More often than not, people tell me that the reason they don’t eat healthier or organic is because they don’t have the money. Why should eating healthy be a privilege? More than eight years ago, when I moved to South Florida from New York, organic food was not only scarce, it was expensive. Many people didn’t even know the meaning of ‘organic’. Thankfully, things have changed. Today, local supermarkets carry their own organic brands or generics and these products are usually affordable.
Believe me, I shop for deals, but I won’t compromise the quality of what I eat. Why? Because eating organic keeps the doctor away. When I used to eat dairy, gluten, and meat—with no regard for where my food was coming from—I was taking at least six or seven prescription medications a day. Today, I’m medication-free, not to mention that I sleep better and I have more energy throughout the day.
So yes, years ago organic foods used to be more expensive and difficult to find. But today, all that yadda-yadda is dust in the wind. According to Forbes, a recent study from The National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control found that it isn’t a lack of education or money that prevents people from eating healthier—it’s a question of convenience and laziness.
Many don’t want to go the extra mile when it comes to preparing their food. They want it ready to eat, and they want it now. And oftentimes, buying organic food means you will have to cook. You might also spend extra time going to an organic market either to find what you want or find it at a lower price. But when it comes to looking for a good deal on something, it’s best to shop around a bit. The same rule applies for organics.
Remember, you don’t need to break the bank and spend hours cooking in order to go organic. Also, keep in mind that organic doesn’t mean raw, it just means it’s free of pesticides, chemicals, additives, synthetics or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Since not all organics are created equal, be sure to read the label: “100% organic products” are free of all the bad stuff; “USDA organic product’s contain at least 95% organic ingredients; “Products made with organic ingredients” contain at least 70% organic ingredients.
TIPS FOR BUYING ORGANIC
- Know your stores and prices. I buy at local supermarkets and Whole Foods. On occasion, my local supermarket will offer better prices than Whole Foods.
- Make a list. Knowing what you need will save you money and you won’t buy stuff that no one will eat or even try.
- Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry. This applies to any kind of grocery shopping. You’ll end up with your cart full of items you might not need, and you’ll be tempted to make less healthy choices.
- Don’t buy it just because it’s organic. Buy it because you know what you will prepare it with and how much that dish will yield. Remember that switching from regular food to organic will affect your palate. So be sure to experiment with different tastes.
- Don’t buy the whole organic store! Go easy, organic food doesn’t keep as well as regular produce because it doesn’t have all those chemicals and pesticides to preserve it for days and even weeks in your fridge.
- Try the Farmers’ Market. You will find surprisingly great prices on seasonal and local produce. Don’t forget to bring cash with you, as the farmers’ market vendors don’t take credit cards.
- Look for coupons. Yes, organics do go on sale, and weekly, too! The first thing I do when I walk into Whole Foods is grab a coupon flyer.
- Consider store brands. Both my local supermarket and Whole Foods have their own generic organic brands and they’re not only (usually) cheaper, they go on sale more often. And no, you’re not risking quality or flavor. If the price between the store brand and name brand isn’t that different, I read the label and make my decision based on the ingredients.
- Taste and compare. If you’re not sure whether to switch to organic, just look for your favorite items and compare prices of organic versus conventional. For example, I eat veggie burgers and buy them organic, gluten- and dairy-free. The price is either equal to or less than beef burgers. If you like meat, give them a try. Veggie burgers are flavorful, cook in less time, and they are a lot healthier.
YOUR ORGANIC SHOPPING GUIDE
Not all organic produce is worth buying, but with the rampant spread of GMOs in food, you should at the very least buy local, seasonal produce. Use this list as a quick reference for items you should absolutely buy organic and for others which you can skip on if you don’t want to spend a little extra.
Buy organic: Apples, pears, all berries, cherries, grapes, peaches, plums, tomatoes, and nectarines.
Conventional is okay: Citrus (but wash them well if you are going to use the skin), mangoes, avocados, papaya, kiwi, pineapples, cantaloupes, watermelon, and bananas.
Buy organic: All tuber vegetables, celery, spinach, kale, collard and greens, lettuce, bell peppers, zucchini, and green beans.
Absolutely buy organic: Corn, soybeans, and sprouts, as conventional crops are full of GMOs.
Conventional is okay: Sweet peas, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and onions.
Meat & Dairy
Buy organic: Beef, pork, turkey and chicken. Milk, yogurt, butter, and eggs (make sure they are free range and organic).
Absolutely buy: Sustainable, wild-caught fish and seafood. Stay away from non-organic, farm-raised fish and seafood. Or if it is farm-raised, make sure it is sustainably farmed.
Buy organic: Baby food, body creams, beauty products, shampoos, conditioners, and sunscreen lotions.
Conventional is okay: Dry pasta, dry beans, and cleaning products.
Keep in mind that though organic is always healthier, it doesn’t mean you should stop watching your fat and calorie intake. But making the switch to organic will your rid your body of toxins, make you feel younger, and save you trips to the doctor’s office.