I always like to tell those seeking healthy eating advice to read labels before purchasing a product. But sometimes label-reading can be a little like figuring out a Rubik’s Cube. So I thought it might be helpful to explain what some of the labels mean on the foods you decide to stick in your grocery cart. I also do my research online from reputable sites. One of my go-to’s is http://www.sustainabletable.org. They have some of the latest news when it comes to the food industry.
- Whole Grain: This is not something new in today’s society. You can find it on most “health” food items. It means the food contains the entire grain and has not been refined in processing.
- Non-GMO, GMO-Free, or No-GMO’s: There could be an entire post done on this one. So I am keeping it simple. Foods with this label do not contain any genetically modified or genetically engineered products. GMO means scientists have altered the state of an organism’s genetic make-up by taking a specific gene from one organism and sticking it into a plant or animal that has an entirely different genetic make-up. Many crops today use GMO seeds to withstand pesticides during the farming process.
- Free-Range: This is used in the egg and poultry industry to indicate chickens that have access to the outdoors and are not restricted to chicken coups. Be mindful because “free-range” is different that the term “pastured.” Free-range chickens can still be limited to the amount of time they get to “freely” roam outside. The USDA has set the standards for this classification and products may not always be cruelty-free or antibiotic-free.
- Antibiotic-free and Hormone-free: This one is pretty self-explanatory and means animals were not given any form of antibiotics or hormones during their life span. By federal law, hogs and poultry are not allowed to be given hormones. Of course, there is always room to dig with this topic….what you see or read may not be what you get. Just be sure to check the company, even if the product is organic. Not everyone abides by the same standards.
- Grain-fed vs. Grass-fed: When you buy your meats you definitely want to lean on the side of grass-fed. Grass fed animals are allowed to eat from their own natural habitat, while grain-fed animals are given feed. Here is where you have to really watch your labels. If you purchase grain-fed products, be sure the label reads “100% Vegetarian Fed.” Otherwise, producers could be putting animal by-product in their feed. Yuck!
- RBGH-free or RBST-free: This simply means the animals were not injected with any hormones before going to slaughter. You DEFINITELY want your meats to be free of these. Some studies have linked these injections with increasing hormone development in children, especially girls. Also, the hormones have been linked to different illnesses and cancers. Do your investigation through reliable sources, or just avoid it if that is easier. In my book, I just stay as clean as possible with what I put in my body, or the body of my kids.
- Pasture-raised: You will start to see more and more of this on food labels, and that is thanks to the huge movement from consumers demanding better quality food. This is what I always look for when I buy my eggs at the supermarket. Just because it says “cage-free” doesn’t mean it was allowed to roam around a farm and eat it’s natural food-source. Remember, you are what you eat!
- Healthy: Many food companies will make the claim that their product is considered “healthy.” WATCH YOUR FOOD LABELS! If the ingredient lists contains a slew of words you can’t pronounce or they have a lot of numbers in them, place it back on the shelf. Many people are floored when they realize what they thought was a healthy food to eat really wasn’t, especially when they could never figure out the cause behind weight gain or other health issues. Labels are your best bet, not what is printed on the front of the package.
Buying good, quality food does not have to be a challenge. You just need to educate yourself a bit and be proactive when it comes to purchasing. We, alone, are the ones in charge of our well-being, and the habits we develop to become healthier will only funnel over into the next generation. Maybe one day we will see the end of harmful preservatives and chemicals placed in our food supply.
For more information on healthy living ideas, visit my website at http://www.lifestylelistener.com or my Facebook page, @lifestylelistener for recipes and tips for a healthy lifestyle.
Happy shopping, and until next time,