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  • Writer's pictureCarina Hopen

Making Informed Choices at the Grocery Store

When we're at the grocery store or browsing through a farmers market, we're faced with tons of choices. What we decide to put in our carts can have a big impact on our health and the planet. Here's how to make smart choices that are good for both.

Selecting Food

Shopping can be overwhelming, but there are simple ways to choose healthier options and support sustainable farming. Look for fruits and veggies that are in season; they're usually fresher, tastier, and better for the environment. If you can, buy local. This helps local farmers and cuts down on the pollution that comes from shipping food over long distances.

Understanding Labels

Food labels can tell you a lot. Words like "organic," "free-range," or "non-GMO" can give you clues about how the food was grown or made. If you're not sure what a label means, it might be worth looking it up. Making informed choices gets easier the more you know.

Organic: Organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and artificial fertilizers. In livestock, organic means that animals are raised without antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. They're also given organic feed and have access to the outdoors. To be labeled as organic in most countries, foods must meet specific government standards.

Free-Range: Free-range refers to animals, especially poultry, that have been given access to the outdoors, allowing them to move around more freely and exhibit natural behaviors. However, the specific requirements for the amount of outdoor access and how it's implemented can vary. This label suggests the animals may have a higher welfare standard than those kept in confined spaces.

Non-GMO: Non-GMO means the food does not contain genetically modified organisms. GMOs are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants and animals. Foods labeled as non-GMO have not been produced using these genetic engineering techniques.

Natural: The term "natural" is one of the most ambiguous and is not strictly regulated in many cases. Generally, it implies that the product doesn't contain artificial ingredients or preservatives and is minimally processed. However, the definition can vary, and it doesn't necessarily mean the product is organic, free-range, or non-GMO.

Farmers Markets: A Great Choice

Farmers markets are awesome for picking up fresh, local produce. The food here often comes straight from the farm, so it's about as fresh as you can get. Plus, shopping at these markets supports local farmers directly, which is great for your community. You can also find unique items you might not see at a regular grocery store.

The Power of Your Dollar

Every time you buy something, you're choosing the kind of food system you want to support. Buying sustainably grown, local food might cost a bit more sometimes, but it's an investment in your health and the health of the environment. Think of it as voting for a better food system every time you shop.

Tips for Shopping Smart

  • Make a list before you go to the store or market. This can help you stick to buying what you need and avoid impulse buys.

  • Try to fill most of your cart with whole foods. That means lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

  • If you're on a tight budget, look for deals on frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Just watch out for added sugars or sodium.

Shopping for food is about more than just filling our pantries; it's about making choices that reflect our values and goals for health and sustainability. By being mindful of what we buy and where it comes from, we can make a positive impact on our bodies and the world around us.


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