DinnerDork [ \ˈdi-nər\\ˈdȯrk\ ]

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You won’t find many people arguing against the benefits of organic eating, but it isn’t always obvious if it’s important, when it may be important, or even what it is.

Organic eating | What is it?

Simply stated, organic foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Organic animal products, including: meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, come from animals that are not given  antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic farmers also emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to improve the quality of our environment. Organic food producers must meet very specific and strict USDA guidelines to become certified organic.

Organic eating | When and how?

Given the absence of harmful chemicals and undesirable substances, organic eating may an the obvious choice. That is, until a trip to your local grocer finds you dipping into your savings account to foot the bill! Yes, the price is definitely the catch, but the higher cost doesn’t have to make it inaccessible to the average family. As a family CNO (Chief Nutritional Officer) there are ways to modify your budget to include the organic items that are most important to your family, while passing on others that have a lower priority for you.

Here are some tips to help you decide when organic is truly worth it:

  • Taste trumps all | Some consumers feel that organic foods taste better.You may opt to go organic for the items that your family eats, but doesn’t always enjoy. For example, little ones may prefer the taste of organic veggies to traditionally farmed produce.
  • Raw vs. cooked | Since organic foods are farmed without the use of the pesticides, you may opt for organic varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.; going organic for things that will be consumed raw. This maximizes the benefit of “staying close to nature”.
  • More is more | Consider the items your family consumes in high volume, paying special attention to the things your little ones eat. Milk and eggs are high on the list for many families. You get more “bang for your buck” when you go organic for high-volume items since you’re subbing out a large portion of family’s diet. You may opt to make the switch to organic milk but pass on other organics, depending our your household eating habits.
  • Waste not, want not | What does your family waste? What items typically expire before they’re consumed? At DinnerDork we encourage families to freeze raw and prepared foods to minimize waste; however, this isn’t a perfect world. When making the decision to go organic it’s wise to consider how much your family will use or waste. If you’re always trashing half-eaten tomatoes and oranges it may not be worth your while to purchase organic varieties of those items. Also, consider going organic, but buying less or stashing some in freezer bags as soon as you bring them home.
  • Skip the fish | The USDA doesn’t currently provide an organic standard for fish and shellfish, so it’s tough to understand and verify the differences between seafood that is labeled organic and seafood that isn’t. In the end, if you’re looking to save money on organic groceries you may find it best to pass on organic seafood.
  • Thick skin | Studies have shown that the avocado, kiwi, mango, pineapple, and other thick skinned fruits often absorb very small amounts of pesticide and other topical agents. Most of what is absorbed is often absorbed into the skin, and thus discard by those who don’t eat the skin. Because of this, many CNO’s skip organic varieties of thick-skinned produce.

Scientists are still working to find large-scale empirical evidence of the benefits of organic eating, but common-sense dictates guide many families on the matter. Another helpful resource when deciding when to pay and when to save is the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The group publishes this annual report based on USDA data, to rank produce from worst to best in concentration of agricultural pesticides. All in all, if you’re thinking of making the switch to organic, start small and make it deliberate.

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