Making the Switch To Being GMO Free

The average American eats foods made with genetically modified ingredients 3-5 times a day and usually they are totally unaware because GMOs are not required to be labeled. After both Jenny Easley and Leslie Stoddard, the creators of GMO Free Idaho, heard the term GMO for the first time their pantry’s almost changed overnight.

For someone who is first learning about genetically modified foods, making diet changes can be overwhelming and one might not know what steps to take. There is no right or wrong way to make the switch and it doesn’t come over night. By changing food items one at a time and learning more about the benefits of locally grown, organic, or non-GMO foods one can learn how to make better food choices, impact our food supply that is in desperate need of attention and nurturing, and contribute to pushing GMOs off the market.

Here is an inside look as to how Jenny and Leslie went from blindly eating GMOs to becoming conscious food consumers, benefiting their local farmers and ranchers, their families, and their own bodies. You can easily and affordable do the same!

How Leslie Made the Switch:

Since learning about genetically modified foods my diet has changed drastically and it’s still evolving. Each time I learn something new, whether it be about GMOs, the process many foods go through, where my food is coming from, or who is producing it, I make better food choices. In the fall of 2009 I heard the term GMO for the first time after watching a documentary called, “The Future of Food.” I was floored that I was in the dark about the process and politics by which food gets to my table. I immediately took action and started paying attention to what I was consuming.

Meat, Dairy, Eggs

The first food items I switched to non-GMO were meats, dairy, and eggs. I found local food producers that do not use GMO feed, antibiotics, or hormones on their animals and do not confine them. Some examples of local non-GMO meat producers are Homestead Natural Meats, Matthews All Natural Meats, Vogel Farms, Meadowlark farms, and St. Johns Organic Farm. There are many others and they can be found at localharvest.org. My meat consumption has since dwindled due to my own beliefs about animal consumption, but on occasion I still enjoy wild alaskan salmon and game jerky. Once I switched to a plant based diet, I starting feeling healthier and had an easier time avoiding GMOs.

I had always been a milk drinker and was very shocked to learn about rBGH, a genetically modified growth hormone that is being used to make cows produce more milk. Most milk producers do not use rBGH anymore but conventional dairy cows are given other hormones, antibiotics, and are fed GMO grains and alfalfa. Now that GMO alfalfa has been approved for the markets, we will see an increase in dairy cows being fed GMOs and unfortunately an increase in organic and conventional alfalfa contamination.

I initially switched to Cloverleaf milk and butter which is made in Buhl but have since learned that they are not GMO free, although I was told otherwise. For me it was easier to stop consuming dairy, due again to personal beliefs and milk intolerance. I recently started consuming raw milk and cheese from local non-GMO producers like Pleasant View Farms in Eagle. Raw milk has been great choice for me because I don’t have the same intolerance I experience with regular milk. I do want to add that Organic Valley milk and cheese, which can be found in most grocery stores, is a great non-GMO dairy source. They take their organic certification very seriously and have a strong non-GMO stance. I no longer use creamer either and opt for almond or coconut milk in my coffee or tea. I never use soy because nearly 90% of all soy is GMO.

Eating local eggs is a must for me. Knowing that the chickens are treated humanly, can roam free, and are not fed GMOs, hormones, or antibiotics gives me a peace of mind. Finding local eggs is very easy, again try local harvest.org or the Boise Co-Op.

Bread & Cereal

Finding non-GMO bread turned out to be easy. I love Dave’s Killer Bread, which can be found at Fred Meyers and health food stores. There are also local non-GMO bread producers like Zeppole. Over time though, I have stopped eating bread and opt to make my own raw bread and granolas. Raw breads and granolas are made out of soaked nuts and seeds then dehydrated. I like to add raw honey, cinnamon, raisins, fruit, or coconut flakes. This makes great non-GMO bread and cereal alternative for me that is “living” and healthy.

Condiments

I sometimes purchased organic condiments but they can be very pricy. I like to make my own salad dressings and condiments using local herbs and ingredients. Sometimes I add organic tamari and Braggs apple cider vinegar. I use cold pressed olive, grapeseed, or coconut oil for cooking. I never use canola oil, because nearly all canola is GMO and it is in most dressings and condiments you find at the grocery store. I am always sure to read my labels.

Sweets & Treats

Sugar is in nearly all of the sweets and treats we love. Unless your sweets contain cane sugar, then they are GMO (regular sugar comes from GM sugar beets). Again I opt to make my own raw desserts and treats, although I do enjoy an organic cookie every now and then. I’ve had to say goodbye to Reese’s and Almond Joy, my two favorite candy bars but there are non-GMO options available at the World Market and the Boise Co-Op.

I prefer salty treats over sweets, like chips and nuts. I love the brand “Food Should Taste Good” chips because they use non-GMO corn and ingredients. More and more we are seeing companies making the switch to non-GMO ingredients, but it’s still important to read the labels. Combining a mix of nuts and a little seasoning is an easy non-GMO treat I also enjoy.

I no longer drink regular soda because of the high fructose corn syrup found in most soft drinks. Now if I want something fizzy I drink local Kombucha tea from Purple Sage Farms or add organic sparkling water to fresh squeezed juice. I also avoid processed juices because of GMO additives and make my own.

Making the switch came easily for me because I took it one step at a time, although I am still making changes. It took me two years after learning about GMOs to stop chewing sugar free gum (which contains aspartame). Eating non-GMO and organic foods makes me physically feel better and I feel good knowing that my money is going to sustainable, local, and non-GMO food producers. I love knowing that every time I purchase something non-GMO I am placing a vote that contributes to the tipping point in which GMOs will become labeled and ultimately pushed off the market.

