Chronicles of Mom Life
Food Additives: Which To Avoid and How To Replace Them
Updated: Mar 1
There are many food additives that are added to the foods we eat to help them taste better.
Some of the cheaper ways of doing this is by adding some of the more popular food additives.
The most common 3 food additives I come across are High Fructose Corn Syrup, Aspartame, and Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG as it’s commonly known.
My family has decided to try to eliminate these food additives the best we can to try to maintain a more natural diet.
This isn’t to say our diet is healthy or perfect, but making these small changes is helping us to take steps forward.
There are many foods our children love and instead of eliminating the food, we’re trying to just find a better version.
Check out our list of food additives to see which you should avoid and the best options to replace them.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
The most popular one I see in tons of foods we eat. High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS, is simply a sweetener that is made from corn. It is most used because it is inexpensive and can be used in place of sucrose.
The problem is that corn has been found to have little nutritional value and there is no benefit in adding it to food. Many people in certain countries have become so used to foods being sweeter that even breads have sugar added to them when it’s not necessary.
My family has come across many common items we consume containing HFCS, so I found some alternative options.
Ketchup is a staple in many homes for burgers, fries, chicken fingers, and more. Check the back of the ketchup bottle and you will see HFCS as one of the main ingredients.
Thankfully Heinz has main a ketchup called Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup with No Artificial Sweeteners. This ketchup is made with simple ingredients for a healthier option.
2. Jelly / Jam
If your children live peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or in our case Sunbutter and Jelly, you probably go through a lot of jelly in your house. Did you know most jellies contain HFCS?
Our family made the switch to Welch's Natural Concord Grape Spread. This natural jelly has 4 main ingredients listed and tastes the same or better.
You should also head over to our post Peanut-Free Alternatives and Brands if you have a family member with a peanut allergy. or you just want to replace peanut butter.
3. Chocolate Syrup
My children love to enjoy chocolate syrup, but my husband and I were not happy giving our kids HFCS in their milk. We even considered the chocolate powder, but the list of ingredients still didn’t make us happy.
We found that Hershey make a chocolate syrup without HFCS called Hershey’s Simply 5 Syrup. Sure enough, it only contains 5 basic ingredients.
This one had me confused because you can make delicious applesauce at home without adding sugar. I suppose adding HFCS is a cheap way to make applesauce even cheaper.
Gogo Squeez makes applesauce pouches for kids that do not contain HFCS and are safe for children with gluten, but, and dairy allergies. These pouches are easy for children to carry around and there are many healthy flavors to choose from.
5. Pancake Syrup
Pouring syrup over your pancakes isn’t the healthiest option, but if you’re going to do it, there are some great options without HFCS.
You can head to your local Farmer’s Market or look for a local company who sells maple syrup. These are typically more expensive, but you can get large containers of it and the only ingredient is 100% pure maple syrup. If you can’t get it locally, you can find places to order it online.
6. Children’s Acetaminophen
When your child is sick, the last thing you want to do is give them sugar. Unfortunately, most children’s medicines contain sugar to get children to take it. You can find some better options out there though.
Tylenol makes a dye-free pain and fever reducer that is free from high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and parabens. The main ingredient is still acetaminophen.
Aspartame is one of my least favorite additives. I notice a weird aftertaste when I eat or drink something with aspartame. It is an artificial sweetener and is used most to sweeten diet drinks.
My husband and I try to avoid soft drinks and our children do not drink them. If my husband or I do have a soft drink, we try to avoid diet soda if possible. Sometimes aspartame can be hidden in something you were least expecting.
When you are shopping for popsicles for your children, you may see a label for sugar free popsicles. Many parents will jump on buying them because of the lower sugar level in them. However, often, that’s because the sugar has been replaced with aspartame.
Minute Maid makes juice sticks that are mostly made up of juice. The simple ingredients don’t require extra added sugar to help with the flavor. Your child will be eating a popsicle made up of mostly juice.
2. Diet Juice
If you are looking for low sugar or diet fruit juices for yourself or your family, many companies use aspartame in place of the sugar. The diet option of using aspartame seems to be common.
Welch’s hits the mark again with avoiding aspartame in their diet products. You can find Welch’s Diet Concord Grape Juice uses Stevia Leaf Extract in their juice instead of aspartame.
You may not be giving your children too much gum, but I find myself chewing on it often. Many of the popular brand sugar free gums use aspartame to help give the gum a better flavor. No one wants to be chewing on something that tastes like plastic.
The PUR Company, Peppermint Gum is a nut free and gluten free gum that contains natural ingredients. The PUR Company’s goal is to “Kick Aspartame.”
4. Ice Cream
Who doesn’t love a delicious bowl of ice cream after the kids have gone down to bed? Unfortunately, many popular ice cream brands contain aspartame as a sweetener. You can still find some great brands without aspartame.
One of the most popular ice cream brands, Ben and Jerry’s, has many flavors that do not contain aspartame. Just make sure to always check the food labels of the flavor of ice cream you plan on eating to make sure it wasn’t added in.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
The final additive I’m trying to eliminate from my diet is Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG. This is the newest additive we’re working on and I’m finding it in places I would never expect it.
Most people hear MSG and assume it’s something used in only Chinese food, but that is a common misconception. MSG can be found in some of the most popular foods you eat.
1. Ranch Dressing
Ranch salad dressings surprised me the most because I didn’t expect to find it there. While I’m not big on ranch dressing, my children love it. They are also picky about brands and flavors so finding an alternative is not as easy.
Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing is made with no MSG, artificial flavors, or colors. The natural spices and flavors make this a great MSG-free option.
2. Bouillon Cubes
When making soup for my family, I love to have bouillon cubes on hand. It is so helpful when I don’t want to drag my children out to the grocery store if they are sick or tired. A toss some bouillon cubes in boiling water and I have a simple stock base that I can add to.
I have found that most bouillon cubes contain MSG or another additive. I came across Better Than Bouillon - Organic Roasted Chicken Base to substitute for my bouillon cubes. It tastes the same and I can store them until I need them.
Another product I was not aware contained MSG is chips. Doritos and Fritos chips have added MSG to them and I’m sure it helps add to the flavor. Chips should be eaten in moderations, but there are other options if you want to enjoy some chips occasionally.
It is best to read the labels if you really want to avoid MSG. It seems to be added into flavored chips the most. You are less likely to find MSG in plain chips or lightly salted chips.
4. Hot Dogs
Processed meats can contain MSG to reduce sodium content, but keep the salty taste. Hot dogs are not an exception to this. I’m not a huge fan of feeding my kids hot dogs often. Not only are they an unhealthy meat, but they are also a choking hazard.
If you’re looking for a hot dog that does not contain MSG, Oscar Mayer makes a classic beef hot dog without MSG. I prefer my local hot dogs that are more natural, so you could check out any local hot dog brands in your area as well.
Many studies have been done on these additives and there has not been enough evidence, if any, of harmful side effects including heart disease, weight gain, high blood pressure, or any other health problems.
It’s hard to say if we should be using these additives in as much as we are and if we’ll see long term effects years down the road.
The best we can do is use everything in moderation and know when you need to cut back.
Our family is trying to find ways to cut back on some of these additives to hopefully get closer to a healthier lifestyle.
For now, we’ll do our best to limit some of these foods to small amounts and do our research on what we’re putting into our bodies.
Are there any food additives you are trying to avoid?
What are some better options you have found to replace these food additives?
Let us know in the comments below!