Organic food: Reading between the labels

How to make sure you get what you pay for at the grocery store.

By Jenny Charlesworth
Organic food: Reading between the labels Photo: Belodarova/

The "O" word. It sure drives up the grocery bill but buying organic can also help us feel like we have a leg up when it comes to feeding our family. But make sure you're not confusing the almighty ORGANIC with its lesser (and oh-so misleading) pals like "all-natural" and "no-additives."

It's easy to get all warm and fuzzy at the supermarket when you pick up that box of "natural" oatmeal (with recycled packaging to boot!), but what are you actually walking away with? Sometimes, it's simply green-washing, which is when a company markets their products to capitalize on the current Go-Green trend.

I'm thrilled that Canada’s biggest grocer, Loblaws, is rolling out a new plan to remove all artificial colours and flavouring from the President Choice product lines Blue Menus, Organics and Green. But we wonder, how many people assumed some of these products were already free of hard-to-pronounce additives?

This is a good reminder: For the sake of our health and our pocket book, we should always read labels. And remember, when it comes to "organic" versus "natural" it's like comparing apples and oranges (organic oranges, that is). What's more, "organic" has its own set of rules surrounding that coveted certification (learn about the benefits of eating organic).

Buying organic isn't always the right choice for your family. But when it is, it sure would be nice to know you're getting what you paid for. The same goes for understanding what "natural" and other food labels really mean so you're not shocked when you discover unwanted artificial colours in your kids' "healthy" after-school snacks.

I'm the first to admit that I've been duped by a homegrown success story splashed across a cereal box in pretty font. Yes, I'm guilty of paying 10 dollars for a really cute box containing some so-so flakes. But that's what happens when you're not informed. The old cliche rings true in the grocery store: knowledge is power.

This article was originally published on May 04, 2012

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