Guest Post: by Kensey Goebel, Contributing Author

Just because the label says natural or organic does not necessarily mean it is healthier for you. For example, a highly processed organic food such as cereal (or cereal bars), fruit snacks, or crackers are not that much better for you than the regular product and should still be eaten in moderation. The terms can be used for marketing purposes and can become confusing for you when you are grocery shopping. Often times if you are on a budget it is hard to buy everything organic. Here are some tips on when it is beneficial for you to shop organic and when its ok to skip it.

First, here are some basic definitions of common terms found on meats and produce:

Natural- The USDA currently has two definitions for natural while the FDA hasn’t defined one yet. According to the USDA natural means minimally processed with no artificial flavorings, coloring, preservatives or additives and for meat products, the animals were raised with no hormones, antibiotics and no animal byproducts. 

Organic– For something to be labeled organic, the producer has to be certified by the USDA to verify that they meet the minimum standards including no GMO’s in the food, no chemicals and no pesticides.A full list of the standards can be found on the USDA’s website.

For produce, The Environmental Working Group has made a handy list of the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen.” This list includes the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of pesticides and chemicals so they suggest buying the organic version of these foods. The clean 15 list includes the lowest amount of pesticides detected inside the produce. This is sometimes due to the type of skin the fruit has and whether you eat it or cut it off.


For highly processed snacks, such as crackers, chips and gummies you can use your own judgment. Read the label and decide which product is best to buy. Look for things such as artificial colorings, lots of ingredients or words that you don’t know how to pronounce.