By Sara Shay, Contributing Writer
Sure, ideally we’d all love to buy organic locally grown fruits and veggies. Or better yet, have a nice big beautiful garden of our own. But some of us don’t have the budget, space or access to this. So how do you navigate all the “labels” out there???
Dirty Dozen / Clean 15
I try to stick to the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 list while at the store and always stock up when organic is on sale. But that isn’t always economical. Unfortunately, many on this list are ones bought most often. Which makes sense – these are the ones big farms are trying to churn out the most.
The list changes each year as they test and crops increase and decrease in popularity. The Dirty Dozen is the top 12 most sprayed foods, therefore you should try to buy organic (or locally grown in the case of knowing your farmer doesn’t spray) or better yet grow them yourself! The Clean 15 are foods with a low rate of pesticide usage or things like bananas and avocados, where the outer layer is not eaten.
If I can’t get organic at a good price, I feel better about buying non-organic certified from the farmer’s market, where I can talk to those who grew it. Buying local also means less gas being used to transport it.
Farmer’s markets are a great way to find good quality produce – and you can usually get samples before you buy! Many farms who have CSA programs also sell at these, so you can get a feel for those running it before you buy in. Keep track of prices and compare. I usually go to certain places to buy.
What do those codes mean??? A four digit code starting with a 3 or 4 means it was conventionally grown. The five digit code starting with a 9 means is is organic and one with an 8 means it is a GMO. Eight is NOT GREAT, but nine is SUBLIME!
The top offenders of GMOs are soybeans, corn, papaya and zucchini. Also cottonseed oil (margarine and vegetable oil – please don’t consume these anyway), sugar and animal products.
There are also a lot of veggies that can be grown in containers with very little effort. I’ve had great success with tomatoes (and even quite a few years with volunteer plants). An easy way to grow your own from seed without spending a fortune on organic seed is to harvest from the foods you buy. Just clean the seeds, dry them and store until ready to use.
Also, focus on growing foods that are expensive to buy – I wouldn’t waste my time and water budget on growing carrots, when organic are not much more than conventionally grown and zucchini is much more expensive.
Just be wise for what is the best you can do and find your balance. Most importantly eat often and eat a lot! Fruits and veggies are filling, low calorie, high fiber and in the long run are cheaper than meat and doctor visits.