Avoiding sulfites is a lot easier when you have a plan, and here is a plan for you, curtsey of one of our readers.
Fresh meats of any kind are safe. Avoid processed or preserved meats like bacon, deli meats, ham, and sausage. The one exception to this rule (there’s always one) is fresh shrimp, which is treated with sulfites. If you “must” have shrimp, make sure they are wild (not farmed) and start out with peel on. Buy yourself a bottle of “3 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide”, it is very important that the peroxide be food grade, as general peroxide you buy in the store has an emetic (it makes you throw up) in it. Dip the raw shrimp in the peroxide solution, then rinse in cool water and peel before cooking. For added sulfite reduction (or if you don’t have access to food-grade peroxide), a 5 minute rinse/dip in soda-water also reduces sulfite levels in shrimp.
Any kind of lettuce, squash, or tomato is generally safe. It’s illegal to spray produce (except potatoes) with sulfites but some places still do it (most especially for salad bars), so make sure you buy from a reputable source. (You can also dip your veggies in soda-water/seltzer for 5 minutes just prior to use.)
Most people with sulfite intolerances can manage low levels of sulfites, which is good because most vegetables have some amount of sulfite in them.
Veggies with HIGH sulfite levels include onions, garlic, broccoli, and cabbage. You should probably avoid these.
Veggies with MEDIUM sulfite levels include some of the mild (red/yellow) bell peppers, mushrooms, and cauliflower. I would avoid these at first, and then introduce them slowly. Remember that it can take up to three days for symptoms to show. Have a small portion each day for three days and see how you feel. Cooking will break down a portion of the sulfites in vegetables; I can tolerate many things if they are well-cooked that I cannot eat raw.
Pretty much all fresh fruits are safe, except grapes. However, it’s best to avoid most fruit toppings, jams, jellies, etc. For dried fruits, look specifically for fruits that say they don’t contain sulfites. If the label doesn’t specifically say it’s sulfite-free, assume that it contains at least some residual sulfites (even if it isn’t listed in the ingredients).
Condiments: AVOID bottled lemon or lime juice. Sulfites are added to keep them fresh. Besides, using fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice is so much tastier. You’ll probably want to avoid bottled juices in general. I recommend investing in a good citrus juicer to save your hands.
Avoid wine, cider vinegars, and wine vinegars (this includes balsamic). You basically want to avoid anything fermented, including horseradish, certain mustards, pickled things, and some kinds of cheese.
Steer clear of any kind or potato or corn product. This includes potato and corn starch, or potato and corn flour. Note that there is a small amount of starch (usually cornstarch) in baking powder (but not baking soda) and in confectioners sugar; most likely it won’t bother you unless you are really sensitive or actually allergic, but it’s good to know. Potatoes and corn themselves don’t contain sulfites; they are dipped in a sulfite bath prior to being processed in order to keep the final product white (and it probably prolongs shelf life). Potatoes are the only fresh produce that may legally be sprayed with sulfites (due to some rather hefty lobbying). So, if you want corn on the cob, it’s probably safe provided you buy it fresh from the produce section and not frozen. If you want fries, however, I recommend either growing the potatoes yourself or buying them direct from the grower (where you can ask those pesky kinds of questions), and then, of course, going through the hassle of making them.
Arrowroot can be substituted for cornstarch in any recipe.
Glazing sugar can be substituted for confectioners sugar in any recipe (it IS confectioners sugar, just minus the cornstarch).
Agar Agar can be substituted for gelatin in most recipes, but you may have to play with the amounts and it does change the texture a little.
I hope this helps. If someone sees any goofs, please correct them.