The summer season is upon us and that means it’s time to eat out — outdoors, I mean! From holiday parties to lazy summer family days, the kids will be running around the yard while you grill up food. But is that barbeque safe? Meats and buns can be loaded with dangerous toxins. Mamavation’s Guide to Safe Summer Grilling will help you avoid toxic foods and chemicals to have a safer summer.
According to the LA Times, a 1994 study linked excessive hot dog consumption – 12 or more per month – to a higher risk of cancer. While this study was not conclusive, it is true that this grilled favorite is loaded with junk. Fillers can contain all kinds of toxic chemicals — and don’t forget that hot dogs already are processed meats. Can you buy a hot dog that is safe? You should be looking for organic and grass-fed meats, but you also want hot dogs that are uncured, that is, those that are not treated with synthetic nitrates. Nitrates are dangerous because they can cause damage at the cellular levels and disrupt DNA, increasing the risk of diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. For a more in-depth look at the dangers of nitrates and other additives in toxic foods, read more at Food Matters TV.
Toxic foods: brands to avoid — and why:
- Ball Park Franks: Mechanically separated meat, corn syrup, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, flavor.
- Nathan’s Famous: Hydrolyzed corn protein (MSG), sodium nitrite, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate. According to Livestrong, sodium erythorbate is considered a safe preservative, reducing the need for nitrates, but can cause side effects such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting or other GI issues, to name a few.
- Boar’s Head: Sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.
- Oscar Mayer: Mechanically separated meat, corn syrup, sodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, flavor. Oscar Mayer also contains dextrose, or naturally derived sugar, which adds up since there is already corn syrup in it.
- Hebrew National: Hydrolyzed soy protein (MSG), sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, flavorings.
What to look for: Uncured, organic, grass-fed, no added nitrates, and celery seed as a preservative. While there are no hot dog products that are completely nitrate-free, the brands below contain organically derived nitrates. I recommend limiting how often you feed your children hot dogs because of the nitrates and high fat content.
Safer hot dogs:
- Applegate Hot Dogs – All uncured, with an organic option, beef, chicken and turkey options as well. Gluten-free.
- Organic Prairie Uncured Beef Hot Dogs – Grassfed beef. Gluten-free.
- Trader Joe’s Uncured All Beef Hot Dog – Gluten Free. No artificial preservatives. These are not organic, but are free of antibiotics, hormones, MSG and fillers.
- Homegrown Meats – Grassfed.
- Rocky Mountain Organic Meats – Grass-fed and Gluten Free.
- Hot dogs from your local butcher or CSA. Ask if they are organic, grass-fed and uncured.
While you don’t have to worry about additives and nitrates when buying chopped meat, hamburgers pose a danger if not cooked long enough. This is because many hamburger meats are exposed to bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Local, grass-fed beef, however, has a much lower risk of contracting these bacteria because of the way they are raised. Grass-fed beef comes from cattle that are fed only grass, generally in rotation on a farm. The typical beef in your grocery store comes from assembly-line cattle that are fed a combination of products that are not natural to their diets, such as corn and soy. The resulting problems and the way the cattle are kept leads to the spread of this bacteria. To learn more about this problem, watch the documentary that changed my family’s eating habits, “Food, Inc.” Organic beef means the cattle are raised without exposure to GMOs, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other synthetic chemicals. Because many cattle that are not grass-fed may be eating corn and soy laden with GMOs, the two frequently go hand in hand.
Brands to avoid: Anything in your grocer’s freezer that is not marked organic and grass-fed.
What to look for: Local, organic beef that is grass-fed. If you can’t find organic, at the very least make sure it is free of antibiotics, drugs and growth hormones.
Safer hamburger beef:
- Organic Prairie Grass-fed Beef
- Rocky Mountain Organic Meats
- Homegrown Meats
- Look for your local, organic butchers nearby, at farm markets and CSA’s and at better quality grocer’s, like Whole Foods Market and Wegman’s.
TOXIC FOODS: BUNS
The next question is what to put that grilled meat on. Bread products are notorious for having their fill of chemicals and obesogens, including GMOs, azodicarbonamide, artificial coloring and flavors, high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. Yikes! Now that you’ve finally found a clean hot dog for your child, why would you want to put it on a toxic bun?
Toxic foods: brands to avoid — and why:
- Sara Lee: Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, DATEM, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), calcium propionate, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin.
- Martin’s Potato Rolls: Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides), monocalcium phosphate, calcium propionate, DATEM, calcium sulfate, enzymes.
- Arnold: High fructose corn syrup, mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate, calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, DATEM, coloring, soy lecithin, artificial flavor.
- Kroger: Monoglycerides, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, calcium propionate, high fructose corn syrup, enzymes.
- Sunbeam: Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, DATEM, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), calcium propionate, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin.
- Wonder Bread: Dough conditioners (calcium dioxide, diammonium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides), yeast nutrients (ammonium sulfate), DATEM, monocalcium phosphate, dicalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, calcium propionate, high fructose corn syrup, enzymes.
- Bunny: Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, DATEM, enzymes), yeast nutrients (calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate), calcium propionate, corn syrup, soy lecithin.
- Stroehmann: Mono and diglycerides, calcium propionate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup.
Most packaged buns will contain some or all of these ingredients.
Safer hamburger and hot dog buns:
For hot dogs:
- Whole Foods Market Organic Wheat Buns
- Alvarado St. Bakery Sprouted Buns
- Vermont Bread Company
- Open Nature 100% Whole Wheat Hot Dog Buns
- Rudi’s Organic Bakery White or Wheat Buns
- Open Nature
- Food For Life Ezekiel Sesame Sprouted Grain Buns
- Vermont Bread Company
- Whole Foods Market Organic Wheat or Wheat Buns.
Gluten-free: Rudi’s Multigrain Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Rolls.
For more tips on safe choices for other types of bread, read Food Babe’s article on healthier bread choices.
GRILLING FOR SAFETY
Finally, when you are firing up the grill, here are some things you can do to reduce your exposure to toxic foods:
- Non-toxic Lifestyle recommends nutrients like Vitamin C and E, beta-carotene and other antioxidants “to neutralize some of the carcinogens by blocking the chemical reaction that generates nitrosamines” — that is, the nitrogen in your food. That means making the side dishes and drinks full of antioxidants, like homemade organic lemonade and leafy green salads.
- They also recommend not placing food directly over the coals but putting coals off to the side. Basically, you want to avoid engulfing your food in ash and fire. This is also a specialized grilling technique and will cook your food slower but more safely. See Serious Eats’ detailed guide on how to arrange coals for various foods and grilling styles.
- Never cook with aluminum foil, as heating it activates the molecules and you’ll get food laden with tin. Aluminum is unhealthy for bones and a suspected culprit in causing Alzheimer’s.
- Lump charcoal does not have the additional additives or processing of briquettes, making it a wiser choice.
- Clean all the char off your grill rack and tools before using.
- Condiments are also filled with lots of bad stuff, especially ketchup and BBQ sauce which can contain high fructose corn syrup. Buy organic condiments and read labels to see how much sugar they contain. Better yet, season naturally with spices, lemons and limes.
- Keep up the clean eating trend by serving yummy summer fruit for dessert!
With these tips, your family can have a healthier backyard barbeque and avoid toxic foods all summer long.
Bookieboo LLC works with Applegate, Organic Prairie & Rudi’s Bakery.