The importance of eating organic (and non-GMO) has been written a million ways by a million people way smarter than me so I’m not even going to go into how EXTREMELY critical it is! (Robyn O’Brien is my fave blogger/expert on this topic if you want more info.)
So, how does the average person on an average budget know how to prioritize? I really struggle in making decisions on where to splurge on organic and when its OK to buy conventional. And if you’re anything like me, I dread coming home after a grocery store visit to my husband asking, “K how much did you spend this week??” So, I wanted to share a few tips.
Now, I must include a disclaimer: most of the information I share in the post comes from my mother, Patricia Ryan-Carlson, MD. I quickly picked her brain while she gave Kate a bath last week (seriously, she’s the best) on why she recommends certain foods MUST be purchased organic. Her order of importance is as follows:
1.) Meat and Dairy – MOST IMPORTANT
Why? The pesticides and herbicides are fat-soluble, meaning they accumulate and are stored in the fatty tissue of the animal. The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than any plant food. Animal feed that contains animal products compounds the accumulation, which is directly passed to the us. In addition, antibiotics, drugs, and hormones are a standard in raising and slaughtering livestock, all of which accumulate and are passed on to consumers as well. Ick. So much ick.
Grass-fed beef (and butter/milk/yogurt/cheese) and free-range chicken and eggs (Note: not just “cage free”) are absolutely worth the splurge.
2.) Fruits and Veggies
Why? There can be as many as FORTY (40!) different pesticides sprayed on each piece of produce (strawberries being the biggest offenders). Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 here. This guide can help you prioritize which produce items are critical to buy organic and which ones are OK to purchase conventional.
Quick tip: While fresh is always the best, I am big consumer of frozen organic fruits and veggies. It’s totally cheaper!
3.) Everything else: Grains, snacks, processed goods
Work this stuff into your budget when you can. Thankfully, grocery stores like Bakers, Hy-Vee and Costco have their own store-brand organic items. The smallest ingredient list is best and avoid HFCS and artificial dyes. And, remember: just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
My last tip? The 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time. 20% of the time, give yourself a break. Perfection when it comes to any sort of “diet” is unrealistic. (Hellooooo Bruegger’s bagels and cream cheese).
K sorry. One more tip: Baby steps! Start small. Small changes over time DO make a difference. Slowly move more organic items into your diet.
Picture because…who doesn’t love a cute baby eating organic berries?!