What’s Your Food Criteria? One RD Dishes Hers
Guest post by: Jessica Jones‐Hughes, M.S, R.D., Vice President of Oke USA Fair Trade Fruit Company
We each have our own criteria when it comes to choosing food to eat. Is the food healthy? Organic? Easy? Tasty? As a Dietitian, I have always focused on choosing the most nutritious choice. During grad school, the way food is grown was added to my criteria. I started looking for organic foods grown on nearby diversified, small-scale farms (nowadays, a lot of organic is grown less sustainably, aka one crop on a large area of land). When I started working at Equal Exchange, a fair trade cooperative, I added a new criterion: the story, people, and company behind the food.
Due to my food selection criteria, people constantly ask me if I am able to eat anything at all! They are surprised to find that there ARE a lot of options! How do I make my decisions? Below I talk about the questions I ask and what I look for in my food choices. I am lucky to be surrounded by affordable options. Not everyone has this kind of access to good food or time to prepare it. For this reason, it is important to remember that: Even one small change can make a big impact.
Use the below guide to create a personalized food selection criterion that fits YOUR life-budget-needs, realistically. Over time you can dig in further, step by step. Be flexible and have fun learning!
WHAT I Look For:
1. Is the food healthy?
- Are there less than 5-7 ingredients?
- If >7, do you want to eat the listed ingredients?
- BONUS: Try cooking with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
2. Is the food Organic certified?
- BONUS: What kind of organic? Find a nearby, small diversified farm. Organic also assures that the food contains NO GMO products. Learn more here.
3. Is the food Fairtrade certified?
- Look for a Fairtrade symbol or a “Fairtrade Certified” statement. Typically, only products not grown in the USA can be Fairtrade Certified.
- BONUS: Look for companies that work with small-scale fair trade farmer cooperatives vs. fair trade plantations. Learn more here.
4. Who is the company making/growing the food?
- What else does the company sell? Who is the company owned by? What is the mission? Are they transparent? Are they looking for alternatives to ingredients you might not want in your food? Where do the products come from? How do they treat workers / employees?
- BONUS: Look for alternative, independent companies.
WHO to Ask?
- Ask the company. Start with the website, with further questions, email or call. A direct response (or lack of) will tell you a lot.
- Ask staff at the store where you shop. This may work best if you are shopping at a food co-op or independent market. Staff often know a lot about the products they carry!
- At the farmers market, ask farmers! Do they use pesticides / herbicides? What does the farm looks like? Better yet – go visit!
Knowledge is Power!
Use these guidelines as tool to find food that you believe in and feel good about on multiple levels. By voting with your dollars, you are helping to support a more just and healthy food system that we can all feel good about, one product at a time.
What do you look for?
Jessica Jones‐Hughes, M.S, R.D., is Vice President of Oke USA Fair Trade Fruit Company, a subsidiary of Equal Exchange. She joined Oke USA in 2009 after completing her Dietetic Internship and Master’s at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition where she focused on International Nutrition. She has spent time abroad and domestically working on various agriculture and nutrition programs. Her studies, experience and passions span across the science, agriculture, environmental and social aspects of nutrition and food systems. Contact:email@example.com