Reading the ingredients labels is the most time-consuming part of this exercise, but even that doesn’t take long. Especially since “natural and artificial flavors” is almost always at the end of the list. If I find that, I know it’s not included this month.
What Are Natural and Artificial Flavors?
Despite the names, both natural and artificial flavors are manmade. They’re chemical substances, generally recognized as safe (or GRAS, an FDA definition), that are used for flavoring and have no nutritional value.
Natural flavors are distinguished from artificial flavors only by their source. Natural flavors must start with an actual food, although the final product may not taste like the original food. Artificial flavors can be entirely synthetic.
“Natural and artificial flavorings” on the label can indicate one or hundreds of chemicals in that one food. They always indicate processed ingredients, so I skip any foods containing them.
Organic Foods and Natural Flavors
Organic foods can include natural flavors in them. They’re on the label of a surprising number of prepared organic foods, though not all.
Some organic brands have a higher percentage of foods without natural flavors. Annie’s and Amy’s both sell prepared organic foods that don’t contain natural flavors.
Of course, the best answer is to always prepare food from scratch. But when time is short, I use some prepared items.
Organic foods will increase the cost for groceries. So what about non-organic prepared foods? I’ve found a few. Not a lot, but still there are some.
Most salsas are both unprocessed and contain non-GMO ingredients. I still have to check the labels, since some national brands include a lot of processed ingredients.
Many canned goods – soups, vegetables, and fruits – contain only what you might expect from the name.
In the last decade or so, as the whole foods trend has moved into the mainstream, buying frozen vegetables that contain only the frozen vegetables and no artifical colorings or flavors has gotten a lot easier.
It takes a lot of reading to start, but now that I’ve been at this for two weeks, it’s not hard at all.
Image by serenejournal, used with Creative Commons license.