Reading food labels – that can be tricky! Just when you think you got it down, five more new food labels or eating trends pop up and you’re confused all over again! So, let’s try to clear that up a bit. Here are some of the more common food and product labels I see lately and what they mean for you and your family’s healthy eating pursuits. Take a peek and see what I learned about them that could help you to make the best healthy choices for you and your family and spend your dollars wisely.

Shop smarter, faster and save money, too, by reviewing here the latest and more common labels and what they really mean for you and your family's health. Take a peek for a few tricks to keep them straight and see how many you already know to make the healthiest and best food shopping choices.




Eating cleaner, greener? Smart move and so happy to hear it! You may want to familiarize yourself with these terms, first, though, to ensure you are buying what you think. There are subtle differences in nutrition labels and terminology that can make a big difference in what you are really purchasing and actually consuming both for your health and wallet:

1.  WILD-CAUGHT:  Fish labeled this way are free to roam the ocean and free from antibiotics and artificial dyes, too.

Don’t miss this: Here is a quick guide with all the right questions to ask your fishmonger to ensure you are getting the healthiest and best-tasting fish.

2.  FARM-RAISED:  Most farmed fish, like salmon, are raised in large cages that can be contaminated with chemicals and have some pretty dirty conditions. Here is a closer look at the issue with specific details on what fish to stay away from and why.

3.  PASTURE-RAISED:  Hop on over here for my egg labeling post to learn all about the differences there, but generally pastured raised eggs are best. The chickens are free to roam, eat what they like and are more nutritious because of it.

4.  ORGANIC:  The USDA Organic Seal indicates that the food was produced without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), and fertilizers. If the symbol is there, it also indicates the food item is from animals fed organic, vegetarian feed and are provided access to the outdoors as well as no treatment with hormones or antibiotics.

If the seal says “100 percent organic” the product was made with 100 percent organic ingredients. If the seal says “organic,” you lose five percent here as it indicates the food was made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients.

In regards to seafood, at the moment, there is no U.S. government-approved organic seafood. This type of labeling is based on criteria set by a private certification company or perhaps using European standards.

Don’t miss this: Check out this chart for several fruits and vegetables that carry low residue so that you may choose to not shell out the extra dollars for food budgeting purposes.


Shop smarter, faster and save money, too! Tap here to learn the latest and more common food and nutrition labels and what they really mean for you and your family's health and wallet.

5.  NON-GMO PROJECT VERIFIED: The product bearing the seal has gone through an intense verification process and has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) avoidance, which many scientists say humans should not be consuming.

Don’t miss this: Tap here for more specifics on this label and why it was created.

6.  SELL-BY-DATE:  This date stamped on foods tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Always buy the product before the date expires.

7.  USE-BY-DATE:  This date is to ensure optimum freshness, flavor, and texture for the consumer.

8.  EXPIRATION DATE:  Time to toss it after this stamped date. It’s passed its time and could have spoiled.

9.  GLUTEN-FREE:  Gluten-free is a protein found in grains like wheat or rye and it can cause serious damage to the digestive systems of those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Keep in mind that many of the gluten-free products are highly processed and stripped of fiber.

10.  ALL NATURAL:  Not a label that serves real significance. The Food and Drug Administration does not even define it. It is primarily a marketing slogan.

11.  LOCAL:  The fresher the food, the better. Most packaged goods have spent a good portion of time exposed to heat and pressure, killing nutrients. But, the term local is pretty vague. Generally, it can be considered local within the borders of a state.

Don’t assume local indicates it is organic, though. They are not equal terms. Always ask the grower if possible, how it was grown. Here is my free Farmers Market Mini-Guide with specific questions to ask at a farmer’s market about that.

12.  GRASS-FED:  Some studies show grass-fed meats contain more good fats, less bad, and higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants.

If the label says grass-fed, the animals must be fed only mother’s milk and grass and other greens during their lives. The animals also have access to pasture. However, grass-fed does not necessarily mean the feed is organic or the animal has not been given antibiotics or hormones.

If you want food that has the benefits of both grass-fed and organic, (no hormones, antibiotics) you need to see both labels.




Still dazed by it all? Think about this way: before filling up that grocery cart, ask yourself these two questions to see if you are making the better choices:

1.  Where does the food originate? 

If possible, these labels are optimal:

  • USDA organic (then also GMO-free as well)
  • grass-fed and USDA organic
  • wild-caught
  • pasture-raised
  • both locally grown and USDA organic


2.  How many ingredients are there and what are they?

Foods in their natural state (whole foods) and not in a box or can are best.  But, if buying canned or boxed items, the fewer and shorter the food labels in your cart, the better. That means to aim for the majority of your cart to be full of whole foods that don’t come in boxes with added sugar, preservatives, and unhealthy fats.

When you are buying labeled food, though, look out for this and reconsider your choice:

  • dyes
  • food colorings
  • MSG
  • added sugars and salts
  • trans fats
  • anything that is hard to pronounce or sounds like a chemistry lab assignment


Check out these top tools to store your food to make it last longer and stay fresher. I have included better lunch box storage options and some pantry and refrigerator storage ideas, too:


Do you find food shopping and nutrition label reading overwhelming at times? I hope I have made it a bit easier for your next shopping trip to stock your kitchen with the right foods and the right labels! Do you have any tips to share to keep it simple? I’d love to hear them all!



Thanks so much for this. Reading labels is one of the hardest parts of trying to eat a healthy diet. I always try to opt for local first, organic second then the rest #wowlinkup

It all can be confusing – that is for sure! So happy you found the post helpful and thanks for commenting!

This is a very helpful post. The labelling gets folks every time and we need something to define all of the terms so folks know what they are buying. Thanks for this. #wowlinkup

Great to hear! Glad I could help clarify a few things!

Hi, Lori!
I do now check the labels of the things I buy much more often, and yes, a shorter list is nearly always better!
Thanks so much for the other helpful hints. This is sooo worth considering!

Good for you, Helen. Those ingredients lists can get quite cumbersome, right? As always, thanks for taking the time to say hello!

I will NOT touch any red meat sold at stores unless it's grass-fed and grass-finished!!!!! Nope, never! Same goes with restaurants!

I do notice that more restaurants are educating their waiters on where their food on the menu is sourced as customers are asking these questions. Thanks for stopping by!

Starting to read labels is one of the best things I have ever done. There is so much junk in food.

You are so right! There are plenty of substitutions for many of those processed foods that taste great. But, that's a whole other post!

GREAT guide, I am always trying to share this info with friends and loved ones. It's so easy to be tricked into making "healthy choices" that aren't always what they appear to be! Thanks for sharing my friend! <3 –

So glad you found it helpful! That always makes my day!