Acceptable Packaged Products for the Migraine Diet
Cereals: Cheerios, Life, Uncle Sam, Grape Nuts, Cornflakes. Try Grape Nuts hot: 1/4 cup grape nuts, 3/4 cups milk, plus frozen blueberries. Microwave 2 minutes on high. Add sugar to taste.
Smucker’s Blackberry Jam: this is important for those of us who previously used raspberry jam. Strawberry and grape is also allowed but blackberry is less ordinary!
Miss orange juice? Try a product by V8 Splash called Mango Peach.
If you eat lunch at work, you can bring chicken salad made from canned chicken breast. ‘Sweet Sue’ and some others make canned chicken without MSG.
Watch out for Hatfield pork products called Simply Tender. These products are tenderized with a lemon juice marinade.
Dipping mustard for pretzels: Bookbinders hot and sweet works. They use white vinegar and no monosodium glutamate(MSG).
Sunflower seeds: A company called “Here’s Howe” makes sunflower seeds without MSG. Watch out for Planters brand (they use MSG).
Soda: Caffeine-free and no aspartame: Diet Rite cola, Waist Watcher’s cola, diet rootbeer and black cherry, Mug/Hires/A&W Rootbeer, caffeine-free Coke/Pepsi.
Miss croutons? Try La Choy Chow Mein Noodles on your salad. Homemade croutons are great too but La Choy Noodles are convenient!
Breadcrumbs: For another convenience item try Kellogg’s Cornflake crumbs to replace MSG laden breadcrumbs. Homemade breadcrumbs are ok too.
If you cannot give up coffee and tea altogether be sure you are using naturally decaffeinated products such as Lipton’s naturally decaffeinated green tea or Taster’s Choice naturally decaffeinated instant coffee. If the product just says decaffeinated, most likely a chemical has been used in the decaffeinated process that has been known to cause headaches. Limit even naturally decaffeinated products to one cup a day. I generally drink the Lipton tea and reuse the teabag for a second cup.
If a recipe calls for buttermilk, substitute 1 cup milk plus 1 Tbsp vinegar. Also, vinegar added to cream cheese can be used in place of sour cream.
Lettuce can be a problem if it is displayed in a case that sprinkles with what appears to be water on the lettuce. That water sometimes contains a sulfite preservative and should be avoided. This sulfite preservative is also used on salad bar lettuce. I use Fresh Express bagged lettuce. It is preservative-free and convenient.
Bumble Bee tuna just came out with a new tuna that has no soy or vegetable broth or hydrolyzed protein. It is a ‘prime fillet white albacore in water’. Look for the black and gold can.
Dried fruit: Many dried fruits use a sulfite to keep the fruit from turning brown. There are brands: i.e., Mariani, that use sulfur dioxide to retain color. This should be ok.
Canned tomato products: Contadina makes three products without natural flavor (MSG) added: Diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes in puree and tomato paste. These work well in cattiatore and homemade spaghetti sauce. I have not found any canned or jarred tomato sauce without nature flavor(MSG).
Caramels are a fast and easy treat.
Ice Cream and toppings: Breyer’s extra creamy vanilla and Breyer’s strawberry ice cream are good choices for the connoisseur, though other brands are ok. Smucker’s dulce de leche (caramel) topping is ok. Also, you can buy frozen strawberries in heavy syrup, defrost and use on vanilla ice cream. It’s not chocolate but it’s better than plain vanilla!
Bagels: Bagel shops and grocery stores make their bagels daily and that fresh yeast is just a real headache. Try Thomas’s New York Style Bagels, either plain or with sesame seeds. They taste fresh, they are a good size, and they freeze well.
American cheese: I’ve tried Clearfield and Land-O-Lakes. Both are ok.
Lunchmeat: Carolina makes ‘just perfect turkey breast’ with turkey and salt as the only ingredients. It is the only lunchmeat I found without nitrites or MSG. It can be frozen in sandwich serving size if you pack a lunch frequently.
Refried beans for tacos: El Rio makes refried beans that have no onions or MSG added.
Cookies: Homemade are great if you have the time. Try Keebler’s Sandies Swirl Cinnamon Shortbread cookies for that homemade taste without the fuss. Some vanilla crème wafers are ok too. Beware of cookies that are made with buttermilk.
Chips: Regular potato chips are ok, as are Tostitos 100% white corn chips, but stay away from flavored chips and Pringles. Pringles starts their product with dehydrated potato flakes preserved with bisulfite to maintain color. This is not listed on the product because they buy the flakes and do not add the bisulfite themselves. They are only required to list that they do use potato flakes. This is a clue for all boxed mashed potato products.
Peanut butter: This is out but try homemade sunflower butter as a substitute. Start with 12 ounces of hulled raw sunflower seeds. Roast at 300 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Be careful. Over roasting can make the butter taste burnt and dry. Grind the seeds to a fine powder using a food processor or blender. Add about 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in 1/2 cup vegetable oil until smooth (more if needed). Store in refrigerator. Note: I carried some of this butter with me on a trip out west where refrigeration was not available. Even after 10 days, the butter tasted fine. So you can at least be comfortable packing a sunflower butter sandwich for lunch. Try marshmallow crème on the sandwich for a Fluffer Sunner!
Chicken broth: many recipes call for 1/2 cup chicken broth. There are no convenient canned products to help you. Canned broth contains MSG and often onions. I make my own chicken broth twice a year using leeks and then freeze the strained broth in one cup serving sizes. While I don’t like the fuss of homemade broth, it is convenient to have on hand and allows me to use many recipes I’d otherwise have to give up. This same principle applies to homemade spaghetti sauce using the aforementioned Contadina products, leeks and Tbsp of brown sugar to counter bitterness.
Mayonnaise: A small amount on a sandwich is ok but if you want to make a creamy dressing for salad, it is better to use homemade mayo. Then, to 1/2 cup of homemade mayo, add a dash of garlic powder, Italian seasoning, 1 tsp white vinegar, a 1/8 tsp of finely chopped shallot, salt, and pepper and milk to desired thickness. This is the closest I could get to a ranch dressing.
Ocean Spray makes a Lite Cranberry Juice that uses Splenda. It is only 40 calories per cup and tastes great!
There is one canned soup we can have: Campbell’s Tomato Soup.
You can download this list in Adobe .pdf format here.
Author’s note: This is by no means a complete list of brands or products but it is a starting list of helpful products and those to stay away from when you are in the grocery store. By all means, do your own due diligence and help us add to this resource with your own suggestions. We’d love to hear what foods help you avoid migraines!