This is a disclaimer ⇒⇒⇒ I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist. I am not recommending anything. I am simply sharing my thoughts, my story, and my journey with you.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with some food allergies, Alpha-gal disease, and sulfite sensitivity. In the beginning, I simply cut out everything. Total avoidance diet. I made some mistakes here and there (yep, instant ramen has sulfites in it…duh!), but mostly I found it to be a totally unsustainable lifestyle for me. I loved food too much.
So I learned what things to look out for. And I experimented with myself. I always had my epi-pen* handy, and I read labels, a lot. I asked questions, a lot. And then I tried things.
I never fully trusted the ingredient labels or the restaurant people. For a long time, anytime I tried something new, I went into it with the understanding that this may in fact cause a reaction. And I decided, for myself, to take that risk or not.
It was always a conscious decision that I made for myself based on what I already knew and what I wanted at the time.
No one ever talked me into anything. I never took anyone’s word for it. I decided. I maintained control over my own health and wellbeing.
In the early years, still tied to packaged food habits, I found the following products that were ok, for me (I’m totally going to name drop a few of my go-to brands here):
Tostitos chips. Ingredients: corn, oil, salt
Fritos chips. Ingredients: corn, oil, salt
Kettle/Cape Cod chips. Ingredients: potatoes, oil, salt. And I only get the ones that say “no preservatives” and “cooked in small batches.” While I don’t necessarily trust “no preservatives,” I really missed potato chips, so when I got ballsy enough to try, I prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best, and it worked out for me. (Sulfiting agents are often put on cut potatoes prior to packaging, drying, freezing, or frying to keep them from turning oxidizing/turning brown)
Organic pasta. whole wheat or any that have only wheat (no enriching ingredients) listed
Frozen raw shrimp. Ingredients: shrimp. (sulfiting agents are often used on shrimp and other seafood/shellfish to prevent discoloration, and are now listed on the packages of frozen products. I don’t buy the “fresh” stuff unless I’m in a place that it could have been conceivably caught recently and I confirm nothing was put on it on the boat. I.E. there’s no such thing as “fresh” shrimp in Maryland, but Florida…maybe.)
Dave’s Killer Bread. Ingredients: all the things that are supposed to be in really delicious grain breads. No raisin juice. No corn syrup, high fructose or otherwise. No dough conditioners. There are other brands, I’m sure. But I found Dave’s and the whole family really liked it, and honestly, I was tired of reading labels, so I stuck with it.
Many organic greek yogurts. Ingredients: milk, live cultures, fruit, fruit pectin. Pectin is the stuff that makes fruit jams, jellies, preserves, etc. thick. Some fruits have naturally occurring pectin in them, like lemon rind and apples. Some pectin is refined and bleached and sulfited. I have not had any issues with any of the greek yogurts I’ve tried as long as fruit pectin was listed, and I could identify all other ingredients. Also, Chobani is great when I just need plain yogurt.
Philadelphia full fat cream cheese. Daisy cottage cheese. Daisy sour cream.
Coca-cola. The one from Mexico in the glass bottle. This one is tricky as there are a lot of controversial ingredients besides the high fructose, and sometimes I feel like maybe there’s something ill brewing in me. But, I’ve never had a reaction to the one I drink every so often when I really need a soda.
Virgil’s cream or orange cream soda, Fever Tree Ginger Ale/Ginger Beer. Same as the Coke, but less iffy ingredients.
I have many more personally trusted brands I go to. I tend to shop in the same store most of the time because I know they carry the brands I’m familiar with and feel safe with. Plus, finding those few brands cuts waaaaayy down on all the label-reading I was doing in the beginning, which makes grocery shopping, and life, so much less stressful and time consuming.
But I have to emphasize: This is what I did. This is what works for me. I chose to experiment based on what I knew and had learned and had gone through. I didn’t take anyone else’s word for it. Don’t take my word for it.
I still purchase a lot of the items above, and every once in a while I will eat food I know is safe at the places I know are safe. Five Guys fries! Yes!! (Per the Five Guys people: potatoes are fresh cut in the store, kept in cold water until frying in peanut oil. Nothing but salt added.)
For the most part, I cook and bake. My sweetheart cooks and bakes. My kids cook and bake. We grow a small garden of our favorite vegetables. We raise chickens for eggs. I do buy (mostly) organic or farm raised chicken and pork, and grass fed beef from the grocery store. And occasionally a friend will give us a deer or some rabbit to fill the freezer. Plus, there’s fishing! With all that fresh wonderfulness around, I really don’t miss the box dinners and frozen meals so much.
Despite the trying parts of my journey with sulfite sensitivity, I have come out the other end grateful and feeling blessed. I have learned the difference between food and food-like products. I have learned and taught my kids to think about what we put in their bodies. I appreciate real food so very much more. I don’t feel like I’m being deprived anymore. I feel fantastic!
*interestingly, the epi-pen, the thing that’s supposed to save my life if I have a severe allergic reaction to sulfites (among other things) CONTAINS SULFITES to preserve the color! Thanks for yet another slap in the face modern medicine!