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Dining Out, Without GMOs

Order wild caught, pasture raised, and from organic purveyors.

By Jan Walsh  

I don’t do fast food or eat out at places that are laden with GMOs. But even in locally owned, chef driven restaurants, I have found GMOs in the most unexpected places. And much like food packages that do not label GMOs, restaurants are not going to brag about them on their menus either. 

Avoid GMO Oils
Before ordering anything fried or sautéed in a restaurant, I ask the server what oil do they use. And I do not settle for a generic answer of “vegetable” or “a blend.” As a food activist, I have requested and consulted with many local, chef driven restaurants to keep or get the GMO oils: canola oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, or a blended oil (that includes any of these) out of their kitchens. These oils are not only used for frying, but can also be found in their breads, dressings, syrups, sauces, dips, condiments, and packaged goods found in their kitchens. Some local restaurants use peanut oil, so no GMO problem there. Peanuts have not been genetically modified. Most restaurants use canola oil because it is cheap. But there is “no such thing” as a “canola.” Canola oil is made from the rapeseed, and the name was changed to canola for marketing purposes. It is one of the most chemically altered oils sold in the U.S. Originally an industrial oil, rapeseed was used in lubricants, biofuels, and insecticides. And once it was genetically modified rapeseed oil was sold as an edible product. In a push to rid their restaurants of GMO oils including canola, several local restaurants have made the switch to using Non-GMO sunflower oil for frying, and extra virgin olive oil for dressings and sautéing. Look for the green, Alabamians for GMO Labeling emblem on the doors and menus of restaurants that proudly do not use GMO oils. 

Seek Wild Caught 
Order wild caught fish—not farm raised. Farmed fish are detrimental to the environment, and they use a lot of chemicals in farming the fish. But also watch for GMO salmon that is raised in the wild and other salmon that may have been cross bred. Restaurants that serve wild caught will often mention it on their menus. 

Seek Pasture Raised 
Look for restaurants that serve meats, poultry, pork, dairy, and eggs from heritage breed and Non-GMO animals. Avoid grain fed animals and their products. If a chicken was grain fed, count on it being GMO corn. If it eats GMOs and you eat it or its eggs, you are eating GMOs too. Same goes for beef and its dairy, including butter, cream, milk, cheeses, sour creams, yogurt, etc. And your bacon, pork chops, sausages are also GMO if the pigs were grain fed. Restaurants that serve pastured raised animals will often name their sources on their menu. 

Avoid GMO Fruits and Vegetables 
Yellow squash, and green zucchini, papaya (and more recently modified) apples, and potatoes have been genetically modified. And Del Monte has approval for a pink pineapple. Yet restaurants buying from local farmers is not enough. GMO crops are grown in all 50 states including Alabama. And GMO crops use more herbicides and pesticides than crops grown from Non-GMO seeds.

Avoid GMO Grains 
Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. And yellow field corn and sweet corn have been genetically modified. GMO corn is also found in corn flour, meal, starch, gluten, and corn syrup. I only eat organic yellow corn. Some local restaurants use McEwen and Sons certified organic grits and polentas and have made or are in the process of going Non-GMO have switched to King Arthur Flour. 

Avoid Sugar Beets and Aspartame
No one ever said sugar was good for you. But if you are ordering dessert, ask if it has sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets. All sugar beets are genetically modified, so avoid sugars that are not 100% cane sugar. I never touch a pack of aspartame or drink soft drinks. But if I did I would order sodas in glass bottles (made for Mexico), which is made with sugar cane, not corn syrup like the American ones. But who needs soda when you can order house-made lemonade?
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