Navigating the Grocery Store for Maximum Health

grocery cartIf you are confused by terms like cage-free, grass-fed and pasture-raised you are not alone. I advocate for a whole food, plant-based diet but I know that in the real world, people eat animals. Here are some guidelines and explanations of what you should buy and what to avoid at the grocery store for maximum health.

 

1)  Avoid GMOs – always purchase these products Organic:

  • Corn (any corn product such as tortilla chips) corn
  • Soy (tofu, edamame, soy milk)
  • Canola
  • Cotton (tampons)
  • Sugar beets (anything with sugar)
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Hawaiian papaya
  • Alfalfa
  • Potatoes
  • Apples

**Corn, soy and sugar are common ingredients in other products. If the product you are buying is not labeled “Organic” you are eating GMO’s.

2)  Avoid the “Dirty Dozen” in the produce department:

  1. Strawberriesstrawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

**All of these produce items have the highest levels of pesticides, so ALWAYS buy these organic; especially hot peppers and greens which have the highest levels of pesticide residue (on the new super dirty list).

3)  The “Clean Fifteen” – these produce items have the least amount of pesticide residue and can be purchased non-organic. 

  1. *Sweet cornavocado
  2. Avocado
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet peas frozen
  7. *Papaya
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honey dew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

*Though low on pesticide residue, these produce items probably will be GMO unless purchased organic and have high levels of herbicides.

The best place to purchase any kind of meat, chicken, pork, dairy, eggs, and vegetables is your local Farmer’s Market.  These farmers have been vetted and are committed to raising their animals in a humane environment where mothers and babies are kept together, animals graze on grasses, eat non-GMO feed and are processed in small batches in the most humane way. If that is not possible, here are your choices at the grocery store…

4)  Know your Beef options:cow and calf

a) Grass-fed – Don’t be fooled! This label can mean the animal foraged for most of his life but then was transferred to a feed lot to gain weight. These over-crowded factories feed the cattle a diet of GMO grains and antibiotics.

b) Organic – To be labeled “certified organic”, the beef must meet the following criteria:

  • Never receive any antibiotics
    • Never receive growth-promoting hormones
    • Are fed only certified organic grains and grasses
    • Must have unrestricted outdoor access (largely unenforced)

c) Finished on grass – means the animal foraged naturally on a pasture their whole life.

d) Pasture-raised – means cattle spend a significant time grazing on organic pastures. They can receive supplemental grain feed (non-GMO).

e) Certified Humane– An extra certification on top of other standards such as organic or pasture raised. Meets Humane Farm Animal Care Standards (HFAC). They are fed a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones. They have access to a shelter, resting area and have sufficient space and ability to engage in natural behaviors.

** Choosing meat – look for “PASTURE-RAISED”, “FINISHED ON GRASS”, “ORGANIC” AND “CERTIFIED HUMANE”. At Whole Foods you can choose Global Animal Partnership steps 4, 5 and 5+. This means they were raised on a pasture did not have physical alterations.

 5)  Know your Chicken and Egg options:

a) Cage free – Don’t be fooled! This is a USDA regulated term. The birds don’t live in

BroilerHouseW_ChoreTime
photo from veganoutreach.org

cages but they don’t go outside and live in 1.5 square feet of space.

b) Free range – USDA regulated term. Birds have access to outdoors, but it does not necessarily mean that they ever go outside. There may be 20,000 birds and one tiny door that leads to a cement spot outside or a tiny patch of grass. If the eggs are Certified Humane it means they had 2 square feet of space.

c) Organic – to be labeled certified organic, chicken must meet the following criteria:

  • they must be fed certified organic feed for their entire lives
  • the organic feed cannot contain animal by-products, antibiotics, GMO grains, or grains grown with pesticides or fertilizers.
  • the birds must have outdoor access (largely unenforced)

d) Pasture Raised – Not a USDA regulated term. In order for pasture-raised chickens to be Certified Humane (see below), the chickens must have access to 108 square feet per bird. They are rotated so they do not over forage and they peck at the grass and have access to a barn for cover.

e) Certified Humane– An extra certification on top of other standards such as organic or pasture raised. Meets Humane Farm Animal Care Standards (HFAC). They are fed a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones. They have access to a shelter, resting area and have sufficient space and ability to engage in natural behaviors.

**When buying chicken and eggs – look for “PASTURE RAISED” and “CERTIFIED HUMANE”.  Don’t be fooled into buying “CAGE FREE” OR “FREE RANGE” or at Whole Foods you can choose Global Animal Partnership steps 4, 5 and 5+. This means they were raised on a pasture did not have physical alterations (for chickens, not eggs).

 7)  Dairy Products – Always buy “Organic”! It’s that simple.

If you don’t buy organic dairy you will be ingesting rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) a known carcinogen. It’s in most non-organic dairy products, not just milk.

8)  Fish – Go fishing in very cold water

Fish are full of mercury and PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. PCBs are synthetic chemicals that have long been outlawed, but still remain in the oceans. Big fish eat little fish and the PCBs build up in their flesh. PCBs wreak havoc on your hormones and may cause cancer and infertility. Farmed fish are worse. Farmed salmon have twice the fat of wild salmon, and this fat collects even more toxins. Farmed salmon are dyed pink to impersonate their wild cousins. GMO salmon has been approved but is not yet on the market in the U.S. due to push back. It is available in Canada. Farm-raised tilapia, especially those imported from China, are raised in manure filled, unsanitary conditions. Wild caught by pole is your best bet for any fish.

9)  Know your pork options:pig crate

Buy pasture-raised, Certified Humane pork. Factory farmed pigs are raised under some of the worst conditions. They are kept in gestation crates for much of their lives where they don’t even have room to turn around.

10)  Know your Labels and icons and a few notes:

a) If a label says, “100% All Natural” do not buy it! Anyone can use this term. It is unregulated and means NOTHING. Look for USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project labels. USDA Organic is BETTER than Non-GMO certified.

USDA organic                         non GMO proj seal

b) Avoid carrageenan, it promotes inflammation and gut irritation. It is found in milk substitutes, deli meats, dairy etc.

c) See CERTIFIED HUMANE producers http://certifiedhumane.org/whos-certified/

d) See how your favorite brands score (eggs, cereal, dairy etc.) https://www.cornucopia.org/

For maximum health eat a low-fat, plant-based diet.

 

 

 

Author: Lauren

Advocate for real health

4 thoughts on “Navigating the Grocery Store for Maximum Health”

  1. Always learning for you, girl. Didn’t know that potatoes were on the dirty dozen but do get them organic anyway. Keep up your good work! xo T

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