Supermarket Choices – organic, gluten free and vegetarian… what you need to know.


In today’s marketplace, we are fortunate to have many options when it comes to our diets. Organic, gluten free, and vegetarian are some of the newer choices that supermarkets are carrying on their shelves.

What does it mean when something is organic?

If something is organic, it means that it is certified by the standards set out by the Canadian Organic Standards which outline how livestock, cattle, must be fed, housed, transported and slaughtered and how crops and produce must be grown, extracted, processed and stored. As well, how pests and diseases are to be treated i.e.: without the use of growth hormones, pesticides or other chemicals.

Does a product have to be 100% organic to be labelled organic?

No. They must be at least 95% organic to bear the organic logo on the label. Multi-product ingredients with between 70-95% organic content can declare this percentage “organic” in their labelling.

What is the benefit to organic products vs. non-organic?

It is argued that all of the chemicals that we are constantly putting into our bodies are, in fact, poisoning us. Why put something in your body that is not derived from natural sources. To take “organic” one step further, we shouldn’t even eat any processed foods. We should eat foods in their original state. Think grilled chicken vs. packaged/formed chicken burgers with added salt and nitrates. This is baked or mashed potatoes vs. packaged scalloped potatoes or French fries. This is homemade spaghetti and tomatoe sauce vs. alphagetti or other canned pasta.

What types of products should you buy organic if you are not planning to buy everything organic?

So for most of us, buying everything organic is simply not realistic. Either because of where we live or what our budget restricts us to. As a result, we have to make choices. If you are planning to try to shop organic, spend the money on produce that does not have a think peel as the peel acts as protective layer to the food. This includes apples, asparagus, strawberries, berries, grapes, lettuces, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Also, anything that is a product of an animal – of which would be passing on the chemicals these foods. So milk, cheese, chicken, fish, beef and eggs.

What is gluten free?

Gluten free means that it is free of gluten – it is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale.

Who eats or should eat gluten-free products?

People with celiac disease or those with a gluten allergy. However, many people with varying digestive problems may find improvement with following a gluten free diet.

For those without celiac or digestive issues, is it harmful or beneficial to be gluten free?

Some people choose to go “gluten free” in an effort to improve digestion or lose weight. However, there is insignificant evidence that this is truly beneficial to anyone other, obviously, that those with celiac disease or a gluten allergy. Your best bet would be to speak to your health professional if you are considering making this diet change.

What is a vegan?

A vegan is a person that chooses not to eat any animal products (or wear for that matter) – either alone or within other foods. Strict vegans will not eat any eggs, milk or other dairy, meat, fish, chicken etc… They will also not eat anything cooked in or containing animal fats. Vegans must be careful to ensure that their diets are supplemented with protein and other essential nutrients they lose when eliminating these foods.

What is a vegetarian?

A vegetarian is basically a “less strict” version of a vegan. Vegetarians vary in what they will and will not eat. Some only restrict red meat. Others restrict all meat, eggs and dairy in their whole forms but may have things such butter or margarine or a pancake which contains both eggs and milk.

For your chicken, fish, eggs and meat, there are a number of terms to know and choices you can make including: free-range, hormone free, grain-fed and organic. Grain-fed is just that: the chickens or cattle are fed with grains and not any other fillers or by-products. Free-range means that the animals are free to roam around and eat in an open area. This is unlike many animal farms that produce large quantities of meat and products. Those facilities have the animals in rows of tiny pens where they sometimes cannot even turn around or walk. It is a life made to breed and produce – only. This topic is a whole other issue to tackle and discuss for another blog!

The only downfall with many of these new choices we have today is the price. A non-organic apple, “regular” eggs and plain white rice are usually much cheaper than organic apples, grain fed free-range eggs and gluten free side-dishes. However, the more consumers buy these options, the more they are produced and distributed and therefore the theory of supply and demand will hopefully take over.

So what should you do? For you, your family and your grocery list? If you aren’t eating anything organic, I would start there. Eliminating chemicals from our bodies has to be a good thing. Start with what you can afford and are willing to try to fit your life. Continue to educate yourself and your friends and family and take steps like these to a healthier life.

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