Going Organic for Beginners
If you’re looking to improve your health by eating a real food diet, you probably need to consider buying more organic foods. This post shares tips for going organic for beginners, plus ways to save money on an organic food and GMO-free diet.
What Does Organic Mean?
First off, it probably makes sense to define exactly what organic food is. The short answer is that organic foods are free from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and have not been genetically modified.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a certified 100% organic food is made following strict guidelines of:
- soil practices
- animal raising practices
- and pest and weed control
In other words, organic produce will not have been grown in soil that has had synthetic fertilizers and pesticides applied within 3 years of harvest, nor will organic produce have been sprayed with any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Any food given the organic certification will also not contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
With that description, it seems like organic food is the obvious choice for reducing ones exposure to chemicals, animal welfare, and supporting sustainable farming efforts. While we need more studies that show that there is more nutrition in organic food versus non-organic (also called “conventional”) food, the research so far does indicate that organic food is healthier.
How to Eat More Organic
1. Choose organic versions of fruits or vegetables that don’t have a protective skin or shell
If you think about it, pesticides that are sprayed will land on the skin of fruits and vegetables. If you peel and discard that skin, you will have then reduced your chance of exposure to pesticides.
So it makes sense to prioritize buying organic foods that don’t have a protective skin or peel, such as berries, greens, cherries, celery, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and pears.
On the other hand, foods like bananas, avocados, mangoes, pineapple, onions, corn, melons, and citrus have less priority to be organic, because they have that thick skin.
Be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen for more information.
2. Check your local grocery store for organic produce
The organic food segment is growing! That means that your local grocery store is much more likely to stock organic produce and food these days. If you’ve been disappointed by the selection in the past, it’s time to look again.
3. Eat according to the season
In the context of shopping organic, you are likely going to find a better selection of organic foods that are in season. For instance, in the summer in North America, you’ll be able to find a great selection of organic fresh berries at a reasonable price. In the wintertime, however, there will be a lot more organic squashes and potatoes available.
4. Shop the sales
Organic food goes on sale just like non-organic food does. That means keeping an eye out for coupons and special sales, especially if you are on a budget.
And, the good news is that the increasing demand for more organic foods has reached even the warehouse stores and discount stores. You may have to buy in bulk, but this means that you can save more money when buying organic.
5. Ask your local farmer to go organic or grow your own
I live in an agricultural area which means there are plenty of organic and non-organic farmers around town. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a helicopter spraying a local non-organic field with pesticides. I rolled up my car windows and held my breath as I drove by.
Now, when I shop at the farmers’ market or the farm stand, I’m pretty brazen about asking if the farmer uses pesticides. One of my favorite farmers is in the very long transition period of transitioning his fields to 100% organic. He made the choice based on customer feedback and encouragement and I’m so appreciative of his efforts.
The point is that farmers run a business and want to give their customers what they want. So, as much as possible, try to encourage farmers to consider organic and store managers to stock more organic products by asking, making requests, and voting with your dollars.
One step further is to start your own organic garden! With even just one pot of herbs or a window box, you can contribute to the organic movement by growing as much of your own food as you can. Read more about starting an organic garden.
6. Buy frozen produce instead of fresh
Frozen berries and vegetables are a great way to increase your intake of organic versions. These items are usually less expensive than fresh versions too. In other words, you can get more for your money if you buy frozen vs. fresh.
7. Eat at home more often
The sad truth is that very few restaurants use organic ingredients. In fact, if it’s not plainly obvious on the menu, then you can safely assume they are not using organic.
So, if you want to eat organic, then you’ll have to be the one in charge of cooking. There’s just no other way to have control over the quality of your ingredients.
8. Don’t try to be perfect
No really, just let go of that perfection mindset. I have to remind myself of that all the time. For instance, I find it very hard to eat organic when I’m traveling. I always have to prepare myself to let go of that perfectionist attitude and just do the best I can.
If you are on a strict budget, then it’s even more important to not beat yourself up about trying to be 100% organic. Just do your best, and make improvements over time as your budget allows.
Do you have to eat organic to be healthy?
It can be overwhelming to think about buying organic-everything, but the good news is that not only is it easier to find organic versions of almost everything, but there are some ways to save money while you’re at it.
And, to get back to the original question, clean eating doesn’t mean eating organic 100% percent of the time, but finding that balance of what works for you and your family.
There is enough evidence that supports the practice of choosing organic over conventional foods for better health and sustainability. Be strategic in which foods you buy organic, especially if you are on a tight budget. Buy in bulk when possible and shop the sales. Don’t try to be perfect, but do make an effort to buy more organic as much as possible.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.