If you are trying to eat more organic foods, then you may already have an idea of which produce is worth buying. There may be some questions up for debate such as “why should we eat organic?”, but the question of “what is organic?” is a bit more clear, thanks to the USDA. Foods that have been certified organic, can have an “Organic” seal on the package. According to the USDA, there are 4 different types of Organic labeling:

100% Organic: “100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”

Organic: “Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic and/or nonagricultural products that are on the National List.

Made with Organic…: “Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.

Specific Ingredient Listings: The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic contents—for example, “Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic tomatoes, salt.”

Even though some products may be organic, such as a small local farm, they might be able to or may not need to list it. Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification, though hey must still comply with the organic production and regulation standards.

The USDA has a wealth of information on the subject if you would like to find out more, and even a great fact sheet for you to print out.

The jury is still out on the health benefits of organic foods. There may not be much of a different nutrient-wise between organic and conventionally grown produce, but there are plenty of ethical and environmental reasons to choose organically grown produce. Organic produce can be more expensive than it’s conventionally grown counterparts. Thankfully, you may not need to buy everything organic.

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s round up of the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic. They deem these crops to be the “Dirty Dozen”, as they are most likely to be contaminated with inorganic pesticides and probably worth the extra money. They include: 

  • apples
  • peaches
  • nectarines
  • strawberries
  • grapes
  • celery
  • spinach
  • sweet bell peppers
  • cucumbers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • imported snap peas
  • potatoes. 

They also include hot peppers as well as kale and collard greens as part of their list.

On the flip side, they have a list of the produce least likely to be contaminated entitled the “Clean Fifteen”. These fruits and vegetables are typically safe to buy as a conventionally grown crop and do not need to be purchased as organic, so save your money! The Clean Fifteen include: 

  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • cabbage
  • sweet peas (frozen) 
  • onions
  • asparagus
  • mangos
  • papayas
  • kiwi
  • eggplant
  • grapefruit
  • cantaloupe
  • cauliflower
  • sweet potatoes.

For further information on how the EWG came to their conclusions, read the report summary.

As the summer starts to wind down, the impending start of school looms around the corner. It may be a challenge to adjust back into the school day schedule for you and your child, but this could be a good time to consider your child’s health and look at ways to improve their eating habits or have them continue a healthy lifestyle now and in the future. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Have your picky eater be a produce picker.  Next time you are at the grocery store, try having your child choose something new. Maybe a funky looking squash or a fuzzy green kiwi. If they are the one making the choice, then they may be more inclined to try and eat it.

Let your child be your sous chef.  Get your child involved when making your next meal. Have them wash the vegetables, measure out seasonings, or even teach them to dice and chop if they are old enough. You may find that they are more interested in trying the dish that they personally helped to create.

Make healthy choices accessible.  Pretzels, chips and crackers might not be the healthiest of choices, but they are accessible. Sometimes, kids may not want to wash, peel or cut up the fruit and vegetables as it is just easier to open the bag of the other snacks. Prep your fruits and vegetables in advance so it is just as easy for them to grab the carrot sticks out of the container in the refrigerator, as it is to grab the crackers out of the box in cupboard. Consider making your own popcorn for a healthy whole grain snack. Many of these healthy choices will make easy after school snacks.

Limit screen time.  Limiting your child’s access to screen time could be a huge benefit to their health. Chances are, they are using computers and tablets at school now. It may be beneficial to limit access to TV, computers, tablets and smartphones at home and especially before bed. Find some fun hobbies or activities for them to get interested in.

Positive family time.  Here at Family Food, we believe that healthy food promotes healthy families, but it doesn’t start and end with the plate. Having the family sit down together at meal times, without distractions can encourage positive bonding experiences and more mindful eating habits. Try to keep conversation positive at the table and make the family dining experience an enjoyable one. Also, try family activities for positive family time in place of family movie nights. Things such as a pick up game of basketball or walks around a park can be just as enjoyable, but also keep your family active and fit.