How are you enjoying this series on making practical, healthy grocery choices?
As a refresher, or if you’re just picking up on the series (Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here), this began as a response to all the folks who’ve asked me, “You’re a fitness professional – how do YOU decipher the double-secret code names on food labels and make healthy choices for your own family?” Each post in this series walks you through the questions I answer each time I’m faced with a tough choice.
This particular point – organic vs. conventionally-grown – is often the toughest, trickiest, and most emotionally charged of them all. As if confusing labels and confounding food standards weren’t enough, there are also ethical matters like regional and global ecology and economics.
It’s enough to give me a headache, so I had to simplify it for myself somehow. When is organic worthwhile?
For me, the answer boils down to this (in order):
when it’s an animal product or by-product,
when it’s one of the Dirty Dozen,
when it’s something you eat several times a week,
when it’s something you eat the skin or roots of (like fruit or carrots)
then it’s worth finding organic.
(This is how the Dirty Dozen might become more than a dozen, if you consider the last two bullet points above. If we eat the skin/roots, or eat it often – especially if it’s a kids’ favorite – then I go organic.)
Can’t find the food you want right now? It’s likely out of season, which means it’s time for a change. This is especially true for organics, which rely on nature’s rhythms, but it’s also true for conventional produce. Try something new! Recipe search websites are perfectly designed for this purpose – search by ingredient at AllRecipes or Epicurious and find a new favorite dish you didn’t even know you loved!
Finally, if I’m still clueless after working through the checklist above,
here’s my bottom line:
“Is the risk of abandoning the nutrients in this food greater than the risk of potential contaminants?”
Sometimes, the answer is “yes.” Case in point: my kids are not great lovers of green food. I’m a wee bit ashamed to say it. I struggle, connive, conspire, and deceive in order to get good green stuff into them. HOWEVER. They love my kale chips (comment below if you want the recipe). Is it worse for their health to never feed them a green food they actually love– or worse to give them conventionally-grown kale? I risk the ickiness, and I’m not at all ashamed to say that.
Comment, please! Ask for the kale chip recipe (or others). Let me know what your bottom-line question is at the grocery. Share what you’ve learned from this series – or what you think I’ve gotten patently wrong (or right, you know….that wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit).
Tags: animal, antibiotics, contaminant, conventional, dairy, diet, expensive, family, fitness, food, growth, health, hormone, meat, natural, organic, pesticide, plant, produce, USDA, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian