05/28/2013 08:47 am ET Updated Jul 28, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Steer Clear of GMOs

We have all heard the term "GMO" fly around the food industry lately, but what does it actually mean? GMO stands for "genetically modified organisms." These are plants and animals that have been created by having their DNA modified in a lab. So why are we consuming these Frankenstein-like organisms? GMO's have been created for many reasons, including longer shelf life, resistance to weed killers and resistance to insects. Although this may not sound all bad, the changing of a product's DNA may cause changes to levels of nutrients that may be important for our health. Many new organizations, including the Non-GMO Project, are on a mission to preserve non-GMO products, and increase the awareness through food labeling. Want to be part of the non-GMO bandwagon? Here are my top five reasons to let go of GMOs.

1. You may not even know you're consuming it. Are you ready for this shocker? In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80 percent of conventional processed food. It can be hard to keep on top of what food ingredients are at risk of being a GMO, because they are constantly changing. Genetically-altered ingredients may also be hiding in fruits and vegetables. More markets are beginning to recognize this growing issue, one in particular being Whole Foods. Whole Foods has been supporting the Non-GMO project and even lists all of their safe products on their website.

2. It is healthier for the whole family. Shopping organic is a great step toward ensuring that your family eats the healthiest foods possible. The challenge is that although GMOs are not recommended for the National Organic Program, it also does not require GMO testing. For your best bet in making sure you are selecting the best, healthiest and safest products and ingredients for you and your family, it is best to choose products that are certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified.

3. There are plenty of other options. Although it may be hard to always know which fruits and vegetable products are non-GMO, by choosing other products that are labeled with the non-GMO seal, you can begin to change the way you eat. A great brand I am loving these days is Way Better Snacks. These delicious chips made from sprouted grains are not only Non-GMO verified, but are high in omega-3s and other vital nutrients. Another great brand that you may have heard of is Larabar. A favorite snack of mine, all Larabar products are non-GMO and organic. By choosing to purchase foods that have been properly labeled as non-GMO, we are helping to keep these products on our stores shelves.

4. Use your green thumb. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to avoid GMOs. Make sure to check the label on the seeds you choose, as well. If the package is not labeled, it is best to assume that the seed or plant has been genetically modified.

5. Shop the local green markets. Farmers' markets are a great way to get fresh produce from small local farms. Checking out these markets will give you a chance to talk directly with the farmers themselves, and find out exactly where the produce is coming from.

For more by Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.