Today is Cinco de Mayo, and millions of people will be celebrating with traditional Mexican foods. Mexican food is one of my favorite types of cuisine.. Its spicy, flavorful, and downright delicious. However, it is also often overly salty, and occasionally greasy…but it doesn’t have to be! One of our favorite healthy Mexican meals are Taco Seasoned Turkey Burgers. The recipe will be at the end of this post, but before we share it with you we just wanted to give you some info you might not have known about what is in that taco seasoning packet you picked up at the grocery store for tonight’s dinner.
If you walk down the aisle in the grocery store, you will find hundreds of packaged spice mixes for everything you could imagine…taco seasoning, steak rubs, chicken marinades… These packets look harmless enough, and most people would probably guess that they only contain real spices, but that’s not true. If you take a look at the nutritional information you will find that they’re loaded with many unrecognizable ingredients.
If you take a look at any popular taco mix packet you will find that some of the ingredients include Maltodextrin, Modified Corn Starch, ‘Natural Flavor’, and Caramel Color, with close to 500 mg of sodium per tablespoon (Crazy!) Wondering what these ingredients are? Take a look…
- Maltodextrin is a fairly common food additive in many pre-packaged snacks and meals. Chemically it is a chain of glucose modules (in non science terms, it is unnecessary added sugars.) Maltodextrin is used to thicken products and increase their shelf life, as well as adding sweetness.
- Modified Corn Starch is typically a product of GMO corn, which was then processed with a few chemicals such as sulfuric acid (yummy!) to give you the final product. Similar to Maltodextrin, modified corn starch is used to thicken foods. While there is no official research done proving the danger of modified corn starch, it can’t hurt to avoid it
- Natural Flavor is in just about every processed food you can find… except its not very ‘natural’. Natural flavors are actually concocted in laboratories by ‘flavorists’. (Read Fast Food Nation if you want to learn all about this.. you’ll be amazed!) In their labs they use a mix of ‘natural’ and artificial chemicals to create extracts/flavorings. Natural flavorings are used in many common processed foods such as seltzer, soda and nearly all fast food. So that yummy flavor that tastes like ‘taco’ is really just a mix of chemicals. Shocking and sadly enough, the FDA actually is aware of this and APPROVES it.
- Caramel color is another common food additive, chemically derived from ammonia. It helps to keep the consistency of products, and gives them whatever color the food manufacturers decide.
So my question to you is : Why would we want to eat that??
If you were cooking your own meal, would you add artificial sweeteners, thickeners, lab-created chemicals or food coloring? I’m hoping your answer would be no!! But there is some good news here….
You don’t have to give up the flavors that you love.. you can easily recreate things like taco seasoning by making your own mixture of spices (minus the yucky ingredients found in the store brand!) Making your own mixes of spices is much cheaper than buying packets, and there are no nasty additives.
Here is our go-to spice mix for taco night:
Clean Eating Taco Seasoning:
- 1 tsp of chili powder
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- pinch of salt
You can double or triple this recipe and add it in a jar to keep on hand. We make a big batch of it and keep it in our spice cabinet since we use it so often. (You probably will want to do the same after you try it!)
If you’re looking to switch up your Cinco-de-Mayo inspired dinner.. try our Taco Seasoned Turkey Burgers. We took 1 lb of ground turkey, mixed our taco seasoning recipe into the meat, and cooked the burgers on the grill. We topped ours with fresh salsa, avocado, and hot sauce. So easy and delicious!
There is a lot of research being done on food additives. For more information, you can look at the FDA’s website, Center for Science in the Public Interest, or other official websites with credible sources.