I decided to do it! It was finally the right time. I had been researching it for years, but wasn't ready to make the commitment, until last week. I decided to rid our house of all processed foods, and replace it with organic, natural foods! Yup....ALL OF IT! Gone are the pancake mixes, cake mixes, cereal bars, low-fat flavored yogurts, Oreos, Bugles, canned soups, Weight Watcher frozen treats and diet hot cocoa mix. That is my "throw-away" pile in the photo on the left. I didn't actually throw it away, I gave most of it to Jamie, who doesn't seem interested in our all-natural conversion. After getting rid of all of the junk, my pantry now looks like the photo on the right.
I saved a few things, that just felt wasteful to throw away, like the 2 huge jars of Skippy peanut butter that I just purchased at Costco. As I use it up, I'll replace it with the 100% natural version. I also have about a dozen sticks of butter in my freezer. I'll use those up and replace them with organic butter.
What did I get rid of? All processed foods and junk food. Anything with chemical preservatives, gums, artificial coloring, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, stablizers, thickeners, artificial flavorings, refined ingredients, or bleached ingredients are gone.
Why now? Of course there are the health and social reasons, but the biggest one being that I finally got Phil and Joey on board. I had been contemplating it for many years now, but no one else in the house seemed interested. It is much easier to make the switch, when you have the support of the people you live with.
The next logical question is why? After all, my family is (thankfully) in good health, so why bother to switch?
1 - Organic foods may have more nutrients than conventional food.
2 - Your health, specifically your fertility health, can be affected by the pesticides used in conventional foods. You can reduce your pesticide exposure by 80% if you switch to organic versions of the "Dirty Dozen" (peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots and pears).
3 - Organic food tastes delicious!
4 - There are over 6000 chemicals used in the food processing industry, many of them are known to be harmful to your health, including your immune system and fertility health. They are also knows to increase your risk of certain cancers. An average conventionally grown apple contains 20 - 30 artificial chemicals on its skin...even after rinsing!
5 - Many processed foods contain unwanted trans fats. Trans fats are so bad for you. If you eat enough, it can kill you!
6 - Organic products meets very stringent standards.
7 - Organic farming is better for the soil, better for the water supply, and the farmers work to preserve a healthy ecosystem.
How to begin your conversion:
1 - Read the ingredients label. Are there ingredients you don't recognize or cannot pronounce? Would you add these ingredients if you were cooking at home? If the answer is yes, don't buy it.
2 - Don't eat partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated trans fat.
3 - Avoid products with a long shelf life. The longer they can stay on the shelf, the worse it is for your body.
4 - Avoid GMOs (genetically modified) produce. No one knows the implications on our long term health. Nearly all processed foods contain GMOs.
5 - When it comes to fruits and vegetables, if it has an edible skin, you are better off going organic.
6 - If you cannot find organic, look for the "Clean Sixteen", which are the fruits and veggies that are found to contain the lowest number of pesticides: onions, avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbage, eggplants, papayas, watermelon, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.
7 - You can still eat convience foods, but look for organic versions. Some amazing options include: Kashi cereals, Amy's frozen foods, Annie's Natural salad dressings, Cascadian Farm frozen prodice, Applegate Farm cheeses, and Newman's Own entire product line.
8 - Start slowly. For example, begin with your milk. Conventional milk contains hormones, antibiotics and pesticides and many kids consume milk in large amounts. Next, switch to organic potatoes. Even after being peeled and washed, the potato contained the highest level of pesticides out of the 46 fruits and vegetables tested. Peanut butter is another easy switch, in addition to apples, fruit juices and ketchup.
One of the biggest barriers for people wanting to go organic, is the higher prices. It's true, organic foods are more expensive than conventional foods, but there are several good reasons why. Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing. The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars. Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.
Most people who make the switch, find that the benefits to organic agriculture, off-set the cost.
A few tips to help you manage buying organic:
- Comparison shop. Many grocery chains now carry their own line of organic products.
- Cook more. It is much cheaper to feed a family a homemade meal, cooked with fresh ingredients, than it is to buy frozen corn dogs or fish sticks.
- Stock up when items are on sale and buy in bulk when available.
- Shop for produce when it is in season.
- Save money from another part of your budget. Do your kids really need that new toy? Do you really need a new coat this season? I will bet if you look hard, you will find lots of easy ways to cut your budget elsewhere,
I hope you find this information informative and interesting. It may initially sound intimidating, but start with one food at a time. The benefits of eating organic will far outweigh any negatives that you are thining of.
UPDATE 11/19/11 - I decided to modify my food policy. I buy organic whenever possible, but more importantly, I try to buy seasonally (peaches in November? no thanks) and locally. I have found that eliminating processed foods has made a big difference in how I feel. If it is organic, great, if not, this is my philosophy: I read the ingredient list. It should read like the ingredients of a homemade recipe...milk, eggs, flour, vanilla. If it has more than one ingredient that I don't recognize as food, I put it back on the shelf.