If you are anything like me, going to the grocery store can be a debilitating experience. I actually don't mind grocery shopping, but with all of the information coming at me about genetically engineered foods (GMOs), antibiotics in meat, and the pesticides on my "fresh fruit" (that has been sitting in cold storage for nearly a year), I sometimes find myself leaving the store with much less than I actually had on my list.
In addition to trying to avoid foods that contain the Scary Seven ingredients, I’m also doing my best to avoid the foods that contain GMO ingredients while still staying within my budget (which unfortunately doesn’t always allow buying completely organic). But with each trip I find new ways to get more and more of the food that I want to feed my family without breaking the bank, and I determine where it's worth splurging and where it's worth saving money.
I find avoiding GMOs the toughest challenge at the grocery store due to the complete lack of regulating and labeling them in the U.S. Even when you think you are buying something that doesn't have any ingredients that could possibly be GMO, manufacturers manage to slip soy or corn into the ingredient list.
Here are a few tips for avoiding GMOs that I’ve learned so far
1. Hundreds of companies are having their foods verified as GMO-free using third party verification services. The two most common ones you’ll see are from the Non-GMO Project and GMO Guard. If you see a stamp of approval from one of these two organizations on the packaging of your food, you can be sure it’s GMO-free.
2. Certified organic products are not allowed to be grown with GMOs so another way to avoid them is by buying organic or making everything from scratch using organic ingredients.
3. Another trick I've found is to shop the imported food aisles. Unlike the U.S., many countries have banned the use of GMOs. Instead of buying the American manufactured pasta, I buy pasta imported from Italy, where GMOs are banned in most parts. It's typically cheaper than organic and I’m avoiding what I set out to avoid. For a comprehensive list of which countries regulate GMO use, check out Organic Consumers Association.
4. While it may not seem like meat and dairy would be full of GMOs, even those products labeled antibiotic and hormone free at the grocery store come from animals that are almost always being fed GMO feed so more and more often I'm making the decision to buy our meat from the local farms where I know it is coming from animals that are grass fed and raised humanely. It is more expensive, but factory-farmed meats are increasingly questionable.
5. At this time of year, I buy as little of our fruits and vegetables as possible at the grocery store and try to stick to buying more at our local farmer's markets and farm stands. That way I know it is truly fresh picked, and I can talk to the growers about how they grow the food. And even though I live in New England, we still see quite a bit of produce at our winter farmer's markets as well.
While processing where all of the hidden GMOs in our food sources and ingredients are can be overwhelming at times, planning our shopping trips with these tips for avoiding them makes buying the foods we want to feed our families much more manageable, even if it means an extra stop or two on our errand run.
Photo: Brian Talbot