How to Avoid Genetically Modified Ingredients When You Eat Out

When I told a friend recently that my next post was going to be on avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) at restaurants, he responded “good f*&*ing luck!”…It’s nearly impossible to avoid GMOs if you are eating out and the reaction from my friend illustrates exactly how dire the situation has become here in America.

Considering I only found two restaurants in my hometown of Charlotte, NC that are 100% GMO free, I thought it would be prudent to share the best tips to minimize your exposure to GMOs when eating out, especially until the government listens to the overwhelming majority of us and puts labels on GMOs.

How to avoid consuming GMO’s when eating out:

  1. Unless labeled or listed organic (or from a reputable local farm the restaurant can verify doesn’t use GMO seeds or feed), I suggest avoiding these 8 genetically modified (GM) foods when dining out:
    • Corn
    • Soy
    • Sugar (beet sugar – i.e. refined sugar)
    • Papayas (from Hawaii)
    • Canola
    • Cotton (cottonseed oil)
    • Dairy (conventional American cow’s milk and cheese)
    • Zucchini/Yellow Squash
    • Conventional Meat (They are fed GM corn & soy)
  2. GM corn, soy and canola oil are the cheapest for restaurants to purchase. Ask your server about the oils they use to make your food – this is where GMOs are hidden in almost everything from salad dressings to soups to pan or deep fried items.
  3. Know the exceptions: Ask if the cheese is imported. A cheese from France means you are safe from rbGH – genetically engineered growth hormone and genetically modified ingredients, as this country has banned GMOs all together.
  4. Look out for these hidden GM ingredients: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.
  5. Unless the sugar they use to make desserts is 100% pure cane, it’s likely from GM sugar beets
  6. Consider having the Non-GMO Shopping Guide in your purse or pocket that has a list of GM ingredients that you want to avoid and give it to your waiter or even call ahead. If more people did this, maybe restaurants would start to pay more attention to the products they buy.

Since it’s a serious feat to avoid genetically modified foods, I investigated all of my favorite restaurants here in Charlotte and of course I found GMOs being used at almost every single one. There were only two eateries that were 100% clean of GMO’s – Luna’s Living Kitchen, and Viva Raw.

As I was echoed in the NY Times this week – Luna’s Living Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants – it’s the most truly organic place in Charlotte and if you are visiting in town this week for the Democratic National Convention (DNC), having breakfast there is a must.  My favorite option is the organic coconut milk iced coffee (the ice cubes are handily made from coffee, so your caffeine buzz doesn’t get watered down) and the raw bagel with cashew cream cheese pictured below.  They also have a coconut yogurt parfait that is to die for if you are looking for something sweet to start your day.

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A Lively Skype Debate & Latest Eats

A few weeks ago Skype asked me to participate in a “Global Live Debate” with some fellow international and organic food experts.

The panelists included May Chong of Slow Food Kitchen, Sarina Bland of Trini Gourmet, and (surprisingly not coordinated) my friend, Max Goldberg of Living Maxwell along with host Will Leigh, distinguished chef at Vinoteca.

I had a great time filming this video (please note my enthusiasm – twirling in my chair). I loved the engaging conversation with May, Trini, Max and Will and sharing what I like to make for dinner parties, why I love local food and a supplement I take religiously everyday. It took about 3 hours to film, but lucky for you it’s wonderfully edited down to 7 mins! I hope you enjoy it.

If you’d like to know what supplement I spoke about – you can find it here.

 
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