When the time came for my baby to begin eating solids I knew I wanted to provide her with the cleanest, most natural, and purest food available. What mother doesn’t want that for their child? After a little research, I decided that buying organically grown food was the best place to start. There was only one problem. Expanding from a family of three to a family of four placed added strain on an already tight budget.
We now had two children in diapers and full time daycare and instead of counting dollars, we were counting cents. My husband and I knew that sacrifices would have to be made, but we weren’t willing to make them at the expense of our children’s nutrition and health.
Clipping coupons and searching the local papers for good sales became a regular weekend activity, but I still wanted reassurance that the benefits of buying organic were worth our money. That’s when I learned about the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The EWG is the organization responsible for the list of fruits and vegetables known as the “dirty dozen” as well as the “clean fifteen.” Not familiar? Let me explain. The EWG compiled these lists after analyzing data from more than 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce conducted by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
The dirty dozen is a list of the produce found to have the highest levels of pesticides. This includes peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach lettuce, and potatoes.
The clean fifteen is a list comprised of fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticides including onions, avocados, sweet corn, mango, pineapple, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.
Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables when conventionally grown can expose a person to about 15 pesticides a day, while eating from the least contaminated group will only result in exposure to 2 pesticides or less on average.
While I prefer for my children to eat an entirely pesticide free diet, these lists gave me more insight into which items I absolutely must buy organic and which I could skip on weeks when our grocery budget was tight. Even better, opting for conventionally grown bananas or peas helped me save money I could then put towards organic dairy, like milk and yogurt, which both of my children consume daily.
The effects of pesticides on the body, particularly during vulnerable periods of growth and development, are still being studied, though it comes as no surprise that the growing consensus among researchers is that their are adverse effects from their consumption.
Maximizing the amount of organically grown foods our family eats while minimizing the cost is a challenge, but the knowledge that my efforts make a real difference in their health and well-being makes it worth it.