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Tips for Reading Eco Friendly Food Labels

Going green is a lot like renovating a home. You usually have to take it one room at a time. So, when it comes to making your kitchen more eco-friendly, there are actually a series of things that you can (and probably should) do. Things like using homemade cleaning supplies, avoiding non-stick cookware, serving up food with recyclable plates and utensils, putting a water filter on your faucet…oh, and watching the kind of food that you by.

When it comes to that last one, if you’d like a few tips on how to read eco-friendly food labels, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Just because it says “organic”, that doesn’t mean that it is. Even when it comes to what we eat, people are out to make money. So, if a company knows that we want something that’s organic, there’s a good chance that they’ll market their products that way. How can you know if they’re telling the truth? Looking for items that have reliable third-party certifications like USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade.

Watch the fiber intake. More specifically, watch for the things that you purchase that say “Now with more fiber!” on them because sometimes it’s not the kind of fiber that need it to be. Think about it. How much sense does it make to have fiber in ice cream? A lot of food products have certain powders like polydextrose and inulin in them, which are proven to be more of a calorie-filler than anything else. If you want your real fiber intake, stick to beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Real fruit looks like real fruit. Whenever you read pretty much any label, the first ingredient listed tells you what that item has the most of within it. When it comes to baby food, juice, candy and other fruit-flavored goodies, a lot of times while you’ll see first is either sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Bottom line, if you want something that’s made from real fruit, go to the aisle that actually has fruit (that’s outside of a can) on it.

What should you think about free range eggs? Here’s the deal on these: The government doesn’t regulate how phrases like “free range” and “cage free” are used. So, as nice it would be to think that chickens are grazing on the healthy earth that’s around them, there’s a far greater chance that you’re being told that’s the case and you’re paying the extra money for it to be written on the egg cartons. So, what kind of eggs should you be looking for? According to the eco-friendly experts, look for ones that come in paper cartons rather than the standard Styrofoam ones. And, if you can, go with a local dozen because that reduces the carbon footprint from eggs that are brought from other states significantly.

Here’s the deal with meats and fish. When you order a pizzadelivery, you’re probably not putting too much thought into where the meat topping come from (although perhaps you should). But when you’re going grocery shopping for meat or fish, you’re probably a bit more cognizant. When you’re looking at the meat labels, here are a few things to keep in mind. One, size does matter and so a chicken requires less feed than say, a cow or lamb does. So, be sure to remember that the smaller the animal, the less the risk of being raised with harmful hormones and pesticides. Either way, look for meats that are humanely raised. Third-party certifications like USDA Organic and Certified Humane are trustworthy (you can check out a longer list of certifications at Fish is a bit more challenging. Tilapia is one that’s usually raised sustainably, but other kinds vary. If you want to know if your favorite kind of fish is raised in a “go green” atmosphere, check out the Seafood Selector guide at and type in “safe seafood”.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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