17 Nov Trendy Food Labels…Are They Worth It?
By Joni Garcia MS, RD, Contributing Blogger
Every company seems to be labeling their foods with some buzzword in an attempt to grab shoppers’ attention (and maybe make a few extra bucks). Oftentimes, we tend to equate those words with something that’s better for us. With so many of these buzzwords floating around, it’s hard to know if the food really is the healthiest choice. To help clear up the confusion, here’s what 5 popular terms often found on food packages really mean.
Five Top Food Buzzwords
For a food to be labeled organic, it must be made without any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, it cannot be genetically modified, and 95% of the ingredients in the food must be produced in this way. Going organic isn’t a bad idea, but it’s important to remember that just because a food is labeled organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy. For example, organic cookies are still cookies and likely have the same amount of calories and sugar as the non-organic version.
Natural foods contain no artificial ingredients and are minimally processed. It’s great to follow a natural diet, which helps to eliminate eating anything fake, but less healthy foods can be all natural too (that’s where the FDA’s definition gets very confusing). For more info on the terms natural and organic, check out the USDA website.
GMO foods contain genetically modified organisms, which means the food has been altered in some way to develop certain characteristics, like being resistant to certain bugs. Non-GMO foods are made without genetically engineered ingredients. It’s hard to know if the food you’re eating is genetically modified because there are no laws governing GMO labeling in most states. A few states have passed GMO labeling laws, but there are not Federal laws forcing companies to do it.
Eating local has many benefits – it’s great for the environment, the food can be higher in nutrients, and it just seems to taste better. But there is no standard definition for local food. It’s up to the store, restaurant, or establishment to define this term for themselves. The food or ingredients may be produced or grown in the next town over or they could have come from 100 miles away. If you’re curious, ask your market manager or the restaurant staff where their food comes from.
Sustainable is a term that’s very broad, but basically means producing food in a way that’s environmentally friendly, humane, supports local infrastructure, and is able to be kept up for future generations. Sustainable foods incorporate many of the terms noted above. For example, they are likely grown closer to home to reduce gas emissions from transportation, minimally processed and packaged to reduce waste, and made without anything synthetic.
Tell Me: What are some food buzzwords you’ve heard lately?