Become a Grocery Store Ninja! Tips, Hints & Food Labels

About the author


My name is Kevin. My life changed when I realized that healthy living is truly a lifelong journey, mainly won by having a well-balanced diet and enjoying adequate exercise. By experimenting in the kitchen and openly sharing my meals, I learned that healthy eating is hardly boring and that by making a few adjustments, I could design a diet that could help me achieve my personal fitness goals. Our bodies are built in the kitchen and sculpted in the gym.

Here is a quick overview of the important info covered in the video with helpful links to get you started:

Make a list

First thing you should do to stay on track.  This not only helps you stay on track with your goals, but also helps you budget, which is extremely important if you are on a tight budget or have a growing family.

Make a list of nonperishable and frozen food items that you can purchase in bulk at discounted prices from certain stores.  To help get you started, use the food list I shared last week on the meal planning video.

Also, here are 3 options to help get you started:

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Food Labels

Food labels can be both intimidating and confusing.  While I definitely encourage you to do your own research, here’s a very brief overview of some of the popular labels or claims you may find when shopping.

Certified Labels and Non-Certified Labels. From US perspective, since this is where I live, the certified labels are certified, regulated and/or tested by a regulatory agency.



usda organic.fwUSDA regulates labeling requirements on all produce, dairy, meat, condiments, processed food and beverages.  Foods with this label must contain at least 95% organic ingredients with no synthetic ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, irridation or pesticides.  Certified organic animals are fed organic feed without animal byproducts or growth hormones.

On the topic of pesticides, if you are concerned about which foods are most likely to have pesticide residue on them, you should most check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Food List – they analyzed the pesticide residue of popular produce and ranked them.  Items with lower numbers have more pesticides.  This is important if you cannot buy ALL organic produce, but want to mix and match. Check out this list – it will help!


Fair Trade


This label means that workers such as farmers receive fair wages and prices for their products and that their working conditions are safe.  Also, the use of child or forced labor is prohibited. Lastly, crops must be grown in sustainable ways to support social and economic development.  Applies to products such as tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, honey, spices, herbs, fruit.


Naturally Grown

CNGcolorlogoThis is an interesting one. This is different from the All Natural claims on products.  Essentially, the costs to be certified by the USDA organic program can be high; so this is a more affordable way for farmers to be certified by a non-governmental regulatory agency, the Certified Naturally Grown nonprofit whereby farmers are the inspectors.  They have the same standards for organic but just not on a farm certified by USDA organic program.

Non-GMO Project Verified

non-gmo-product-certifiedGMO is a very hot topic in the food debate.  GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Foods that have been genetically engineered have had its DNA artificially altered by genes from other animals, plants, viruses or even bacteria in order to produce compounds in foods.

Why should you care? Well there have been significant concerns regarding short and long term health risks associated with this type of modification.

There is no overarching current labeling requirement in the US but there are some laws in different states. The Non-GMO Project Verified is a nonprofit and is the only 3rd party labeling program in North America. They help to verify that process “end products” that end up on the shelves to be sold to consumers, use best practices to avoid the use of GMO in the production process.


american grassfedThis process largely pertains to items like meat such bison, lamb, beef, and dairy products.  They are certified by the American Grassfed Association. Essentially, animals are fed grass on pasture, and no grains, during the growing season.

Non-Certified Labels are not certified or tested by a regulatory agency and really just depend on the maker of the food (i.e., a famer, etc) to support the claim.  These are particularly important to pay attention to in the case of animal protein.


“All Natural”

There is no universal standard for this so it can vary.  Essentially means that the product was initially created using natural ingredients.  But depending on the food and how it is manufactured, it may not be “natural” by the time it reaches the shelves so just know that it may or may not be completely natural.

This is especially true with chicken because producers may inject it with broth during the processing and still add the claim of “All Natural” because it is considered “fresh meat.”

Free Range

Essentially means that the animals such as chicken and cows were free to roam and spend time outside.  The mount of time they actually spend outside is unknown since there are no standard regulations for free-range animals.



Since the USDA prohibits injecting hormones to chickens, this label may not mean much to you since all chicken  you buy should be hormone-free with or without label.  But it just means that farmer did not use artificial growth hormones or steroids on beef or chicken products.