Here are a few easy food shopping tips for keeping you, and the planet, a little healthier.
- When shopping for food buy local. Support your local farms, green markets and farm stands. You’ll find your produce and protein is often much fresher and flavorful – big stores and national chains ship food to you from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, often freezing or refrigerating meats, fish and produce. Local is usually more nutritious, it keeps your carbon impact small and helps support your neighbors and local businesses.
- Read the label. Processed foods contain all manner of additives, chemicals and preservatives. Avoid anything containing high fructose corn syrup, it’s a killer and the cheap, addictive sweetener of choice for big processed foods companies (think Kraft, General Foods, Coke etc.). High fructose corn syrup can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension and more. We also suggest avoiding Carrageenan – a common ingredient in many packaged foods and milk substitutes, including almond milk and rice “ice cream.” An additive that acts as a thickener and food stabilizer, early research suggests that Carrageenan may cause damage to the digestive tract, so we wouldn’t recommend it for folks with inflammatory bowel disease.
- Check food labels for sodium level. Food companies keep you coming back for more by adding sugar and salt to their tasty treats. The CDC recommends a daily intake of around 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Do your math. A single can of re-fried beans or a glass of V-8 can get you half-way to that total.
- Go organic. I know, Certified Organic can be a little (or a lot) more expensive. But you can save yourself from exposure to a vast array of additives, pesticides and chemicals by choosing organic. It’s particularly important with fruits and vegetables like apples, strawberries, spinach and lettuce. EWG’s lists of The Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen are great go-to guides – reminding us which produce items really need to be organically grown before being consumed. Feel good about every bite and support a green economy.
- Seek out Non-GMO foods. Even though there have not been many definitive studies about our health safety, according to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), “… Genetically Modified foods pose a serious health risk”. There are non-genetically engineered foods stamped with “Non-GMO Project” verified seals. Some of the most common at-risk ingredients are: soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed and sugar derived from sugarbeets. As well, the following product ingredients commonly contain genetically engineered crops: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products. (source: action.greenamerica.org)
*Another benefit to choosing Certified Organic produce and packaged food is that they cannot intentionally include GMO ingredients.
Enjoy meal planning. Food is such an important part of celebrating life! Tote those reusable bags to market, compost scraps, and if possible grown your own – remember: eat to live, don’t live to eat.