Tara’s Top 10 Tips To Buying Organic:
- What does “organic” mean: according to the USDA, organic produce is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. What does that mean to us? Organic food is grown with less harm to the planet and in turn causes less harm to our health. Studies over the last few years reveal that organic foods have less toxins (harmful chemicals) and more antioxidants (substances that help us fight disease).
- Get to know “organic” labels:
- “100% organic” = made with only organic ingredients, has the USDA certified organic seal
- “made with organic ingredients” = made with 70% organic ingredients, does not have the USDA certified organic seal but each organic ingredient is specifically labeled as organic on the ingredient label
- Dairy: If vegan, skip this one. We try to avoid dairy as much as possible and used plant-based milks BUT if you are looking to stick with dairy AND prioritize your organic buying to keep within budget restrictions, organic dairy is a must. (Especially with pregnant women or if you are raising vegetarian children or any children!). When you buy organic dairy, you are buying milk from a cow that was not given growth hormone, was not fed food treated with pesticides, and was not given antibiotics.
- Eggs: Skip if vegan. We avoid eggs as much as possible and have found fabulous egg replacers to bake with. There is total information overload available about eggs but this is another organic must-have unless you are going to cut out eggs completely. If you are like my sister, you have chickens in your yard, you love them like your pets (or family) and you are all set. If you do not have that luxury … I will “break” it down for you …
- Pastured: like my sister’s, these eggs are from chickens living the way we all dream that chickens should live roaming around and eating what they love in an open field BUT these are difficult to find most times of the year in some parts of the world AND there are no government regulations on these eggs.
- Omega-3: eggs from chickens fed a diet rich in omega-3 (flaxseed and kelp).
- Organic: this is the only classification that has not only government regulations but inspections and enforcement associated with the labeling. These are eggs that are certified USDA organic “come from chickens that have been fed feed that is grown without synthetic chemicals, irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms and are both cage-free and free range”.
- Free Range/Cage Free: for an egg to be labeled as such the chicken must be “allowed access to the outside”. This is far better than conventional farming but as you can just imagine, there are farms that will allow their chickens just enough room to meet government standards so choose wisely.
- Conventional: standard supermarket eggs from chickens are usually raised in a cage or overcrowded hen-house never allowed outside and fed grain-based or corn-based feed and likely treated with antibiotics and hormones. If you are vegetarian because you are protecting animals, don’t buy conventional eggs, remember why you are vegetarian.
- Buy in Bulk: wholesale warehouses are offering more and more organic options saving your family lots of money while being able to buy organic. Shop around. Personally, I get many of our organic staples at Costco.
- Get to know prices: store-brand organic is a great option. Publix has Greenwise, Whole Foods has 365, Trader Joe’s also has a lot of their own brand organics that are great quality. Do your research, make a list, stock your kitchen with the essentials but be prepared before breaking the budget to go organic.
- Go Frozen: organic frozen fruits and vegetables are grown and picked at their peak season, they last in your freezer for 6-12 months, they are available any time you need them, and they are many times cheaper than their fresh counterparts, a money and a time saver, why not?!?!?
- Be sure to go organic only when buying the “Dirty Dozen+”: This is a list put out by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) to help us continue to eat fruits and vegetables while limiting our exposure to pesticides. The foods on the dirty dozen, when tested, had significant levels of pesticide residue on them, in some cases more than 20 different pesticides (gross).
The Dirty Dozen+ = strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, bell peppers, potatoes, +hot peppers.
- Soy: edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso paste = all soy = must always be organic. GMO, simply put, means something has been genetically modified to make it prettier, bigger, or taste better. This is great for farmers and food corporations because they make more food and therefore sell more food and make more money. Not so great for us. Thank you for the freaky chemically altered “food” item that tastes so weirdly wonderful but no thank you for the health, environmental, and allergy implications that “GMO” has imparted on us. Anyway, organic soy is not genetically modified, if you are going to add these things into your vegetarian diet, this is another must on the organic list. Be careful of non-organic soy “isolate” hidden in foods like veggie burgers, protein powders, and bars, read the labels to be smart vegetarian, even if you are new at it!
- Stay in season to stay in budget: buy fruits and vegetables grown at the time of year that they are meant to grow their best. When you do this, you ensure that they have not travelled too far to get to you, have been sprayed with less toxins to survive, have not been modified to taste or look better, and will be cheaper. Need organic blueberries in December? Buy them frozen.
I have a lot to say on this topic. Any vegetarians with any other organic tips?
Here are some resources that I used and are great for you too: