Recipes that are Sulfite Safe

Everyone will tell you what not to eat. The following ideas suggest what you can eat. These ideas start out very simply because many people with sulfite problems are scared to death of trying anything new. Some are even losing weight from that fear. Imagine, losing weight in America! Believe me, food is not your enemy. But you must read ingredient labels, know what to avoid and use common sense.

Common sense is especially important when considering how far to take your diet changes. If you are only slightly sensitive to sulfites and can handle a few sips of wine, your tolerance is probably north of 1500 micrograms of sulfur dioxide. Many of the recipes below worry about eggs and cheese. An egg or a slice of cheddar cheese each hide about 50 micrograms of sulfite. If your tolerance is 1500, you don't have to avoid eggs and cheese. On the other hand, if a very mild source of sulfite like a bottle of Coke pushes you over the edge, eggs and cheese need to be considered.

Simple Breakfast Choices:

Try plain toasted bagels with butter or margarine. If you need a spread on top, watch out. Jam is hard to find without corn syrup, so use honey instead. Cream cheese may be used in moderation, but check the label to make sure it is natural without corn starch or gelatin. I like to use kefir cheese which is actually a form of yogurt that tastes like cream cheese. The brand I prefer is Byblos, found in stores selling middle eastern foods.

Yogurt makes a great breakfast if you choose the right brand. Screen the label to avoid corn syrup, corn starch and gelatin. Most plain yogurts without sweetener are safe. Of course, they don't taste very good. You can add honey or cane sugar (white or brown). Or you can look for specific brands like Safeway "O" Organic or Trader Joe's in many fruit and berry flavors.

Cold cereals like Bran Flakes (no raisins), Shredded Wheat (plain), Kix and Rice Krispies are safe with milk. Plain oatmeal makes a good hot cereal. For flavor, you can add your own fresh fruit (peaches, pears or bananas but no grapes). If you choose berries, it is wise to soak them for a minute in water with a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Then rinse with fresh water before using. Canned fruit is usually a bad idea since it is often packed with heavy corn syrup. If you are lucky, your store will carry light versions packed in pear juice.

EggPancakes and waffles can be made per package instructions from Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix. If you put an egg in the bowl, this adds 50 micrograms of natural sulfur dioxide. If you eat one fourth of the resulting pancakes, your portion would contain about 12 micrograms of sulfur dioxide, not very much. Do not use syrup. Use butter or margarine and honey. Or for a change, use one of the yogurts mentioned above.

Hearty breakfasts made with several eggs, ham or sausage will put you into the range of several hundred micrograms of sulfite. Use your own judgment to decide if you can handle that much sulfite. A word of warning about Eggs Benedict served in restaurants. In addition to the eggs and ham, hollandaise sauce is normally made with bottled lemon juice concentrate. This makes Eggs Benedict a bad choice when dining out.

Simple Lunch Choices:

For lunch, it is important to find a bread without sulfites and sulfur dioxide. That ain't easy. When checking the food label, high fructose corn syrup is fine. But you must avoid regular corn syrup, molasses, caramel color, potato flour and raisins. It's not hard to find sourdough bread or rye bread that is safe. But whole wheat is a real challenge. Just keep reading the labels until you discover a winner. Pepperidge Farm makes a Whole Grain Soft Honey Whole Wheat bread that is made with unsulfured molasses. Pepperidge Farm, you are AOK.

What can you put on bread? Canned tuna fish is sulfite safe and may be mixed with cream cheese, yogurt or kefir cheese. You can also mix tuna with canned pineapple which is usually packed in just water or juice. Mayonnaise is made with a tiny bit of lemon juice concentrate, so I don't use it. But the amount is small and probably won't affect you unless you are very sensitive. Prepackaged lunch meats are a mixed bag. Be sure to read the food labels. Freshly sliced deli meats are a better bet as long as you avoid the Black Forest Ham.

Another good sandwich is made with fresh avocado slices. You can also add bacon (not too much), tomato and grain sprouts. Peanut butter takes some explaining. First choose a peanut butter made with just sugar, no corn syrup. Then spread it very thin so you only use one tablespoon. Peanuts contain natural sulfur dioxide to the tune of 1 ppm. So, a 15 gram tablespoon will yield 15 micrograms of sulfur dioxide. Not too bad if you only use one spoon. Of course, you can't use most jellies. You should use honey or brown cane sugar.

Hot DogOne of my favorite lunches is a Smart & Final hot dog, with the bun, meat and cheese bought from Smart & Final at low prices. You have to find a bun without corn syrup or molasses. Smart & Final sells Deli-Breads Gourmet Rolls which are just hot dog buns with seeds on top. They also sell Hebrew National Beef Franks in a family pack at half price. These franks do not contain corn syrup. For a cheese dog, use mild cheddar cheese. To limit the natural sulfur dioxide, split the frank down the middle and use only half. Microwave the half frank for 20 seconds. Toast the bun in a toaster oven. Combine with the thin slice of mild cheese ( 1/2 ounce, thin to minimize natural sulfite ) and top with pickles, mustard and catsup. Hamburger type pickles and ordinary yellow mustard are safe. Dijon mustard is not. And the catsup must be organic or from Trader Joe's to avoid corn syrup. These cheese dogs sport about 60 micrograms of sulfur dioxide. Not bad for something with both beef and cheese.

What about fast food? Only if you like to live dangerously! Never order french fries. At McDonalds, order chicken McNuggets with honey dipping sauce. At Burger King, order the Whopper without catsup. At Subway, don't even walk in the door. I have gotten more headaches from Subway than I can count. Using my fingers and toes, I can count up to 20.

Simple Dinner Choices:

Sometimes you need an appetizer before dinner. Shrimp cocktail is not a good idea since most shrimp are farmed and fed a diet preserved with sulfite. But you can make a good alternative out of fresh avocado slices. Don't use cocktail sauce from the store. Make your own out of organic catsup and seasoned rice vinegar. If you have leftover avocado, make a dip by smashing and mixing with plain yogurt, kefir cheese or sour cream. Buy a bag of plain corn chips to dip into the avocado. Flavored corn chips are verboten since they usually contain enough chemicals to stock a laboratory.

In the distant past, salad from a salad bar was an invitation to the Emergency Room. So many people had trouble with sulfites, restaurant owners were required to post a sign warning of sulfites. Rather than scare off people with a sign, most places simply stopped using sulfites on the lettuce. Today, salad bars in major restaurant chains are free of added sulfites and the lettuce is clean. But you still have to be careful of what you pile on top of your lettuce. Avoid pickled peppers, raisins, coconut, garbanzo beans, banana chips and most salad dressings. Bring your own dressing (seasoned rice vinegar is safe) or take a chance on the blue cheese dressing which is often clean except for the natural sulfite in the cheese itself.

Salad can make a good light dinner at home if you fortify it with tomato, apple and avocado slices. You can also add plain corn chips or plain pita chips. For dressing use seasoned rice vinegar or make your own. Very few store dressings are safe. An exception that I like is Smart & Final "First Street" Blue Cheese Dressing, which is less than $2 a bottle. If you have leftover meat or chicken from a previous meal, it works well on top of a salad. Now you can proudly call it a "Chef's Salad." 

Your crock pot can create an easy goulash that will work into several meals. My favorite is a salsa version using Safeway Select brand Peach Pineapple Salsa. Dump a jar into your crock pot and add a beef roast or a few chicken breasts. Let it simmer for 8 hours. After about 6 hours, remove fat and gristle from the beef or bones and skin from the chicken. Then tear up the meat into shreds and let it cook in the salsa for the remaining time. You can put this meat on top of a salad or you can add it to corn tortillas for great tacos. Put it over rice or what ever. If you are very sensitive to sulfites, don't eat too much of the beef version at one time. Beef has a little natural sulfur dioxide while chicken has much less.

Freshly baked potatoes are sulfite safe and quite filling. I find it pretty easy to microwave them for 10 minutes, then put them in a toaster oven to make the skin crispy. Fix them with margarine, butter, sour cream, plain yogurt or kefir cheese. You can also put crock pot goulash on top of your baked potato for a real Texas treat.

After dinner, what's for dessert? Smart & Final carries Breyer's Natural Vanilla Ice Cream in an economical gallon size. Breyer's is safe if you make sure it is not Dreyer's or some low fat variant. If there is a Trader Joe's nearby, buy their Ultimate Berry Pie. You can put Breyer's ice cream on top if you finished your vegetables. You can also make a float out of the ice cream and Whole Foods "365" or Hansen's Cherry Vanilla Creme Soda. Make sure it is not a diet variety - it has to be the real stuff. Yes, you will become as fat as a house.

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