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When to Buy Organic: The Dirty Dozen


Ideally, we would always buy organic, be it produce, meat, dairy, cleaning supplies, or personal care products. However, with a large family in a recession, it’s not always possible to purchase everything organic. For that reason, you’ll find my family using homemade cleaning products to stretch our dollars further, eating less meat so that we can afford the organic brands, and being careful about our produce selections.

Here’s a look at the current “Dirty Dozen” from the Environmental Working Group.

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  • #1 Apples 1 of 12
    #1 Apples
    An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Just be sure those apples are organic because in 2011 it was found that even washed and peeled non-organic apples contain pesticide residue.
    Make Hungry Caterpillar Salad
  • #2 Celery 2 of 12
    #2 Celery
    Celery lives in so many dishes, and I have to admit I otherwise would not think to purchase this as organic above so many others. Still, think of it in soups and stews, as ants on a log, and remember to head to the organic aisle for it before you do because produce wash has not been shown to reduce pesticide residue. I don't know about you, but I don't need a meal filled with permethrin trans, methoxyfenozide or spinosad .
    Make Apple Fennel Celery Salad via Gourmande in the Kitchen
  • #3 Strawberries 3 of 12
    #3 Strawberries
    Strawberry picking is something many enjoy in the spring, but you never really consider that those strawberries may be carrying a film of chemicals. Choose organic to keep your kids safe before topping their yogurt with them. Harvard School of Public Health released a study that showed children exposed to more pesticides were at a greater risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
    Make Fresh Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie via Food for My Family
  • #4 Peaches 4 of 12
    #4 Peaches
    With their fuzzy skin and juicy flesh, peaches are the scent of summer. Unfortunately, it seems that characteristic fuzzy skin is good for attracting something else, too. Over 50 different pesticides show up on both domestic and imported peaches that you can find on the store shelves. Some of those exceed the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, and there are also compounds that are not approved for use in the U.S. Yet there they are.
    Make Ginger Peach Iced Tea Pops via Food for My Family
  • #5 Spinach 5 of 12
    #5 Spinach
    Whether it's in a salad or a sweet green smoothie, spinach is a great source of iron. Choose organic varieties before you blend them into a smoothie snack for the family, as this leafy green led them all in the number of pesticides found on it (over 50!).
    Make Spinach and Strawberry Salad
  • #6 Nectarines – Imported 6 of 12
    #6 Nectarines - Imported
    This smooth cousin of the peach is wonderful in baked desserts and fruit salads. With more than 33 pesticides found on the tree fruit, though, if you can't buy organic, you may want to choose a mango, which is a rather clean fruit, instead.
    Make Nectarine and Cherry Crisp
  • #7 Grapes – Imported 7 of 12
    #7 Grapes - Imported
    A favorite of kids, grapes are fun to pop in your mouth, bite straight into and let their juice burst out. Unfortunately, that thin skin that is perfectly poppable, also means pesticides can get right on into the juicy flesh. No matter how much you wash your grapes, you'll still get leftover pesticide residue, so choose organic varieties.
    Make Frozen Grape Skewers via Simple Bites
  • #8 Blueberries 8 of 12
    #8 Blueberries
    Bright blue berries, popping in your mouth make a great treat. My kids love them both fresh and frozen on their own, which is why I'm careful to choose ones with the least amount of chemicals attached to them. Can't find organic blueberries? Cherries and cranberries are usually contaminated, too, so opt for bananas on cereal and other organic berries.
    Make Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Bread
  • #9 Sweet Bell Peppers 9 of 12
    #9 Sweet Bell Peppers
    Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, but not ones sprayed to high heaven with chemical pesticides. Their thin skins let pesticides and insecticides right in, 49 different varieties of them.
    Make Orzo-Stuffed Bell Peppers via Two Peas and Their Pod
  • #10 Potatoes 10 of 12
    #10 Potatoes
    A Midwestern staple, potatoes are baked, boiled, and stewed. Unfortunately, they sit in the ground, ripe for soaking up those pesticides, too. Those grown in organic soil are best and won't bring with them a cocktail of 39 different possible pesticides.
    Make Dilled Potato Salad
  • #11 Lettuce 11 of 12
    #11 Lettuce
    Salads are healthy, right? Green, crunchy meals that are light and refreshing, slathered in a chemical cocktail of up to 50 different pesticides from carcinogens to suspected hormone disruptors and neurotoxins. Go for organic, avoid the cocktail and opt for vinegar and oil instead.
    Make Farm to Table: Lettuce with Green Goddess Dressing
  • #12 Kale 12 of 12
    #12 Kale
    Healthy potato chips? Of course! Bake up this green leafy treat that adults and kids alike can agree on, but as its popularity increased, so did pesticide use. High amounts of residue make this
    Make Baked Kale Chips via Dine & Dish

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Related: Organic Food Buying Guide: Foods to buy organic; foods to stop worrying about

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