After all that time writing about genetically modified foods, I’m sure everyone was wondering… “Well, how on Earth am I supposed to get by without all this stuff?”

Well, if you were eating clean…. it wouldn’t matter so much to you… but that’s beside the point.

In all honesty, all I could think of was the fact that this issue affects vegetarians and vegans the most.

I mean, let’s be real, here. When I visit the “vegetarian” section of the grocery store, I see… more processed foods. I mean, you’d even expect the vegetarian section of the store to be next to the produce section, but alas… it’s not. It’s “vegan sausage,” “vegan chik’n,” “vegan egg replacements,” “vegan bacon (!?),” “vegan cheese (and it melts!!!!@!!!!!1111),” “vegan burgers” and “vegan boneless (?) wings.” All are variations of soy.

Genetically modified soy.

And don’t get me wrong – those of us who don’t care about the whole genetically modified thing, fine. But if it’s an issue for you, or if you’d like to at least be conscious of it? You’ve got some work ahead of you.

Firstly, there are only a handful of vegetables and fruits that are genetically modified, but that handful makes up a ginormous amount of the ingredients in processed foods. Soy, corn, canola oil, cottonseed oil, squash, papaya and now alfalfa pretty much covers the list… but realize the prevalence of those ingredients and their variations: soy flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, maltodextrin, corn meal, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, soybean oil, corn oil, citric acid, canola oil, vegetable oil, artificial sweeteners. That list goes on forever, but that little list is enough to cover at least 70% of all processed food right now.

Secondly, realize that if your meat isn’t organic, it is likely that the animal has fed on genetically modified feed – corn, specifically – and if you’re eating the flesh of that animal, you’re still ingesting genetically modified food. (Remember – if you’re avoiding GMOs because you don’t want it in your body, then you certainly don’t want it in the body of the animal you’re eating.) Try to invest in organic meats – they taste better and are free of genetically modified foods by definition, since in order for meat to be considered organic, it has to have fed on only organic materials.

You’ll also have to take this into consideration with your milk and cheeses, as well. Because dairy cows are often injected with rbGH, which is a genetically modified hormone that increases milk production in cows. If your dairy products don’t say “rbGH free,” “GMO free,” “hormone-free” or “organic,” then it almost certainly has been affected.

Next, familiarize yourself with the numbers on your fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Each fruit and vegetable is assigned a PLU code, which stands for “price look-up.” Those of us who have scanned our own groceries at the store (I do this often, so that I can stick my stuff in my grocery bag and save time as well as trash) are familiar with the PLU codes because it tells the scanner what we’ve got. The PLU code tells more than what we’ve got, though, if you pay a little bit of attention! If the number begins with a 4, the food was produced regularly and isn’t genetically modified. If the number is a five-digit number and begins with a 9, that means it was organically produced. If you see a five-digit number that begins with an 8, this means it was genetically modified. Keep in mind, though, that since the only kind of PLU code that has any actual requirement is the one for organics (the 5-digit number beginning with 9), a GMO product might sneak under the radar and fake like it’s conventionally grown. If it’s a must-have ingredient in a big awesome dish, then bite the bullet and go organic.

Lastly, eat as close to the source as you can. It’s that simple. If you’re still buying processed foods, check the labels. If you’re seeing one of those ingredients from above in the list, consider skipping that product altogether. If it’s a must-have, determine whether or not the organic version is worth the investment to you. Sometimes, you’ll often find… it isn’t. At least I know I do, but then again… I’m cheap.

When I originally stated that these things were everywhere, I meant it. It’s tough, but totally worth it. If the goal is to get the most out of every bite, taking these steps to avoid genetically modified foods will absolutely help. As I’ve always said… your body will thank you for it!