To or To Not Eat Organic

I remember the first time I ever learned about organic food. I mean, I always heard of organic versus non-organic, but the first time that I ever studied the differences and learned more about the food industry was when I was in high school. My environmental science teacher required us to watch the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. and it completely changed the way I viewed food.

Although my view of food changed when I was in high school, it would be years before I really changed the way I ate. I really only began to change my diet when I found out that I was pregnant. It was hard being a college student on a budget and I couldn’t always afford organic grass-fed beef or chicken, veggies, dairy products, etc. However, even though my college days were only 4-ish years ago, there are more options nowadays in the organic food industry.

I feel like everywhere I go there are organic options now, and every grocery store is stocked with a large variety to choose from. Whole Foods is no longer the only game in town, and eating organically does not always have to break the bank. With that being said, although I try my hardest to make sure my family only eats high-quality food, there are some foods that we still don’t eat organically all the time, and some foods we only eat organically.

I decided to write about this in a blog post because I feel like this is a huge conversation (at least in mommy/family communities). I created the table below for easier viewing. However, this list omits the typical “dirty dozen” (strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes) and the “clean fifteen” (avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, onions, papaya, frozen sweet peas, eggplants, asparagus, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, honeydew melon, kiwi) because we typically follow these “rules” anyway. This table contains the various other items my family tries to eat organically and items we don’t necessarily make a point to. Further, the qualities I weigh in regards to organic versus not organic are health benefits, price, taste, preference, etc. Lastly, this list does not include our baby food preferences.

Always OrganicNot Always Organic
-Milk
-Cheese
-Yogurt
-Butter (for spreading)
-Stocks (chicken, beef, etc.)
-Lemons/limes
-Eggs
-Chicken
-Ground beef
-Herbs
-Orange juice
-Tea/coffee
-Butter (for baking/cooking)
-Oatmeal/Cereal
-Various snack foods
-Canned tomatoes
-Pasta
-Chocolate
-Condiments
*This list is not a complete list. I decided to name only the things we use on a regular basis. If I went through my entire refrigerator and food inventory list (I don’t even have one of those, haha) I’d be here forever.

Always Organic:

Milk, cheese, and yogurt (both regular and baby yogurt) are all dairy products that we try to only eat organically. Honestly, I am just not crazy about the growth hormones given to cows. rBST just is not something I want in my milk or other dairy products, especially if I am giving the products to my children.

In regards to butter, it is on both of the lists! In a perfect world, I would only buy organic butter. However, I bake a lot and butter is a rather expensive dairy product per unit. That might sound insane, but two batches of cookies can wind up being a pound of butter and as someone who also cooks often with butter, I do look for cheaper options. The reason some butter is on the list (for spreading) is honestly because I like the taste of organic butter, specifically Kerrygold butter. (Side note: I do know Kerrygold is not completely organic, but there cows are about 90% grass-fed, and their butter is probably the best tasting thing on earth.) I cannot imagine buttering a piece of toast without Kerrygold’s butter. It’s heavenly.

Chicken and ground beef made the organic list because of hormones, too. And the same goes for stocks. In Food, Inc. there is a comparison photo of a chicken with and without hormones and the difference is crazy! Not only are the hormones not great for humans, it’s rather inhumane for the animals, too. In chickens, for example, when they grow rapidly and larger than their biology permits, their legs have difficulty supporting their bodies. It makes me sad to think about, and I do think that we have a duty to choose ethical options whenever possible. The ethical responsibility I believe in extends to eggs for my family, too.

Lemons and limes made the organic list because of taste. I had a friend in college who was from Florida who swore that organic citrus tasted entirely different than non-organic citrus. I never believed her until I examined the differences. They really do taste different! In regards to taste, I also opt for organic herbs, too. Again, I just think they taste better and more robust. (Side note: I actually grow all our own herbs. I buy small organic plants and plant them in pots in our kitchen and garden so that we always have fresh herbs on hand! Not only is this easy and keeps fresh herbs in the house, but in the long run we actually save money because I don’t buy cilantro or parsley or basil whenever I need it.)

Not Always Organic

As I mentioned previously, I weigh organic versus non-organic by health benefits, price, taste, and preference. Orange juice, in my opinion, is one of those things that I don’t really taste a difference in, there are usually no added hormones, and the price difference can sometimes be extreme. Unless it is fresh squeezed (which I do buy sometimes if I am hosting a brunch or something) I don’t bother. The same goes for us with canned tomatoes.

Tea and coffee are other products that we eat non-organically. If they are organic, great! But I do not purposefully search for the organic options. This one usually falls to taste. My favorite tea is Twinings of London. No matter how many different teas I try, their Irish Breakfast is just my favorite. My favorite coffee is Eight O’Clock coffee, and in my opinion, it’s the best coffee ever. The preference for taste is also the same for my family in regards to oatmeals, cereals, and pasta. My favorite oatmeal is Quaker’s raisin, date, and walnut oatmeal and I just cannot find another that I enjoy as much.

Decisions based on taste also include chocolate, various snack foods, and condiments. Chocolate is one of those things that I do not seek organic options for. If it is organic, great! But if it’s not, I don’t worry about it. Some of my favorite chocolate is good ol’ fashioned Hershey’s. I also like Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Cadbury. In regards to snack foods, I just don’t think anything comes close to Lays potato chips, or regular Cheez-Its, etc. It’s not like these junk foods are better health wise if they are organic, and the taste is just better. In regards to condiments, my decision is completely because of taste. I will always prefer Hellman’s mayo, Heinz ketchup, etc.

So, that’s really it! Of course I have more than 20 items in my refrigerator, but the items that I mentioned are items that I specifically look for in organic versus non-organic options.

With that being said, there has to be room for realism. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was difficult to find meat in stores. I did buy non-organic meat. It was sometimes the only options available. Or, when I am having dinner at a friend’s house or in a restaurant, I eat whatever is being served. I do not stop the host and ask, “Was this frittata made with organic, free-range eggs from a happy chicken farm?” And let’s be honest: McDonald’s cheeseburgers are not organic. But do I eat them? When you’re eight months pregnant and that cheeseburger is the only thing on your mind, you do. We try our hardest to eat the best we can, but life does happen. It’s important to be conscious of our decisions, but not to the point of food overtaking our lives. That, in itself, is unhealthy.

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