My path towards a healthier lifestyle and eating clean continues to be a journey; I didn’t just arrive at the destination with all the right answers. In a world full of misleading nutritional information and marketing gimmicks, I have taken small steps on my journey and even taken the wrong path a few times. Despite the setbacks, I continue to move forward and bring with me the things I’ve learned along the way. Last night was taco night at our house and I thought I would take a good look at the various taco seasonings that I have used over the years. I was shocked by what I found by just looking in my pantry!
Name Brand Seasoning Packets
Any good taco starts with seasoned meat and, as evidenced by my pantry, I’ve tried a few. For convenience, it can’t get much easier than the name brand seasoning packets from the grocery store. Unfortunately, that convenience comes with a price. Looking at the label reveals 12 ingredients:
Yellow corn flour, salt, maltodextrin, paprika, spices, modified corn starch, sugar, garlic powder, citric acid, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavor and caramel color.
I don’t know what maltodextrin, citric acid and autolyzed yeast extract are exactly, but I don’t see why I need them to season my food. Keep looking at the nutrition label and you will see a single serving of the mix has 430mg of sodium, or 18% of the recommended daily value. That sounded high to me, but the real shocker was that a single serving is only 1/6th of a packet! That means a single pound of seasoned meat would include 2,580mg of sodium, slightly more than what is recommended for a full day!
Reduced Sodium Name Brand Seasoning Packets
Thank goodness they came up with reduced sodium seasoning packets to ease my concerns. They cut the sodium in a single packet by 40% and it now includes only 1,560mg of sodium or 65% of the recommended daily value. I fell for their marketing at the time, but I know better now. Looking at the list of ingredients shows that they have increased the number of ingredients from 12 to 13:
Yellow corn flour, maltodextrin, salt, paprika, spices, modified corn starch, ancho pepper, garlic powder, citric acid, autolyzed yeast extract, onion powder, caramel color and silicon dioxide.
I’m all for reduced sodium in the foods that I eat, but silicon dioxide? No thanks. A quick search on the Internet will tell me more about the molecular structure of this chemical compound than its nutritional profile. It can be an eye and skin irritant as well as being found in nature as sand. I don’t know why I would want to digest that.
Wildtree® Taco Seasoning Blend
Wildtree® seasonings are a great option for people who are looking to avoid unnecessary processing and additives in their foods but want to avoid the hassle of creating their own seasoning mix. A look at the list of ingredients shows that many of the 8 ingredients are also found in the name brand seasoning packets, just without the additives:
Masa corn flour, chili powder, cumin, sea salt, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder and black pepper.
With nothing out of the ordinary on the list of ingredients, it was time to check the sodium. The recipe calls for 5 teaspoons of the Taco Seasoning Blend which adds 300mg of sodium or 13% of the recommended daily value. That’s less than 1/5th of the amount of sodium found in the reduced sodium name brand packet!
Make Your Own Taco Seasoning
My family likes our taco seasoning with a little more kick to it, but we still want to avoid the unnecessary sodium and additives. Chances are, you already have the spices you need in your pantry so why not make your own? Don’t know where to start? Try this recipe:
1 Tbsp chili powder
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
I bet those ingredients look familiar. With the exception of the cayenne pepper added for a little kick, you have seen each of the spices in the store-bought seasoning mixes. Simply mix all the ingredients together and it is ready to go! Feel free to double the recipe to keep some on hand, just add 2 to 3 tablespoons to a pound of cooked meat and simmer with 3/4 cup of water.
The steps I’ve taken towards a healthier lifestyle just in taco seasoning alone may sound familiar to you. Maybe you are just at the beginning of your own journey. Either way, I hope you see the difference that little changes can make and keep moving forward.