Both Jenny and I will continue to share our experiences and ideas for consuming non-GMO foods and we hope you will share yours with us!

Here’s to being GMO free!

Leslie Stoddard

How Jenny made the switch

I thought I had a pretty healthy diet before I learned about GMOs. I was a label reader and worked to make sure my kids were not eating too much junk, but GMOs have blurred the lines between healthy and junk foods. I began eliminating GMOs from my kitchen and while it was challenging at first it got easier once I got the hang of identifying GMO ingredients and finding replacements. I learned a lot along the way. Everybody’s situation and tastes are a different so take what you want and leave the rest! I feed a family of six. I am learning and evolving all of the time. I will continue to share my experiences.

Meat, Dairy and Eggs

After watching the movie Food, Inc., the first thing I did was search for local meat sources that use a natural non-gmo diet. I get my red meat, chicken, pork and eggs locally at Vogel Farms. They do finish on corn but they grow their own non-gmo corn. The meat does not contain hormones or antibiotics and I feel confident that the animals are treated humanely. There are a lot of other local meat options, Homestead Natural Farms, St. Johns organic and Meadowlark Farms are just a few. You can search LocalHarvest or Eatwild for more resources.

Prior to switching to organic milk we went through about a gallon of milk a day due to breakfast cereal, baking and a glass of milk with dinner for six people. Organic milk costs twice as much as regular milk but when I learned about rBST and antibiotics in our milk I had to switch. To help cut our consumption, I make pancakes, muffins, oatmeal and fruit smoothies for breakfast and make iced tea and orange juice to drink. I now use organic whole milk in my coffee. I currently buy Organic Valley from the grocery store because they have a commitment to organic practices and are big supporters of GMO labeling efforts. There are great local milk options but unfortunately most of them cannot guarantee that their herds are fed only non-gmo since commercial feeds most likely contain GMO corn. It becomes a question of preferring to buy local or to buy certified organic which is supposed to mean only non-gmo feed is used. I have gone both ways and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. If you drink raw milk, we have been told that Pleasant View Farms only feeds non-gmo food to their animals.

Organic cheese and butter are expensive! Sometimes I buy organic butter from Costco as they seem to have the best grocery store prices. I rely on brands like Tillamook for cheese because they commit to using milk from cows not treated with rBST. However, the cows are most likely fed gmo-corn. In a perfect world all of our dairy would come from organic, non-gmo sources but so far that is not the case.

Breads and Cereals

There are very few kinds of cereal you can buy unless you buy organic. In fact there are two regular brands that I have found, Grapenuts and Shredded Wheat (not frosted), that are non-gmo. I occasionally let my kids have Envirokidz cereal, which are reasonably priced at Winco, but let’s face it, organic or not these are sugary cereals and that is not something I gave them before the switch. I make my own granola or buy organic cereals when they are on sale.

I always bought whole grain bread so switching to organic was not a severe increase in price but the choices are limited. Dave’s Killer Bread is now a favorite at our house as well as Alpicella’s Sour Dough. Alpicella is a local Boise bakery. Fred Meyer has decent prices on organic whole wheat bread. I go through periods where I make my own bread if time allows.

Sandwiches have changed at our house. Sandwich meat has very little nutritional value, is highly processed and usually has nitrates added, plus it comes from factory farm animals. We now eat Salmon Salad (not tuna due to mercury), chicken salad, egg salad, grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly. I purchase only wild caught Alaskan salmon. I do buy organic peanut butter because of the way peanuts are grown.

Baking ingredients, condiments and salad dressing

I use organic, unbleached raw cane sugar and local honey. Most honey is likely GMO since bees cross into GMO fields. I buy organic corn starch, corn meal and baking powder. Rumford baking powder is not organic but specifies non-gmo. I buy non-iodized table salt because corn is used in iodized. White vinegar is made from corn so is most likely gmo. This complicates condiments like mustard, pickles, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. I do buy organic ketchup and sometimes I buy organic mustard if the price is decent. I buy Braggs Amino Acid or Organic Tamari Soy Sauce in place of regular soy sauce. I use grapeseed sandwich spread from Fred Meyer. I have had multiple failings at making my own mayonnaise but I will eventually try again!

I make my own salad dressing; otherwise organic is the only way to avoid gmo. Annie’s carries great salad dressings and Winco has the best price. I eliminated Canola and vegetable oil and now I use grapeseed oil and olive oil. Cash and Carry is a good source for grapeseed oil. Cash and Carry also has vanilla without corn syrup added.

Snacks, candy and junk food

I visit World Market Imports and buy candy from Europe since labeling is mandatory there. It should be noted that some brands, like Jelly Belly, are produced both in the UK and in the US. When produced in the US, they are NOT gmo free. For chips or salty snacks I buy Kettle, Food Should Taste Good and Garden of Eaten. We also eat popcorn which is all non-gmo.

For on the go snack bars we eat Odwalla, Cliff or Lara. The only ice cream I eat now is Alden’s which is available at Fred Meyer in the health food section. Otherwise we make smoothies for frozen treats.

Hopefully you have found something useful here. Making the switch can require a shift in thinking about food and while it can be challenging at first, it is worth the effort. Food has never tasted so good and knowing that I am helping to support local businesses and ethical companies makes it taste even better. We really do vote with our dollars and we can make the greatest difference in our food supply just by changing our shopping habits.

Small changes can cause big changes!

Jenny Easley