Five Easy Ways to Reduce Your Family’s Pesticide Consumption
If you have been eating a typical North American diet and depend on certain convenience or packaged foods, you are eating pesticide residue.
But what's the alternative? After all, organic produce is very expensive and family budgets can only stretch so far.
Here’s the good news: small changes in your weekly grocery purchases can add up to a significant reduction in your family’s consumption of harmful chemicals. And it's easy.
Your first resource in helping to get pesticides out of your food is the 2009 Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) list of the worst conventionally grown food items. EWG provides some straightforward advice on foods to avoid – as well as foods that are relatively safe even when not organic. It’s called the Shoppers Guide to Pesticides and it's small enough that you can take with you to the supermarket to help you in your produce selection.
The Shoppers Guide to Pesticides forms the basis for five easy tips that will help you and your family eat better without turning your life upside-down or breaking the bank:
1. Buy the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” only if you can get organic.
The worst produce items to buy conventionally grown are:
- bell peppers
- imported grapes
Of all the common produce independently tested by EWG, these were the worst - even after washing and peeling the produce! If you completely replace these items with their organic counterparts, you will substantially reduce your family’s pesticide intake.
2. Can’t afford organic? Replace the “Dirty Dozen” with low pesticide alternatives instead.
Not every budget can afford the cost of replacing 12 staple foods with their organic version. However, another way to reduce your chemical consumption is to pick and choose what you replace.
For instance, replace a staple fruit like apples with organic; organic apples tend to be less expensive than other organic fruit. Then, to provide your family with some variety, try a substitution. For instance, substitute conventionally grown watermelon for your regular strawberry purchase. Your family still gets a sweet fruit, but one that exposes them to much less chemicals.
3. Love salads? Buy organic lettuce and bell peppers.
Unfortunately, the traditional salad vegetables are all on the list of biggest pesticide offenders, including lettuce, bell peppers, celery and carrots. Rather than buy all of these items in organic, focus on one or two favorites – like organic lettuce and organic bell peppers – and substitute carrots with tomatoes, and celery with avocado. Avocado provides a great source of healthy fats, which are essential for a child’s brain development. Tomatoes get you a number of bioflavonoids on your plate.
Is organic lettuce getting too expensive? Try a raw cabbage salad. Using cabbage in place of lettuce will also get you a reduction in toxins.
4. Are you buying juice boxes for lunches? Switch from apple to pure orange juice.
Many parents depend on apple juice as a staple in their children’s meals and snacks away from home. However, apples are one of the Dirty Dozen. Washing and peeling do not remove pesticide residue. As a result, you can expect that any apple juice made from conventionally grown apples will also contain higher pesticide residues.
A simple switch to orange juice will reduce the amount of pesticides going into growing bodies, with a healthy dose of vitamin C included.
5. Love kale but can’t find it in organic? Try a related vegetable.
Many times we’d like to eat something – but can’t find it in the organic section. Organic foods tend to be much more seasonal than other produce. As a result, many of our favorite leafy veggies will be conspicuously absent during fall and winter months. If you are dying for kale, try another healthy green veggie from the cabbage family - broccoli. Broccoli is much cheaper and significantly less pesticide is used on it in the growing process.