How to Eat Organic without Breaking the Bank

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In a perfect world, (or one very nearly resembling the one our grandparents grew up in) all food would be organic and therefore priced within everyone’s reach. But for most of us, in this economy and with families to feed, it can be a challenge to afford to buy organics all the time.

Since we highly recommend organics to our patients, (not only for the increased nutritional value but for the lack of man-made chemical pesticides commonly used on commercial produce) we thought we’d give you a few tips on how you can balance giving your family the best nutrition, while saving your bottom line.

Why Organic is Better

Pesticides

Pesticides are substances intended to prevent, kill or repels pests. They can also create “super-pests,” or those that are resistant to commonly used pesticides, creating a need for greater pesticide use or more powerfully toxic chemicals, in order to do the job. This has a severe impact on the health of human beings and on our world.

Pesticide residue can be found lingering  in our soil and water, as well as concentrated in our  food and subsequently our body tissue, with correlations proven between pesticides and certain types of cancers and birth defects. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, “an estimated three million  cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year, resulting in an excess of 250,000 deaths.”

To be fair, organic farmers use a certain number and amount of bio-pesticides approved for organic farming, in addition to their other, first-line pest control methods. These bio-pesticides are thought to be natural and less toxic than synthetic pesticides.

Nutrition

According to a study reported in Time Magazine, “the average vegetable found in today’s supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in minerals (including magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) than those harvested just 50 years ago.”

It Doesn’t All have to be Organic

Now, this may come as a surprise, since we just told you why organics were superior, but not everything you buy has to be organic to be a healthful choice. Of course, all organic, locally produced is best, if you can manage it.  But since most of us can’t, you can make room in your budget by being choosy about when and what you buy organic.

  • EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” List gives you the 12 most pesticide residue laden fruits and veggies  to avoid buying conventional and the “Clean 15” — those fruits and veggies that have the least pesticide residue of the bunch. And now, besides the handy in wallet guide you can print-out, as always, EWG has launched an app you can download, so that you’ll always have the list by your side. “Consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG’s Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 percent.”
  • Eat Organic and Grass-fed Meat and Poultry (when you can) and when you can’t, try opting for doing something good for your body, your wallet and the planet by adopting Meatless Mondays. Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber and organic tofu is often priced around $2 to $3 for a pound and tastes delicious in recipes like tofu spinach patties or Ma Po Tofu. If going meatless isn’t in the cards for you, buy free-range and hormone-free options as much as possible. Lastly, if cost or supply is a factor and you cannot find or afford these options, simply cut down on the amount of meat for that meal by adding more whole grains, vegetables and legumes to your plate.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch  is a wonderful clean fish guide helping you source ocean-friendly seafood and their “Super Green,” list, gives you  seafood that is not only  ocean-friendly but meets these criteria:
    • Low levels of contaminants (below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb PCBs)
    • The daily minimum of omega-3s (at least 250 milligrams per day [mg/d])*
    • Classified as a Seafood Watch “Best Choice” (green)
  • ALWAYS Aim for Organic Dairy products, especially butter (due to the concentrated pesticide levels in fat.) But if your aim misses the target, look for those labeled no rBST or hormone-free varieties, as they require less antibiotic use.
  • Choose Organic Grains when possible.
  • Look for Transitional Produce, these farms are transitioning from conventional farming practices to an organic operation (the process takes several years), which usually means they are not currently using synthetic pesticides, while they await approval to ensure soil pesticide levels have died down and mineral content is up. Because they are not yet certified organic, the prices are usually lower than organics.
  • Compare Prices: many times organics are nearly the same price and even, occasionally less, especially if it’s local and in season.
  • Garden: If at all possible, do what we do and grow your own! Having a vegetable garden is a great way to get exercise, soak up some vitamin D and save money on organic produce and it’s something the whole family can participate in. There’s nothing quite like the taste of something fresh picked out of your own garden!
  • Shop your local farmer’s market
  • Sign-up for Coupons with your favorite organic purveyors of frozen fruits or veggies, dairy or pre-washed lettuces.
  • Look for Local, Organic U-pick Farms where you save money by harvesting the produce yourself (and its fun for the kids!)

Remember, by doing a little planning ahead you can balance the needs of your family, their health and your bank account.