Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Going Organic?

This cartoon sums up exactly how I feel when it comes to the latest organic food craze.

ORGANIC FOOD: foods that are made according to certain production standards. The use of conventional non-organic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides is greatly restricted and avoided as a last resort.

While I whole heartily favor this choice (organic/natural food) over other food products, I can't quite bring myself to spend the few extra dollars per item. But then I fret and worry that I am feeding my children "harmful" or "unsafe" food with growth hormones, trans fats, and other unhealthy additives despite the USDA giving their stamp of approval.

I am planting a garden and have stepped it up over the last few years in my cooking. I have gone from frozen burritos to hamburger helper to "real" home cooked meals.

I still slip in the occasional gold fish for a snack or mac and cheese on a lazy lunch day. But, I know that those are not the best options when it comes to taking care of myself and my family's bodies/health.

Help me out here!!!

What do you know about "harmful" additives in today's food products and their true effects?

How do you plan, promote, and implement healthy eating?


Megan said...

I've wondered about this as well. I do know I try to incorporate as many fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet. I don't buy organic, unless it is on sell because it seems to be more expensive and being a student we have a small budget. I know my sister and her family drink non-processed milk. This means they go right to the farm and get it from the tank. I would do this to, because I love fresh milk, but we don't live close enough to a farm, and technically they are not supposed to sell it.

Heather said...

I have always been told, if you are going to purchase organic produce, to spend the money on the fruits and veggies where you eat the entire outside (i.e.: apples, pears, green peppers, etc.) rather than those that have peels and rinds (bananas, cantaloupe, etc.) For my part, I do not generally buy organic food because of the cost. I do try to avoid prepared meals stocked with preservatives.

I always have a vegetable or fruit (and sometimes both) with lunch and dinner. In the summertime, it's easy because so much is in season. During winter, we go more with bottled fruit or canned vegetables. I also try to have cut-up fresh vegetables in a tupperware to pull out when my daughter says she is hungry. (I think she likes the ranch dressing as much as the vegetables, but we are working on building good habits!)

I was getting in a rut about dinner and started to truly dislike making it about 8 months ago. My friend gave me an idea that worked great. I wrote down all the stuff I know how to make in categories of main ingredient-ground beef, chicken, vegetables, fish, etc. I add to the list as I get new ideas. I was surprised how much I know and like that I hadn't been making because I just forgot about those meals. Now, I go to that list and choose enough meals to cover my family for a month (including left-overs) and have my husband choose from my list what he wants to eat in the next week or two. This helps cycle the meals and I have an idea what I am making for the week. Then I can plan healthy side dishes (and delicious desserts--everything in moderation, right?) to compliment the meals. It's been very successful for me.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I really not into organic stuff either. I guess I don't worry too much about that part.... I try to get the fruits and veggies in my family, but I don't worry if I'm buying them organic or not. I try to steer clear of boxed or frozen meals as much as possible (although I do admit that once every couple of weeks I pull out a quick skillet freezer meal with lots of vegetables - I like to give myself a break that way).

Heather's idea with the meals is AWESOME! I do that too, and in fact I have them on magnets on my refrigerator with a huge monthly calendar so that I can plan meals easily and remember when we ate something. That way leftovers get eaten in a good order.

I think that what you said is key Courtney - you are just doing it as much as you can. I think you are doing a great job feeding your family healthy things from what you said. I guess I should be more paranoid, but really I don't think about organic at all.

The key for me at least is to just have a variety (like Heather said) and to keep offering the healthy choices as much as possible - your kids will eventually take to it.

One thing that has been brought up before is the book Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. I REALLY like it and checked it out from the library. I am seriously going to try it because it sounds so fun and there are some great recipes. I think I'll have my husband buy me the book for mother's day, along with a small food processor (Walmart has the Magic Bullet for not too much, at least that is what I've heard). The book teaches you how to incorporate vegetable purees into regular meals. The meals look REALLY good too. If you make your own baby food then this would be SUPER easy to do.

One thing I'm sad about is that I can't do a garden. Our backyard won't allow for it (at least it didn't last year - too much shade). We may try a few things again this year. But I have a question - does anyone know of any community garden plots nearby where I live? (Those that know where I live, I'm not going to say it....). If not, then I may have to try my luck again with the backyard and perhaps do some pots. Because gardents are a GREAT way to get in those vegetables like Heather said.

Shantel said...

I have not researched organic food much, but from what I have been told, there is not set standard of requirements that producers of foods have for labels such as "organic" or "all natural". If this is truly the case, then what really is organic? I was watching a news blurb about organic food and the main point in the end was that "organic" and "all natural" are more catch phrases used to entice buyers than they are anything else. I am sure that truly organic food is out there, and perhaps some of it is better than the food I buy and worth the price, but for me, it just hasn't been worth the trouble of figuring it all out.

On The Go Family said...

I know some kids really thrive off having a preservative-free, mostly organic diet. My friend's daughter was just diagnosed with autism and while they're on a months-long waiting lists to begin therapy and treatment, my friend switched to a preservative-free diet that has done wonders for her daughter in the meantime.

