You may have heard the recent hubbub over a Stanford University study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which found that organic foods aren't more nutritious than food that is conventionally grown. The researchers compiled data from more than 200 previously published studies, intending to establish whether organics really offer more bang for your extra bucks. According to the newspaper headlines, they don't.
But I'm not going to stop buying organic when my budget allows. To me, those blaring headlines miss the point, the real reason many of us buy organic: our kids. For most of my life I hardly considered which pesticides were in my food, or what those pesticides might be doing to the planet (never mind the field workers who essentially bathe in them). I shopped at the farmers' market because the produce tasted better to me, not because I worried about farming practices.
Once my son, Harry, was born, my whole worldview shifted. Looking at his tiny, 6-pound body, watching him struggle to latch on and be nourished by my breast milk, it was suddenly obvious how important it was to think about what I was eating—and later, what he was. Maybe my body can handle the relatively small amounts of pesticide residue allowed by law in our food, but can his? And what are those chemicals doing to the world I'm leaving him?
At 6 years old, Harry's still a featherweight—barely 40 pounds—but he can pack away a pound of strawberries in a single sitting. Strawberries carry more pesticide residue than almost every other fruit. When I put those two facts together, the decision to buy organic berries is pretty easy. I don't give a hoot if they've got the exact same amount of Vitamin C.
Now, let's talk about some of the findings in that study that didn't make headlines—the ones related specifically to kids and moms:
Look, I'm far from wealthy. I can't afford to buy everything organic, and I'm not sure I would if I could. When I was researching the organics-shopping section of Parents Need to Eat Too, I consulted Cindy Burke, author of To Buy or Not to Buy Organic: What You Need to Know to Choose the Healthiest, Safest, Most Earth-Friendly Food. We came up with some solid, money-saving advice: