Then Little Miss Meghan came along and I started reading about baby and toddler nutrition. What I've learned has completely changed my outlook. Not only is buying organically grown food totally worth the cost, not going organic could be detrimental to my little girl's health. That is not something I'm willing to live with.
Foods that are organically grown are grown without the use of pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals that are used to repel insects and pests. They are sprayed directly onto most produce that is not labeled "organic". It's not like you can just rinse the vegetable and hope all the chemical will come off, the residue remains and then is ingested by whoever eats that vegetable. (The only time you can be happy your little one refuses to eat his veggies!) These pesticides are dangerous and can have many long-term health effects, many of which are just being discovered. If you choose organic, you can be confident that your child is not ingesting these dangerous chemicals. There are other reasons to choose organic, but avoiding pesticides is the most compelling reason for me.
The Health Effects of Pesticides
Pesticides have been linked to a variety of health issues. Children are particularly susceptible to pesticides because they have smaller bodies that can't handle the toxic load and they are still growing and developing. Exposure to pesticides has shown an increased risk for:
- reduced IQ
- learning disabilities
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- childhood cancers, including leukemia, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, soft-tissue sarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and cancers of the brain, colorectum, and testes.
It's no secret that organic foods are usually pricier than the non-organic variety. I didn't go totally organic all at once. In fact, there are still some foods that I buy that are not organic, and there are times when I can't totally control what Meghan eats. (Like when we travel to someone else's house, for example) I try my best to ensure the bulk of Meghan's diet is pesticide-free. I started with the list of the "Dirty Dozen" and decided those foods would be on my absolutely-must-buy-organic list. These are the top 12 foods that are found to be the most pesticide-laden. This is a well-circulated list, but if you haven't seen it yet, here it is:
The Dirty Dozen
- bell peppers
There is also a list showing the "Clean 15", or the foods that have the least amount of pesticides. These are the foods that if necessary, I'll buy non-organic.
The Clean 15
- sweet corn
- sweet peas
- kiwi fruit
- sweet potatoes
I have both these lists on my refrigerator as a reminder. Any foods that aren't on the list, including whole grains, beans, and animal products, I try to buy organic as much as possible. Whether or not the food is organic, I always clean it well before eating.
What About Dairy and Meat?
I think it's just as important, if not more important, to buy organic dairy and meat. If the animal product is not labeled organic, that means the animal most likely ingested pesticide-laden foods and is passing that burden on to you. In addition, non-organically grown animals are often injected with hormones and steroids to promote rapid growth and again, those are passed on to the consumer. Oh, wait, there's one more thing to consider. Even if the animal products are labeled "Hormone and steroid-free", as some non-organic animal products are, those animals were still likely given an abundance of antibiotics during their life. This causes problems for humans. According to an article written by Marc Kauffman and published in the Washington Post, "Giving animals antibiotics in their feed can cause microbes in the livestock to become resistant to the drugs. People can then become infected with the resistant bacteria by eating or handling meat contaminated with the pathogens."
If you don't feed your family organic foods, I urge you to reconsider. Although the price of these foods is higher, you can't put a price on a healthy child. There are many ways to tweak your budget to make room for higher-priced, but higher-quality foods. Are you already an organic family? I'd love to hear your money-saving tips! Please leave a comment and share how you have been able to make room for organic foods on a small budget.