By Grace Lidinsky-Smith
Green, healthy (or healthy-looking) foods are having a moment right now. As I strolled down the aisles of Meijer today, I saw a package of Veggie Straws. It was decorated with an illustration of lush vegetables and claimed to be “all natural.” There was even a tomato dotting the “i” in “Veggie.” Oh my god, these chips are just like vegetables! And they are all natural?? That’s so healthy and good for you!!!
Or is it? The thing is, “all natural” doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Nature makes lots of things without human assistance, from arsenic to lava. And something tells me that those Veggie Straws didn’t just spring forth from the soil like a crop of asparagus. In the United States the term “all natural” isn’t regulated by the FDA. Many companies put it on their products to make them look appealingly healthy or environmental. That’s a cheap trick that doesn’t hold up to much inspection.
So if you’re actually looking to eat more naturally, what should you look for? Unlike “all natural,” the term “organic” does mean something solid. According to the FDA, organic foods must be grown in a sustainable and resource-preserving fashion, without synthetic or petroleum-based pesticides or fertilizers.
It’s also a good idea to eat foods that are in season and grown as close to you as possible. Farmer’s markets are ideal for this, and South Bend has a very serviceable market, especially in the summer. The food has a smaller carbon footprint because it only traveled a short distance.
Local foods also generally arrive on the market when they are fresh. Besides, why go to Kroger when you could be getting little trays of fresh ruby-red berries handed to you by cheerful farmer’s children?