kids don’t grow up thinking that bucketloads of salt are a food necessary to make already great tasting veggies palatable.
Let’s take up the challenge: it’s avocados at dawn and chopping knives drawn…
I have tried various Guacamole recipes over the years and adapted them into a new one of my own that suits our family’s tastes.
2 medium peeled avocados (pit removed)
1/4 teaspoon jalapeño pepper, minced (or not, depending on your kid’s taste buds)
1 glove garlic, minced
2 small tomatoes ( minced)
very small shallot OR 2 spring onions with green top part (minced)
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro ( maybe you call this ” coriander” where you are from)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Method: Use a stick blender to mince the garlic, onion and tomato, then mash all ingredients together to taste.
The verdict ? they were very different, the home made version was a good blend of flavours and you could actually identify them. The packet mix was very tasty, but tasted too salty in comparison with the homemade version.
But the point is: I know what was in the homemade version, maybe more importantly also what wasn’t in it, and convenience? the homemade guacamole took only a few extra minutes to make.
It’s not rocket science and it’s not top secret… so why are we letting ourselves be convinced that packet mixes are always better than what we can make at home with a few fresh ingredients? We need more confidence in our own abilities and a little more education in ingredient knowledge. Maybe it’s no accident that ingredient information is often presented on packets in the tiniest of print.. my personal opinion is that for the sake of our health and and that of our children, it is high time that more of us put the fine print of food labels under the magnifying glass.