Healthy Shopping: How to make healthy choices at the grocery store

Organic Foods

Organic: farm systems employ management practices that seek to nurture ecosystems in order to achieve sustainable productivity

       DO NOT contain any genetic engineering

       DO NOT use any synthetic pesticides

       DO NOT use any fertilizer

       DO NOT use any veterinary drugs including antibiotics

       DO NOT use sewage sludge as soil amendment

       DO NOT use synthetic growth regulators

       DO NOT use synthetic processing substances and food additives

       DO NOT use ionizing radiation

       ALL equipment, packaging materials and storage containers or bins DO NOT contain any synthetic fungicide, preservative or fumigant

Certified organic symbol means that products that are at least 95% organic


·      Organic: must use more than 95% organic content.

·      % organic product: must contain 70-95% organic content

·      Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may only contain organic claims in the product’s ingredient list.

·      Natural’ or ‘free-range’ - NOT organic!


The Dirty Dozen: The Fruits and Vegetables that are the most important to buy organic


  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots


Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)


  • Based on the idea of "substantial equivalence”

—  Animal studies:  immune dysregulation, infertility, accelerated aging, insulin dysregulation, changes in liver, spleen, kidneysGI tract

—  Allergenicity: Introducing a new gene to a plant can create new allergens, or pose a health threat to already susceptible individuals

—  Health Canada claims that genetically modified foods are no different than conventional foods

—  No long term studies have been done to assess the effects of modified foods on human health

—  Soybeans and corn are the top two most widely grown crops (82% of all GM crops harvested in 2000), with cotton, rapeseed (or canola) and potatoes trailing behind.

—  Over 35 countries require Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled…..Canada does not.




       Animals are treated with Antibiotic as a form of prevention and treatment of  disease

       Antibiotic resistance increases the chance of antibiotic resistant bacteria developing, making it more difficult to treat human disease

·      Canadian beef: the Canadian Food Inspection agency has approved use of growth hormones and synthetic derivative à estrogen, progesterone, testosterone

·      Canadian chicken: not fed hormones

·      Free range: not legally defined

·      88% of chicken feed is made of grain

·      Organic meat: hormone free, anti-biotic free, additive free


When buying meat…

       Look for key words such as lean.  Lean beef includes round, chuck, sirloin or tenderloin.  Lean pork or lam includes tenderloin, loin chops or leg.  Lean poultry is white meat from the breast without skin.

—  Check percentages. When buying ground beef, look for packages with the highest percentage of lean meat — 90 percent or higher.

—  Check the ground. Ground poultry can have as much fat as ground beef has, or more, because it often includes dark meat and skin. To make the leanest choice, choose ground breast meat, or look for low-fat ground chicken or turkey.

—  Prime usually means more fat!

—  Trim the fat.   Trim any visible fat on the meat , this includes the skin on poultry.

—  Avoid processed meat. Processed meat contain preservatives, additives, salt, and are often smoked.  


Omega-3 Eggs


—  These eggs are produced by hens fed a diet that contains 10 to 20 percent flaxseed.

—  Omega-3 enhanced eggs contain 0.4 g omega-3 fatty acids compared 0.04 g found naturally in classic eggs.

—   The cholesterol and total fat contents are about the same as in classic eggs.




—  Nearly all fish and shell fish contain levels of mercury

—  Some fish carry more mercury than others. Larger fish that have lived longer and who are also predator fish have the highest levels of methylmercury because they've had more time to accumulate it.

—  Methylmercury is a known neurotoxin, and has the potential to harm an unborn fetus or a developing child’s neurosystem. 

—  Fish can become a concern depending on the type of fish you’re eating, and how much fish you’re eating.

—  Predator fish are most toxic. Avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish, sea bass.

—  Lowest mercury levels usually in smaller fish like herring, salmon, sardine and shrimp

—  Wild is always better than farmed

—  Tuna accounts for up to a quarter of the country’s fish consumption

—  Some brands of tuna contain more mercury than others

—   Avoid Albacore tuna

—   Prefer light tuna

—   Limit tuna consumption to max twice a week…remember bioaccumulation!


Nuts and Seeds


—  Nuts and seeds are filed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

—  High in monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-6 which lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

—  When you roast nuts and seeks the heat causes these good oils to go rancid producing free radicals which can be harmful to our health


Seasonal, Local Foods

·      Benefits: Cost effective; decreased travel time for food (so it is fresher and there is less environmental impact from vehicles used for transportation); and supports the local economy

·      A full list of Ontario fruit and vegetable seasons can be found at:  

Fair Trade

·      Products include: bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, rice, sugar and tea.

·      Fair trade products promise that the farmers and workers producing the crops are paid prices that will at least cover the cost of sustainable production, as well as a fair trade premium, which is used to support education, healthcare, and improvements to production methods.

·      Fair trade certifiers encourage environmentally sustainable practices and discourage use of GMOs. However, it is important to note that not all fair trade products are necessarily organic. 

Can the Canned Foods

·      Not a good substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables

·      Often contain bisphenol A (BPA), which is a hormone disrupting chemical related to increased risk of breast and testicular cancer, diabetes and obesity.

·      Canned foods are high in sodium  

Plastic and Styrofoam

·      Plastics contain phthalates which can affect thyroid hormone, which is important for energy, weight and temperature regulation. Phthalate consumption has also been related to increased BMI and waist circumference

·      Styrofoam is a styrene polymer made from benzene (a carcinogen). Styrene is neurotoxic and mimics estrogen and thyroid hormone.

·      Absorption of styrene is increased by high fat content foods, alcohol, lemon juice and heat.