The last time I read the nutritional information on a food label, there wasn’t a recommended daily allowance for pesticides. Now I’m not going to stand on my soap box and explain the myriad reasons why eating foods free of pesticides is safer and healthier for you and your family. There are numerous studies and articles. As a matter of fact, Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetable called the Dirty Dozen. You can print it out and bring it with you to your favorite grocery store. Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables with thicker skins and peels were lower in pesticides. For example, onions, sweet corn, pineapples and avocados had the least pesticide residue of the fresh produce items and were at the bottom of the list. Whereas apples, celery and sweet bell peppers were at the top of the list.
Here are 3 easy tips to reduce pesticides in your produce.
1. Start your own organic fruit and vegetable garden. It can be as simple as a couple pots on your deck or patio. Carrots, lettuce and tomatoes are good starters. Also try some herbs like mint, rosemary and oregano. Looking for something larger? Identify a plot in your yard that gets plenty of sunlight and build some raised beds. Heather’s garden has grown to almost 1,000 sq feet. It didn’t start out that big, but she’s expanded it little by little every year. This year produced broccoli, spinach, radishes, yellow onions, green onions, celery, peppers (green, yellow and orange), cucumbers, zucchini, squash, kale, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage and garlic. I may have missed some, but you get the idea. Two things are obvious when we eat what we’ve grown. First, the food is fresher and tastes better. My kids love to help with the harvest and munch as they go along. Second, fresh produce lasts longer than what we buy in the store. Why? It hasn’t been sitting in crates in a warehouse for weeks before delivery to the store.
2. Shop in the organic produce section of your preferred grocery store. Better yet, go to Willy Street Co-op. In my opinion, they have superior produce for roughly the same price as organic foods in other stores. Is it more expensive? It depends on how you look at it. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away roughly 40% of their meals. This translates to approximately “$2,275 a year for a family of four.”
*I was recently talking to a client about the “cost” of organic foods. Like me, she has a monthly food budget, so buying organic would help her to consume less. Sounds funny, but it makes for a great weight loss program.
3. Make food substitutions. Environmental Working Group also compiled a list of foods lowest in pesticides called Clean 15. So instead of buying organic potatoes buy regular sweet potatoes. Or buy regular sweet peas instead of green beans. The choice is up to you.