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Unless you’ve been living on a space bubble, you’ve probably heard the term organic and have seen the nice green labels lining the grocery store shelves. But when it comes to choosing fresh and healthy food for your family, those labels can feel pretty confusing. Sometimes they can be considerably more expensive. Sure, you know that you should limit pesticides in your food and should try when possible to buy organic but what about when it gets dicey with terms like “natural,” “all natural,” “10 percent organic” and “made with organic ingredients.” We know! It can be tough to decipher what everything means. Let’s begin by talking about what it means to go organic and then we’ll help you translate those similar labels so that you can make the healthiest and wisest decisions possible.
Harmful pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and synthetic materials can be ingested from the food you eat. Studies are currently underway to determine how adversely such things can affect your overall and long-term health. Because of this reason, many families choose to turn to a greener way of living including buying organic produce, choosing meat without animal hormones, or food that is processed without any additives. Families may also choose to go green to help support organic farmers or to offset animal care standards by avoiding buying food from farmers whose animals are caged or not living in a grass-fed environment. Some may also choose to go green because they love the pure taste of organic foods.
Label Info 101
When it comes to decoding your labels, you’ll want to follow the United States Department of Agriculture’s guide to buying organic. Natural products are usually made without preservatives and additives, but to be organic, a food must meet strict standards. Here’s how it breaks down on the USDA site:
USDA Organic Seal: To get the seal, it means your product is grown or raised without toxic or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers (including troublesome things like sewage sludge), antibiotics or growth hormones, genetically modified organisms, or irradiation. Accredited certifications determine whether produce meets USDA requirements.
100 Percent Organic: These products are made with all organic ingredients and may use the USDA Organic Seal. (Though they may also include added water and salt)
Organic: Products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, and may use the USDA Seal.
Made with Organic Ingredients: Products made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients may list organic ingredients on their labels but may not use the USDA Organic Seal.
The Best Place To Start
Now that you have a little more insight into what gets that little green label, you can begin to think about making the change to a greener lifestyle. The best place to start is by switching over your produce. There are two important lists that come from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that will help in the process. The list called the Dirty Dozen is updated frequently and tells of the produce with the highest amount of pesticide residue. Another list, called the Clean 15, lists the produce that has the least amount of pesticide residue generally due to the fact that they are encased in a harder skin.
Going green can feel intimidating at first but can be a fun and informative journey for your family to undergo. With a little forethought when crafting your grocery list, you’ll be ready to easily handle the different labels and options.