If you have a favorite restaurant, and you eat there often, you should only need to ask these questions once. It’s helpful to have a knowledgeable server or chef guide you through the menu to help you avoid GM foods. It’s not too hard to identify the non-GMO options.
A good first question is, “What oil do you cook with?” If they use soy, cottonseed, canola, or corn oils they are likely GM if they are not organic. If so, ask if they have anything that is cooked without oil, or if olive oil or some other oil can be used. If they say they cook in “vegetable oil” or margarine, it will almost always be soy, cottonseed, canola, or corn oils. If they have olive oil, be sure it’s not a blend. Many restaurants blend canola and olive.
Since most processed foods contain GM derivatives (corn and soy, for example), ask what foods the chef prepares fresh, and choose those items. But check if packaged sauces are used.
Try to avoid processed foods with the oils mentioned above, or with soy and corn derivatives, including: soy flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein, corn meal, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, citric acid, and lactic acid.
Other potential sources of GM foods at restaurants include salad dressings, bread, and mayonnaise, and sugar from GM sugar beets.
To avoid dairy products from cows treated with genetically modified rbGH, in U.S. restaurants you will likely have to avoid menu items with dairy, unless the restaurant uses organic products or buys from a dairy that is on our list of those that avoid rbGH. Industrialized nations outside the U.S. have not approved rbGH.
Avoid the tabletop sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet® or Equal® which is now being rebranded as AminoSweet®), which is genetically modified.
Other Sources of GMOs
Most Hawaiian papayas are GM, as are small amount of zucchini and yellow squash. Ordering these products is a gamble. Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including rennet used to make hard cheeses, can be GM, are harder to avoid. It is also difficult to avoid meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed, unless the restaurant uses organic, 100% grass-fed, or wild caught. Honey and bee pollen may have GM sources of pollen.
Some of the Foods That May Contain GM Ingredients:
Infant formula, salad dressing, bread, cereal, hamburgers and hotdogs, margarine, mayonnaise, cereals, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy, fried food, chips, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, tamari, soy sauce, soy cheese, tomato sauce, protein powder, baking powder, alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar, peanut butter, enriched flour and pasta.
If you plan ahead, you can call or email the restaurant you plan to visit and ask for a list that let’s you know.
Going through this process will not only give you a superb list of healthy eating options, but informs the restaurant that you prefer healthier non-GMO options when you dine out – a win-win situation for everyone.