From our Nutritionist, Megan: Organics on a Budget!
Organic Shopping Sense
made the choice to get in shape and eat a more healthy diet by increasing
veggie intake, eating less white refined carbs and sugar, and possibly choosing
organic foods more often. Organic foods and products have become wildly popular
in recent years as people have become more concerned about their health and the
environment. Is it necessary to go 100% organic? If money is not a problem then
go for it, but most people have a fairly strict food budget. I would love to be
totally organic, I would also like someone to prepare delicious meals offsite
and deliver it right to my table. Oh, to be a Hollywood star…but I digress.
optimize your organic budget by targeting foods that typically contain more
pesticides than other foods. Also, when shopping for these products you may
come across confusing terms and labels or products without labels.The following information can help eliminate
the confusion and make you a savvy organic shopper.
the USDA set strict standards under the National Organic Program for
organically grown food and livestock. According to the USDA, organic means “the
food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods
that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster
cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may
not be used.”In order to be labeled
“organic” a government certifier must inspect the farm where the food was grown
(or animals raised) to ensure these standards have been met. You can look for
the USDA Organic Seal to easily spot organic products.
·The terms “100% Organic” and “Organic”, which contains 95%
certified organic ingredients, may contain the USDA Organic seal.
·A product may state “Made with Organic Ingredients” if it
contains at least 70% certified organic ingredients, but it may not use the
USDA Organic seal.
·For products with less than 70% certified organic
ingredients, they can only identify the organic ingredients in the product’s
livestock – and their products, such as milk and eggs, must have never been
given antibiotics or hormones for any reason in order to bear the seal in
addition to eating organic feed. If you also don’t want to unknowingly consume
meat or milk from cloned animals, then organic is the way to go. The FDA has
declared cloned products safe for human consumption and they won’t require any
labeling telling you that your milk or meat is from a clone. Gross!!
The issue of
organic fish is still being debated. You can visit the Environmental Defense
Fund at http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521to learn more about choosing fish that is healthy for you and the
A “GMO” is a
genetically modified organism. The most widely grown GMO crops include
soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. When a food has been genetically modified
it can contain genes from other species that would otherwise not occur
naturally. This is usually done to give more “desirable” characteristics like
insect resistance or a longer shelf life. The long term effects of GMOs on the
environment and health are not yet known. GMO products cannot be labeled as
Natural vs. Organic
If a product
is labeled as “natural” it does not have to be organic. The term
“natural” is not regulated for products other than meat and poultry, but
typically means a product is free of artificial additives.
Go Organic with These First
I find there is no need to
buy organic chips and cookies at double the price of conventional unless it
helps you eat less of them or there is big sale. We should be limiting intake
of these foods anyway. Start with the basics: meat, eggs, dairy, and produce.
Beef, chicken, and pork The EPA says meat contains higher levels of
pesticides than produce. This makes sense because the animal eats food
contaminated with pesticides and these chemicals accumulate in the animal.
Choose lower fat cuts of meat as pesticides tend to be stored in the fat. Try
to eat less meat rather than more meat in general. I “dilute” the amount of
meat in dishes and soups by adding more vegetables and beans. My tacos include
only about 50% meat and the rest is black beans, onion, and peppers. The same
goes for my meatballs. I usually add an entire box of frozen spinach, a chopped
onion, and use brown rice instead of bread crumbs. This helps us consume less
meat, eat more veggies, and also stretches our organic meat dollar.
Dairy and Eggs Conventional dairy and egg producers are more likely
to use antibiotics and growth hormones. And, since these are animal products
they would also accumulate more pesticides than produce.
Certain produce. The Environmental Working group (http://www.foodnews.org/index.php) has compiled a list ranking fruits and vegetables
based on their pesticide content, after washing and peeling.
These fruits and vegetables
are known as the Dirty Dozen and contain the HIGHEST amounts of pesticides:
Apples, celery, strawberries,
peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers,
potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale
It would be healthier to buy or
grow the organic version of these fruits and vegetables.
These conventionally grown
fruits and vegetables contain the LOWEST amounts of pesticides:
If your budget doesn’t allow
you to buy all organic, you don’t have to feel guilty about these conventional
fruits and vegetables.
Do I buy everything organic
on the Dirty Dozen list? No, but I try to buy frequently consumed items
organic. If you eat an apple everyday, you would be wise to choose organically
grown apples. By switching to organic, you will greatly reduce your pesticide
exposure from conventionally grown apples. My son usually eats 2-3 apples a
day, for this reason I buy organic apples most of the time.
Organic or Local?
Here’s a new dilemma. Do you
choose organic tomatoes from across the country or choose tomatoes grown in
your town by a small scale farmer that may or may not be organic? Well, I have
been trying to buy my food as local as possible. The best scenario is to find a
local organic farm that has been certified organic. Becoming a certified
organic farm is a lengthy and expensive process that not all farmers can afford
however. So talk to the farmers at your farmer’s market. They may have the
organic philosophy without the certification. You can also become part of a
CSA. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. These farms let you pay to
join them and then share in the harvest. You can find a list of CSA farms at http://www.localharvest.org/. I have been a member of Worden Farm in Punta Gorda,
FL for 4 years and it has been a wonderful experience. From November through
April I get a large box of organic, local vegetables every week.
The last thing I want to
leave you with is a feeling of guilt. When it comes to nutrition and feeding
our families we all do our best with what we have access to and can afford.
Organic or not, always serve fruits and vegetables, fresh, frozen, or even
canned if that’s what you’ve got!