Eating organic on a budget

What is necessary? What's a waste?

Green vegetables
Green vegetables (Flickr: K.miyuki)

ORLANDO, Fla. – When it comes to nutrients there is not much of a difference between organic versus regular products, according to nutrition consultant Kristina Larue.

Larue says organic foods clearly have been found to have a lot less pesticides, so it is safer for families, but it's also a lot more expensive.

"Just because we have a lack of data doesn't mean eating conventional foods is technically safe," Larue said.

But for those of us on a budget, going organic can get pretty pricey. So how do you know what's best to buy organic and what's not necessary to buy organic?

Larue says products like apples, sweet bell peppers and celery should be bought organic. These fruits and vegetables are considered the dirty dozen and should be bought organically because of pesticide amounts when consumed.

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

Larue says other products, such as onions and avocados, do not need to be purchased organically. They are the least contaminated by pesticides, as are items with peels that are not consumed, such as bananas.

Least contaminated fruits and veggies:

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

As for meat and dairy products, Larue says its not that clear cut.

"I wish we could pinpoint risk factors, but we don't have that evidence right now when it comes to meat and dairy products," Larue said.

Larue said little research has shown any evidence that organic dairy is better, though it does last longer. As for meats, "Just because it's organic doesn't mean it was fed a grassfed-diet, which has been shown in research to be beneficial for your health," Larue said.

While everyone wants the best for their families, especially their youngsters, Larue has some good advice.

"The benefits of eating fruits and veggies are going to far outweigh any risks from pesticide exposures, so don't be fearful of eating your fruits and veggies," Larue said.

Peeling fruits or veggies can also help reduce pesticide intake.