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HELP!  I want to make better food choices for my family but, with all these labels I don’t know where to start!

It’s true!  If you’re new to the healthy food shopping game the different labels can be overwhelming.  Here is a quick guide to Decoding Crunchy Food Labels:

  1. Start here: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a yearly updated list for produce shopping called the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen”.  They list the fruits and vegetables, not organically grown, that have the highest levels of harmful pesticide content and the ones that have the lowest.
  2. 100% Natural- This one doesn’t have a picture label but, is worth mentioning.  Every ingredient in a product marked 100% Natural ought to be something derived from natural sources.  There shouldn’t be anything chemical or non-food ingredients in it though, the ingredients themselves can be from farms that use chemical agents in the growing process.  This may be a good money saver label option for items made from the clean fifteen list.
  3. USDA Certified Organic– The ingredients in products marked with this label should be derived from organically grown plants or organically fed and raised animals.  “Organic” as in: not produced with the use of chemical agents.  This label only requires that a product be 95% organically derived.  100% organic products will be marked as such to distinguish them from the USDA’s 5% non-organic allowance.  This label is the one you want to choose with products made from the dirty dozen produce list.  If it has a dirty dozen item in it, buy organic.
  4. 100% Whole Grains– products made from grains that are “whole”.  Whole grains contain the bran, endosperm, and germ parts and, thus. They contain all their natural nutrients.
  5. Gluten-Free– products free of a protein composite of wheat (and similar grains such as rye and barley) know as “gluten”.  Some people are highly allergic to gluten.  Gluten can also exasperate conditions like celiac disease, ADHD, and autism.
  6. The Non-GMO Project– Seeks to provide products that are free of GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms.  GMO’s show up mostly in grains, but can also be something to keep an eye on with produce and the type of diet fed to animals.
  7. Certified Vegetarian– is meat free, but can include dairy and egg products.
  8. Certified Vegan– is animal product free- no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs.  There should be nothing in the product that comes from animals.
  9. Kosher and Pareve– Jewish dietary laws.  Having to do with meat and milk.  Kosher deals with the specific ways meat must be made ready for eating and Pareve refers to the fact that meat and milk are not supposed to be eaten together.  So, Pareve products may be eaten with meals that include either meat or milk because the product itself does not contain either.  There are several symbols such as, but not limited to: “P”, “U”, “K”, “OU”, or the word “Pareve” or “Parve” written under a circle that contains one of the afore mentioned letters..  Pareve labels can be helpful to those wishing to cut diary from their diet and to those choosing a vegan diet.

Shop around!  Many places now carry several products with these labels.  If you know where to look, eating healthy can be affordable!