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Shopping Savvy

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Shopping Savvy

We really are lucky to have so many great organic products to choose from today, but we still need to shop with quality and health in mind.

As consumers become more aware of the importance of buying organic foods, farmers and food manufacturers are responding to demands for produce and products that are healthy for our bodies and our environment.

Buying organic produce is pretty simple–we just look for the certified organic sticker and know that the fruit or vegetable has been grown according to the strict, high standards set by independent certification bodies.

Ideally, organic packaged food products are manufactured by companies that care about food, health, and the environment. Technically, however, up to 5 percent of the ingredients in an organic product could be genetically modified, irradiated, or simply of poor quality.

Packaged Organic Products: Beware

There are plenty of organic food products on the shelves today that should not be a part of a regular whole food diet. Any white pasta, for example, organic or not, is a nutrient-deficient food. Compare the nutrition label of white pasta to a whole grain to see that the white pasta likely has more fat and sugar, and significantly less fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

White flour products are processed to remove the germ, which contains vitamins, oils, and proteins, along with the bran, which contains vitamins, minerals, fibre, and proteins. All that remains in such products is the starch, which breaks down into sugar very quickly in the body. Alternatively, look for organic whole grain pastas. Check the nutritional panel and compare brands to see which one offers the most nutrition.

Organic soups, cereals, chips, and ice creams are other packaged foods that may not deliver health despite an organic label. As with any canned or packaged food, be wary of their salt and sugar content. (Organic sugar is better than nonorganic, but it’s still sugar and consuming too much of it is unhealthy!)

In the case of soups and cereals, the most nutritious ones usually have the shortest ingredient lists. When buying organic potato or corn chips, check to make sure the oil used is organic and nonhydrogenated. Better quality chips use sea salt and fewer preservatives.

Ice creams, including soy and rice versions, may offer organic ingredients, but often also deliver a long list of sugars, additives, and preservatives. Again, reading the nutrition panel and ingredient list is the only way to make a wise choice.

We really are lucky to have so many great organic products to choose from today, but we still need to shop with quality and health in mind, resisting the temptation to use the organic label as an excuse to indulge or to get away from preparing quality meals and treats from organic whole foods.

Package Cautions

Purchasing organic packaged products can be tricky.

  • Canadian regulations state that a package containing 95 percent or more certified organic content can be labelled organic.
  • Packages that contain 70 percent or more certified organic ingredients cannot be labelled organic, but can state “contains X percentage organic ingredients.”
  • A package with less than 70 percent certified organic ingredients can only specify these ingredients in the ingredient list.
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