A tomato sums it up for me: A beautiful, gnarled heirloom tomato drizzled with some fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt is almost a lunch or dinner – add a little avocado, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil, and I’m set. If the tomato is in season, locally grown and preferably not sprayed with pesticides, it tastes heavenly. I have no trouble ingesting my 5 servings of fruit & veggies a day, IF they taste good.
I think we lose sight of the important issues when we get hung up on the word “organic”. The pioneers of the organic movement in California were more concerned with taste than anything else. They understood, post WW2, that the fertilizers and pesticides from the munitions factories were creating a very high yield of completely tasteless food. Not only was this produce covered in pesticide residue, but it was bland and watery. No wonder so many people have a hard time forcing down our recommended 5 servings a day.
Back to the tomato. End of October onwards (in southern California,) I will not be eating tomatoes anymore. No one could force me to sit down and eat a hard, watery, and tasteless red fruit for lunch, dinner or at any other time of day. I can’t even eat hot house tomatoes in a salad because they taste gross. The same goes for many other produce items such as berries, green beans, melons etc.
So, rather than thinking that we have to fill our carts full of expensive organic food to be healthy, it’s surely more important to consider preparing dishes for our families that contain the bounty of the season – this way we might get more of a chance to get them to eat healthy food. Sure, it takes a little more creativity in the kitchen. If you are committed to seasonal foods, you’ll need to check out recipes that make good use of these foods. Many of us are so used to cooking our go-to/safe dishes, that we don’t realize how deliciously simple a recipe can be, if we go for quality produce that’s in season.
A recent study caused waves by saying that the nutritional content of organic food was no better than conventional food – pesticide issue aside, I think we’re still missing the point. If I buy carrots or apples from a local farmer, they are likely to not only be in season, which means that their nutritional value will peak, but the nutrients will be greater because the shipping and storage time hasn’t yet killed them off.
Finally, the study doesn’t really consider other foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy. My family and I eat a little meat. A little, because it’s healthier to eat mostly veggies, but also because of the price of organic meat. Certified organic meat is harder to find and very pricy, however, the hidden price tag attached to factory farmed meat is that it’s much higher in fat and water; and it can contain hormones and antibiotics. So, in the case of meat and dairy, I would say that buying certified “organic” should be a priority.
In the case of pesticides, there are now numerous studies that show us how they can affect our children and unborn babies. A number shocking studies found that pregnant women who were exposed to pesticides, gave birth to children with lower IQ’s. Pesticides in children’s blood has also been linked to abnormal neurological development and ADHD. When mom’s read these studies, rather than freak out and think they have to fill their carts with everything organic, it’s wiser (and more cost-effective) to understand the items that really should be organic. Check out the excellent EPA’s Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 lists. Apples, celery, and sweet bell peppers head the dirty list, so start off with buying these organic.
Remember, if your grocery store has confusing labeling, each produce item has a little sticker on which is a PLU #.
Here’s how I remember what they mean”
If the number starts with:
8, it’s genetically modified (8=hate)
9, it’s organic (9=fine)
4, it’s convention (4=bore)
It’s less typical to see #3, but if you do, it’s also conventional.
When you’re next out grocery shopping, think about what’s in season first. Then glance down your dirty dozen list while making your shopping list, and check the items that need to be organic.
If your family likes meat, commit to cutting down your consumption by 50%. If you learn to make a couple of delicious veggie recipes, they’ll be delighted, and you will have saved $$’s.
Finally, a label on a box saying a food is “Organic” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier. You still have to read the ingredients label carefully because that organic pop tart can still be filled with a lot of junk!