Say No to GMOs: How to Change the Way We Eat

Here's a primer on genetically modified organisms and tips to avoid them

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What's the deal with GMOs? This acronym has been flying around the food world recently, and many of us don't even know exactly what it is. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. These are plants and animals that have had their DNA modified in a lab. GMOs have been created for many reasons, including longer shelf life, as well as resistance to weed killers and insects. Although these may sound like benefits, we don't know how the genetic modifications are affecting public health. The changing of DNA may allow for nutrients to be removed from a product that are important for our health.

Many new organizations, including the Non-GMO Project, are on a mission to preserve non-GMO products and increase awareness through food labeling. Want to be part of the non-GMO bandwagon? Here are some ways to get involved and change the way we eat.

Where are GMOs? Get ready for this shocker: According to the Non-GMO Project, in the United States, GMOs are in as much as 80 percent of conventionally processed foods. It's hard to keep track of what foods are at risk of being a GMO because they're constantly changing. However, here are a few ingredients that are often high-risk for GMOs: amino acids, aspartame, citric acid and high-fructose corn syrup. Genetically altered ingredients may also be hiding in fruits and vegetables. More markets, such as Whole Foods, are beginning to recognize this growing issue. Whole Foods supports the Non-GMO Project and even lists all of their safe products on their website.

How can we avoid GMOs? Although it may be hard to always know which fruits and vegetable products are non-GMO, by choosing items labeled with the non-GMO seal, you can begin to change the way you eat. Navitas is great (and healthy) brand that's met all of the standards to be called non-GMO, and it distributes tons of products, including coconut water powder, maca and chia seeds. Another notable brand that you may have heard of is Larabar. All Larabar products are non-GMO and organic, and they happen to be some of my favorite snacks. If you're looking for a prepared meal option, look no further than Amy's. With tons of quality meal options, Amy's is certified non-GMO, vegetarian and organic, with great gluten-free options, too. And a perfect way to start the day is by trying Nature's Path cereal, which is also free of GMOs. By choosing to purchase foods that have been properly labeled as non-GMO, we're helping to keep these products on our stores shelves.

How can we help? Shopping organic is a great step toward choosing the healthiest foods possible for your family. The challenge is that although GMOs are not recommended for the National Organic Program, it also does not require GMO testing. For your best bet in selecting the healthiest and safest products, it's best to choose products that are certified organic and Non-GMO Project-verified.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Heather Bauer, RD, CDN is a nationally-recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She is the author of two top selling books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil. She is the founder of Nu-Train, a nutrition consulting company, and Bestowed, a subscription service that offers consumers a personalized way to discover, sample, shop, and learn about the best nutrition and lifestyle products on the market.