Monday, June 1, 2009

Going Green: What is Organic?

OK, so I am recycling an old post today. I originally wrote this post for Sarah at The Ohana Mama back in January. I haven't touched too much on organic foods here so I thought I would share it with Green Mama's Pad readers as well.

Have you ever found yourself wondering exactly what the term "organic" means when it comes to food? Do you stand next to the fruits at the supermarket debating whether or not the organic apples are worth the extra cost? Should you buy only organic or can you pick and choose? Well let's explore this.

Basically, organic means that the produce (or other ingredients) were grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), ionizing radiation or sewage sludge. It also means that meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no growth hormones or antibiotics.

Now let’s stop for a moment – does that really say sewage sludge? Are you completely grossed out by the fact that sewage sludge is allowed to grow food? I’m sure most people do not even know that since the 90s, sewage sludge has been sold to farmers to use as fertilizer on farms. Now think about what you rinse down your sink and flush down your toilet. Gross does not even begin to describe it!

For me, my switch to organic foods was a slow process; mainly because of the price. I started with things my kids consume the most like milk, yogurt, bread, peanut butter, etc. and then I moved on from there. I’d say that right now that 50% of the food and produce I buy is either organic or natural – we unfortunately just can’t afford to buy everything that way.

So what things should you buy organic and what things are OK to buy regular? I would suggest starting with fruits and vegetables, which each retain different amounts of pesticides. They are rated on a scale of 1 (the lowest pesticides) to 100 (the highest pesticides. Peaches have the highest (meaning worst) score at 100 while onions have the lowest (best) score at 1. You can download a shopper’s guide with the score for 45 different produce items by visiting the Environmental Working Group’s Food News website.

What next? How about snacks? I’ve read articles that say buying natural or organic snack foods is a waste, but I highly disagree. Yes processed snack foods aren’t going to have great nutritional value whether they are regular or organic, but at least they will be free of everything mentioned above as well as hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup. And I don’t think we could survive without our animal crackers!

As I mentioned before, switching to organic can be pricey but luckily some of the bigger supermarket chains are now carrying their own lines of organics. We shop at Stop-n-Shop here in New England which now has a great line called Nature’s Promise. Since it’s a store brand it is very affordable. And don’t forget about wholesale places like Costco. Their Kirkland line of organic products is great; we love their peanut butter!

I hope this little introduction to organic foods has been helpful. It can be very overwhelming so take it slowly and do your research. When you decide to make the switch, I would take a day first to scout your local stores to read labels and find out who has the best prices. Be sure to check to see if you have a local farmer’s market too because buying locally grown organic produce is even better (you are supporting your community and the food is not shipped thousands of miles). But ask the farmers about their practices – locally grown does not necessarily mean organic. Happy shopping!


  1. This was very interesting so thank you for taking the time to write this as I'm sure this could benefit many. Very good points and well written. I just love your blog and I hope that you have a lovely day.

  2. I have a small surprise for you on my blog -- I hope you'll check it out!


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