In almost every “simple” recipe you find on pinterest or basically anywhere you look, there is bound to be mention of some kind of seasoning or flavor packet. Especially when it comes to casseroles, dips, and most all Mexican foods. Things like taco seasoning, enchilada seasoning, grilling seasoning, ranch flavor packets and many more. These are packed with flavor and are so easy to use, but unfortunately they contain more than just the seasonings themselves… Many of them also include additives like Monosodium glutamate (MSG), maltodextrin, artificial flavors, and other questionable ingredients. Many of these ingredients have been shown time and time again to contribute to illnesses or produce harmful side effects, yet unfortunately they still remain in everyday food products.
MSG is one of the worst in my opinion! It overstimulates the nervous system and causes inflammation, resulting in stronger responses to MSG each time we come in contact with it. Some studies have also shown that it can lead to brain damage, nervous system disorders, hormonal issues, eye damage and obesity. Other side effects include headaches and digestive problems, which we all know are all too prevalent in our society. MSG is nearly ubiquitous today and is listed in ingredient lists under many names including glutamate, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, and LOTS of others. Sadly since it is called by so many different names it can be very difficult to know if MSG is actually listed or not, so looking up unknown ingredient terms before purchasing foods is always a good idea just to be safe!
Maltodextrin is another worrisome additive. It is an artificial sweetener that is typically made from genetically engineered grains or a few varieties of vegetables. It causes large blood sugar spikes, is damaging to the good bacteria in your gut and therefore can cause digestive issues, and has been seen to cause allergic reactions and other negative side effects as well. It is often found in many flavored drinks, seasonings, box mixes, and chips.
Needless to say, we decided it would be best to try and eliminate these kinds of additives from our diet as much as physically possible. So of course that meant cutting out many packaged foods including most seasoning packets. Fortunately, I quickly learned that it’s usually not too difficult to create your own seasoning mixes using simple herbs and spices from your spice drawer/cabinet! There are also a few decent options you can purchase as well if you just check to make sure that they are free of those questionable additives. So I wanted to share a few of my favorite substitutes and recipes that I now use in our home.
Our absolute favorite that we use at least once if not twice a week is taco seasoning. It’s simple to make and SO good. I’ve gotten to the point where I just throw a combination of these spices into whatever Mexican dish I’m preparing to get the exact taste I’m looking for. However this recipe is a great starting point and you can tweak it as you go if you discover you like one spice more than another!
Taco Seasoning –
4 Tbsp Chili Powder
3 Tbsp Paprika
3 Tbsp Cumin
1 tsp Garlic powder or salt
1 tbsp Onion powder (optional)
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
I also like to add a few shakes of salt and pepper to enhance the flavor!
Stir all the ingredients together, and that’s it! Super easy. Shake approx. 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture plus a few spoonfuls of water over your taco meat and you’re good to go! You can also add it to rice or other Mexican dishes just like you would any other seasoning packet.
I also use this exact same recipe for fajita seasoning. If you’re accustomed to a sweeter tasting seasoning, you can add 1/2 tsp of coconut sugar to your fajitas as well! So delicious.
Another seasoning that we use quite often is Italian seasoning. I use this in most of my pasta dishes, many vegetable dishes, as well as things like homemade lasagna and spaghetti. It is so simple and so good – and in my opinion, the more garlic the better 🙂
Italian Seasoning –
2 Tbsp Oregano
2 Tbsp Basil
1 Tbsp Parsley
1 tsp Garlic powder or salt
dash of Thyme
dash of Red Pepper flakes (or more for a spicier seasoning)
salt and pepper to taste
Stir all of to combine, and season your food as desired! Some recipes also call for a little rosemary, sage, and/or marjoram, so if you have those on hand feel free to experiment with adding a little of those as well. You really start to feel like a cook when you can pick and choose exactly what flavors to add to your food 🙂
There are SO many more I could go over, but for now I’ll just leave you with those two favorites of ours! Truthfully, once you begin to grow your collection of various herbs and spices, it is so easy to recreate delicious combinations for just about any dish you can think of. If you do decide to purchase pre-packaged seasonings, be sure to check them for MSG and other additives before you purchase them. We also ideally try to use organic seasonings as well if at all possible. This way you know that you’re avoiding GMO’s or the pesticides often used in conventional farming.
Also feel free to check out this link with more info on why to avoid many conventional dressings, sauces and seasonings, and LOTS of substitute recipes!! There are so many options for delicious and healthy substitutes, so you never have to feel like you’re missing out on all that great flavor!