Have you heard about the Dirty Dozen? No, it’s not a new kid’s band or cartoon you’ll find on Saturday morning TV. Although that could be a really fun idea to bring to life in the form of cartoon characters that teach kids about healthy choices. Sort of like Veggie Tales with a healthy food twist!
Ok, back to the real Dirty Dozen.
Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducts studies to identify which fruits and vegetables contain consistently high amounts of pesticides. The Dirty Dozen is meant to help guide us at the grocery store or farmer’s market so that we can make informed purchases with our food dollars. For many of us, we don’t have access to 100% organic fruits and vegetables, or can’t afford to buy exclusively organic – and we really don’t need to.
There are many items that make the Clean 15 list that are shown to contain low levels of pesticides which are less harmful to us so it’s ok to buy non-organic in these cases. These are typically foods with a skin or layer of protection to keep the bugs out: onions, corn, pineapple, and avocados.
Why we buy organic
Since my son had his first taste of solid food almost eight years ago, we’ve been buying mostly organic fruits and vegetables. When he was a tiny little guy, I couldn’t help but think about the not-much-smaller-than-him insects and pests that pesticides were designed to kill or harm. With the lack of solid research indicating these pesticides were completely safe for consumption, it just seemed like a good thing to keep them out of our house.
And it still does today. We follow the Dirty Dozen and choose organic for leafy greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, chard), all of our berries, apples (which we eat a lot of), peaches, celery, potatoes and carrots. For the most part, we buy conventionally grown bananas, pineapple, melons, onions and mushrooms. And broccoli. I’ve tossed out too many broccoli crowns infested with tiny bugs and it really grosses me out. Yeah, I’m a bug wimp. I’m ok with that.
Tools we can use
The EWG produces mobile apps and wallet cards so that you always have this knowledge with you. When you’re at the farmer’s market, know which crops to inquire about and ask the growers if they spray or use pesticides. Many small farms do use organic methods, but can’t afford the testing and process to become certified organic. Getting to know the farmers in your area helps ensure you know what you’re buying.
How do you decide what to buy organic, or not?