Sunday, August 8, 2010

Organic - What to Buy

Once you know Where to go, you need to know What's worth the extra pennies for organic.  There are items that are worth the extra cost and others that you can do if it won't bust the budget - there are even a few items that you don't have to worry about buying organic at all.

In general, the items that you buy the most are the ones that should be organic - especially meats, veggies and fruits.  Most stores carry organic chicken, steaks, and ground beef.  If you cannot find anything specifically labled as organic, then look for the following:

Meat & Poultry
Beef - free of hormones and antibiotics, grass-fed
Chicken - free of hormones and antibiotics, free range, minimally processed

Another healthy and nutritious option is bison (or buffalo) meat - it's nutrient dense and typically bison are minimally handled and spend most of their lives grazing on grass and not commercial feed or grain.  They are not as exposed to chemicals or hormones.  This results in a fantastic alternative to beef if you're willing to try something different.  Some say that it's tougher or it has a gamey taste, but I personally have not found it to be like that.  Just be sure not to overcook your bison (because it is leaner, it cooks faster).

The first thing you need to consider if you're going to be buying organic vegetables is - what you like!!  The last thing you need to do is spend your hard-earned money on produce that you don't like or don't know you like.  Vegetables that you currently eat frequently should be at the top of your list for organic options. 

I've read a few articles recently that also help narrow down your best values in buying organic.  The following veggies are the ones that are in the "dirty" list due to lack of a thick protective skin or heavy use of chemicals:
  • Celery
  • Bell Peppers
  • Spinach and other leafy greens
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes (although, this guy belongs in the fruit section technically)
Want to save a few bucks?  The following are good as conventional options:
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Egg Plant
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Potato
An important note - the above refers to buying fresh produce.  There are canned options for convenience too - try to avoid canned veggies if possible.  I use them in when I have a time crunch - it's just better if you don't because they tend to have higher amounts of sodium in the water solution they are packed in as well as canning results in loss of nutrients.  One thing I learned is that frozen is a better alternative to canned, so I'm in the process of using up my canned items and moving to frozen for convenience.  Freezing helps keep most of the nutrients in place in comparison to canned.  Here's an article on just this topic:  Frozen vs Canned Vegetables

Same thing that applies to the veggies goes here - if you eat it frequently, then try to buy organic. Order of preference is again fresh, frozen and lastly canned.  Be VERY wary of canned fruits they are normally packed in sugary syrups and sugar-laden juices. 

Here are some of the dirty fruits that you'll want to get organic:
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Pears
Here are some that you can get by with conventional:
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Watermelon
Here's one food group that you should really strive to go organic at all times.  You should find both store and national brands at most grocery stores.  In our household we love Horizon 1% - my boyfriend's son has specifically said multiple times how much he loves the milk we get. 

If you haven't discovered the decadence of greek yogurt, it's a MUST.  It's not like any other yogurt  you've tried - not like Dannon,'s thicker and creamier.  Plus, there's a bonus! It's got a significant amount more of protein!  It's an incredible snack option.  My personal favorite is Stonyfield's Oikos brand - I buy their Plain Non Fat version.  You can add all kinds of yummy fruit and nuts to really make it wonderful.  Oh, and a side note - Stonyfield has a rewards program.  The yogurt labels have a code that are worth points - which you can redeem for free yogurt!  They are probably sick of sending me my free yogurt coupons at this point. 

Shellfish & Seafood
No worries here.  You're not going to have to look for organic - your best bet is to look for fish that is wild caught.  Avoid farm raised when possible - although, for some fish you're not going to be able to avoid it (like Tilapia).  In those cases, just try to stick to stores that have some kind of guidelines for responsible fish farming - like Whole Foods. 

Other Things
If you can give up your favorite brand of coffee and find an organic brand you like, then go for it.  I can freely admit to trying several brands....only to end up with our favorite Dunkin' Donuts time and time again.  So, again, if you've got the extra cash and you're not married to your coffee brand then give it a try. you know Where and What, but let's talk about Why.

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