That being said, barring any major concerns like the one I mentioned above, I think as long as you are being conscious about what you're feeding your kids and getting lots of fresh fruits and veggies into them, you're doing fine.

We do a lot of meatless meals because it's both healthier and cheaper. This isn't always easy with picky kids, but we're finding ways to make it work for us. When we do eat meat, we try to do chicken or lean turkey and lots of fish.

I think the best thing you can do to keep your family healthy is to PLAN ahead. With meals planned ahead, you're less likely to eat out, less likely to eat frozen food, less likely to eat junk, etc.

And an occasional meal of chicken nuggets or mac and cheese won't hurt your kids!

Megan said...

Tannie, there supposedly is a community garden on 6th east, but I would call the extension office. They should know if there is one for sure and where it is at.

Diane said...

Tannie, there is a community garden at the new catholic church on 8th east towards Hyde Park, though it's a bit further away. (Judy and my dad have been super involved getting it started and running. Just talk to Judy if you have any questions.)

About organic, one thought is that it seems with any topic that the extreme people are the loudest.
I got a minor in horticulture, and though it was maybe 5 or more years ago, my pesticides class talked a lot about the herbicides and pesticides that are used on our food. I'm sure not much has changed in the last few years, and I know that then they tested these products like nothing else! At one point they banned a spray that they had used on apples because it showed signs of pre-cancer in rats. But to get to that point you would have had to eat like 10 bushels of apples a day. Ridiculous. I think that fruits and veggies are fine. I don't know about hormones and such in foods, but if it is a food that you eat the skin, just make sure to wash it off. Like someone else said, is there really a difference since 'organic' doesn't follow any guidelines? The best bet if you want healthy, clean food, is to go to your local farmers market! Then you'll know it's fresh! And I think that makes the real difference in healthy. Buy it as close to fresh and just picked as you can! Not something that ripened in a box - it won't have the same nutrients. Anyway, this is long and I hope it makes sense. And, this is mostly just my opinion, so no offense to anyone who buys organic. I'm sure there are benefits of it.

Someone else commented on eating meat: one thing we do is always buy ground turkey. We use it instead of hamburger for everything.

Kaylyn said...

For us there are a lot of things I try to do to eat better and healthy for my family. I plan out meals for at least two week or about a month depending on the shopping tip and $. It helps a lot with making sure we have enough time to cook that meal that night and having variety.

I am a fan of frozen veggies and fruit. I like to have a freezer stocked because then it is easy to pull it out and use it. I am really bad at using fresh sometimes and feel like it can go to waste. Some pros is that it is picked and processed when it is ripe and usually close it where it is grown. It is also the same nutritionally, and sometimes better flavor because it was packaged when it was at the peak of ripe. All the kinds I buy also don't have any additives because it is flash frozen and doesn't need any.
With that said I also love to get fresh produce from farmers market and I am planting a garden this year because it makes good sense to grow your own food if you can. I think that you just have to do the best you can for you and your family.

Roeckers said...

Sounds like for most organic is not a way of life...

I will agree with the comment made about some kids thriving on preservative-free diets. My kids thrive off a low sugar diet. Believe me they still get sugar but a lot less of it. They focus more with less sugary cereals for breakfast, and heavy whole grain breads,with more home made snack where I control the sugar.

Personally I am a taste person. If it tastes good I eat or drink it. I have noticed little taste difference in the few organic foods I have tried. However I buy Organic milk (grain fed with no growth hormones)milk, simply because I love the taste. I spend the extra few bucks on something I can enjoy, and will drink otherwise I normally don't. I also love coconut, but hate all the sugar in it. I buy raw dried coconut without any preservatives from the health food store. It has a lot more flavor and the kids eat it as is for a snack.

Other than that it feel it is a waste of time and money. Wash your fruit good before eating it.

Anonymous said...

Hi all! I know several of you and appreciate reading your comments, etc. Thanks for putting together this blog.

I have recently been learning a lot about "going organic" in trying to keep my family healthy. I have learned, in reference to the terms "all-natural" or "organic" that there are no regulations on who can use those terms, so companies use them trying to get people to buy their products. The key is to look for the round, green "USDA ORGANIC" symbol on the packaging. They do have strict regulations and rules that a company has to live up to in order to acquire that seal, to be truly organic. You can also find the seal on some personal care products, that way you know the company is following quite a strict regimen of procedures to keep your product or produce clean and free of nasty chemicals that can harm your body.

I too have struggled to always buy organic produce because of the cost, but it often plagues me because even though you can wash the produce where you eat the skin as mentioned above, I still worry about the cumulative effect of eating trace amounts of pesticides and herbicides, etc. over a lifetime. Studies are starting to find quite a cocktail of harmful chemicals in elderly people after a lifetime of exposure/ingestion. Just imagine what effect some may have on the small little bodies of our children.

Just some food for thought....

Courtney said...

It seems as though the key is preparation!

*If fruit and veggies/ healthy snacks are cut up and ready to grab or serve you are more likely to eat those vs fatty/empty calorie alternatives

*I heard of a study that found that the junk in fast food causes increased anger in adolescent boys and abnormally young maturation in girls.