Organic Foods on a Budget (cont.)

Alternatives to Organic Foods

Foods don't have to be organic to be safe and environmentally friendly. Buying produce in season, and foods that have been locally grown, are other ways to eat healthfully while looking out for the Earth.

Produce from local farmers markets may not be organic, but is often fresher than the same foods from a supermarket and may have less impact on the environment. An added bonus: Foods from local markets require little packaging other than a container to help you get them home.

Other options for fresher food that is also kinder to the planet:

  • Eat foods when they are in season, which honors the natural rhythm of the land.
  • Choose less processed versions of conventional foods whenever possible.
  • Eat more vegetarian meals. Organic meat can be expensive, and raising animals for meat generally takes more natural resources than growing produce.

When organic vegetables and fruits are not affordable or available, you can reduce the risk of pesticide residue on conventional fruits and vegetables with the following tips:

  • Wash and scrub produce under running water (soaking is not adequate); 30 seconds significantly reduces surface residue.
  • Peel skin whenever possible.
  • Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
  • Trim fat from meat and trim skin from poultry (pesticide residue can collect in fat).
  • Eat a variety of foods from a variety of sources.
  • Canned fruits and vegetables typically have lower pesticide residue; the canning process removes most toxins.

Keep in mind that whether you choose locally grown foods, organic foods, or conventional foods from your grocery story, experts agree that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables far outweighs the potential risks from pesticide exposure.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD and the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Published September 2008.

Organic Trade Association web site: "Industry Statistics and Projected Growth."
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor of food studies and public health, New York University; author, What to Eat.
Lu, C. Environmental Health Perspectives, online edition, Sept. 1, 2005.
Consumer Reports, February 2006; vol 71: pp 12-17.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web site: "Pesticides and Food: How the Government Regulates Pesticides" and "Pesticides and Food: Healthy, Sensible Food Practices."
Environmental Working Group web site.
National Organic Program web site.

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