Foods labeled “100% natural” can legally contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients? Bet you didn’t know that! I didn’t. There really is no specific definition for what constitutes “natural food” on a processed food label. It basically means nothing beyond being a marketing trick to make unsuspecting people think what they are purchasing is healthy. Only USDA certified organic processed foods must be GM-free.
Regardless of where you’re shopping – whether it’s at a grocery store, large chain like Walmart or a farmer’s market, if you are buying processed packaged food and want to make the healthiest choice possible, there are some guidelines you can follow.
The foundational, basic principle is this: educate yourself and carefully read labels!
Here are 5 specific things to consider:
- Be sure it’s grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This can actually be true of organic as well as some non-organic foods.
- Especially true of meat and poultry, it should be clearly marked that it contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or vaccines and is raised humanely, in accordance with the laws of nature. Animals are fed their native diets (that means no GMO feed or plants) and have free-range access to the outdoors.
- If it lists artificial anything – pass on it.
- Sticking with whole foods is your best bet. In a processed food, like a nut butter for instance, it will not have a long list of ingredients – simply the nuts, possibly sea salt – and that’s it. Always go for foods with the shortest list of ingredients you can actually pronounce and recognize!
- For produce – choose what looks fresh. Sometimes fresh local produce looks better than organic.
My overall recommendation is to look for the freshest foods in the least processed form. That’s why I encourage you to focus your diet on nutrient-dense, fresh, whole foods as much as you can. It’s also why I am proud to be an independent mission marketer for Beyond Organic. I look for the highest quality I can afford for myself, my family and my clients.