Navigating the food aisles of Supermarkets in America can be quite the daunting task, especially when you have a screaming baby, you are tired, and you just need to pick up a few things to make dinner. Now add trying to decipher cryptic words on ingredients lists you've never heard of, and trying to work out which foods are safe to feed your baby. OOOF! It's too much sometimes...
Lately I have been growing more and more concerned with the ingredients, and food handling practices of food companies in the U.S.
Why? Well, there have been a string of recalls lately on food, everything from Ground beef, Uncle Ben's Rice, Hot Pockets, Falafel Wraps, to Organic frozen berries and more. My husband and I bought a bag of organic frozen berries from Costco, only to find out a week later that they had been recalled for containing Hepatitis A!!! Luckily I hadn't actually opened the bag yet.
It sent some alarm bells off in my head though. You can read the article about it here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/31/frozen-berries-hepatitis-a-outbreak/2378139/
What's Happening to our Food?
In addition to an increase in food recalls, a series of consumer driven pushes have lead companies to get rid of certain ingredients in their food due to health and safety concerns.
Well, you say, we have a Federal Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) that protects us, right? Yes we do, but they are not necessarily always looking out for what's best for consumers. Like every other political branch they are subject to lobbying by huge food corporations that push hard to keep certain chemicals and misleading food labels in the food supply. The FDA deems all kinds of harmful chemicals okay for consumption as long as they are in small enough doses. Well, I for one am not interesting in eating chemicals no matter how small a quantity. Accumulation of those chemicals over time can not be good for anyone!
Not to mention there are so many GIANT, MEGA food corporations that process food in giant factories that are difficult to regulate. So, if you are a concerned mommy like me, read on...
I recently learned about MORE chemicals in foods I thought were okay, after that whole 'Subway sandwich' debacle (Subway decided to take a gross chemical out of their bread after consumer complaints. The chemical is also used in making yoga mats and shoe soles. GROSS!)
Anyway, it lead me to start looking into other foods and their ingredients lists - and the ones that were really long and hard to spell, or the ones that were a cryptic series of numbers...
for instance, R12-135 which is a chemical used to clean machinery. It was listed as an 'ingredient' in the Oroweat bread I was buying. It is banned in most other industrialized countries, and is labeled a "hazardous material". Maybe it's just used to clean the machines the bread is processed in - I really don't care - I don't want it anywhere on my food!
What is it doing in supposedly healthy whole wheat bread? Good question!
Rather than drive yourself crazy trying to decipher all the crazy ingredients in food, and spend a bunch of money (I certainly can't afford to buy everything at Whole Foods), I am working on creating a list of safe, healthy foods and ethical brands to help us all out. I will create a series of lists from best of the best to chose, to worst offenders to avoid.
I found this link which I found really helpful to get me started...
There are definitely other brands besides the ones on my list - but I think these are the ones that I see the most in stores, and cover a variety of food types, from dairy products, to meats, cereals, snacks and baby foods. In general it's a good idea to try and buy 'certified organic' foods whenever possible (which I know is not always available, and is more expensive). Whenever we consumers buy organic we are encouraging more food companies and grocery stores to produce better quality foods, and stock more in their stores.
Here are the guidelines needed to be 'certified organic'...
Okay here is my first list...
Top 15 Best Food Brands
(in no particular order)
My list of the most trustworthy, ethical, certified organic, healthy brands available...(found in most grocery stores)
1. Trader Joe's Brand
I know Trader Joe's stores are not everywhere in the U.S. but this store is hands-down my favorite place to shop. Their prices are much lower than other healthy food stores, and they carry a ton of great products, including their own brand. The Trader Joe's brand foods are free of GMO's and also their canned goods do not contain BPA. They carry a lot of organic products from local producers.
2. Stonyfield Farms
Organic yogurts and dairy products. They are certified organic and I think all their products taste fantastic.
3. Horizon Organic
I always buy this brand of milk for my daughter. Because my daughter drinks so much milk it is really important to me to make sure it does not contain hormones, or anti-biotics - which a lot of milk that isn't organic does contain.
4. Bob's Redmill
Great selection of gluten-free products and different types of flour and grains. I find all kinds of great products from them in the 'healthy' section at my local Ralph's grocery store.
5. Eden Foods
BPA-free cans, organic soy, no gelling agents in the soymilk, commitment to organic, local and traditionally made foods for three decades. Family-owned.
6. Nature's Path
The go-to brand for organic cereal and a commitment to non-GMO ingredients, but beware, they still use a lot of sugar and ingredients like soy oil.
7. Earth's Best
Earth's Best is a full line of organic baby food.
8. 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods Brand)
Whole Foods brand has high quality and pretty much all organic products.
9. Organic Valley and Organic Prairie
Founded in 1988, Organic Valley produces award-winning organic milk, cheese, butter, soy milk, produce, healthy snacks, and more.
The mission of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP) is to create and operate a marketing cooperative that promotes regional farm diversity and economic stability by the means of organic agricultural methods and the sale of certified organic products.
10. Simply Organic
Herbs and Spices, and pre-made meals for when you need a healthy option for something quick.
Simply Organic's pure, organic herbs, spices and seasonings plus fresh food equals delicious, healthy meals for you and your family. Once you've tried Simply Organic®, you'll agree we provide a simply healthy way to incorporate organics into your life. We travel the world over to bring you fresh and aromatic seasonings of unsurpassed quality. You'll taste the difference in every bite.
11. Amy's Kitchen
I like their line of Macaroni and Cheese.
Amy's Kitchen is a privately held corporation which manufactures natural and organic convenience and frozen foods.
12. Back to Nature
Back to Nature foods are made with simple and delicious ingredients â€“ plus no artificial flavors or preservatives, hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup.
Organic meats - Sliced deli meats, hot dogs, sausage and bacon that are free of antibiotics, gluten
14. Neiman Ranch
Niman Ranch is a San Francisco Bay Area based ranch, meat processor and distributor of high quality "natural" beef, lamb, and pork, founded by rancher Bill Niman. Niman Ranch offers a complete line of fresh beef, pork, lamb, poulty, cage-free eggs and a variety of smoked and cured meats. Niman Ranch is leading the industry in sustainable and humane agricultural practices.
Annie's Homegrown is a Berkeley, California-based maker of natural and/or organic pastas, meals and snacks. I get their cheddar bunnies for my daughter.
One final note...
The main reason to buy organic for every food type (meat, vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy etc) is because you can be sure the food will not contain harmful chemicals, pesticides, hormones and other bad things. The consumption of pesticides and chemicals has been linked to increased cancer rates, environmental damage, brain developmental issues in children, and obesity.
In my opinion, it's worth it to spend a little more on organic and save your family from medical bills and heartache in the future. I know that I can't always protect myself or my child from all the crap that goes into food all the time (I'm sure we will eat it sometimes) - but I can control what I buy at the grocery store.