If you recall, I am writing a series within a series to explain my thoughts on eating organic food, while encouraging you to take simple steps toward healthy eating. In addition, I need to discuss an issue within an issue, which is very important to cover in this series within the series. ;)
What I need to emphasize is this: Whether or not you ever decide to eat organic foods, whether or not you ever feel like organic food is a priority, whether or not you feel like you can afford organic food, no matter where you land on the organic food issue…
None of that is as important as focusing on eating REAL FOOD.
I do feel like it is important to look for healthy food sources. I do feel like organic food is best in many instances. I do feel like we should be wise stewards with the bodies God gave us and work to treat our bodies with great care. I’m writing about eating organic foods because it is obviously important to me.
But if you come away with after reading any of my posts feeling like the definition of “eating healthy” means that “you must eat organic food”, then I haven’t done a very good job of explaining myself.
My reasons for writing these posts about organic foods is simply to answer questions you’ve had about whether or not organic food is important. I think it IS important…but not as important as all of us learning to skip processed, dead, nutrient void food and learning to eat real food.
What am I really trying to say here? If all you change about your diet is to eat out less and eat fewer of the processed foods that are slowly destroying your insides, then you are very much on the right track. If at the very least, you stop eating so many nutrient void “foods”, and start eating more real, whole foods – organic or not – you are going to be so much healthier.
Yes, in my big priority list of Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating, “buy and eat organic food” doesn’t rank nearly as high as my advice to “just eat real, whole foods”.
If my family was in a situation where there was no organic food available or accessible at all, if there were no grass fed or free range animals, if I couldn’t order food off the internet, if my options were completely limited…I’d simply focus on feeding my family basic, real foods. I’d probably go easier on the meat and dairy (because I really only feel good about eating/drinking animal products from healthy sources), but otherwise, we’d just focus on eating real foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, grains, meat, dairy and pasta. (And coconut oil. I’d really break my back to get some coconut oil.)
I wouldn’t love it and I wouldn’t feel great about it, but if truly that’s all I could do, that’s what I would do.
More important to me than eating organic foods is to avoid high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, food coloring and artificial flavors.
Homemade Chewy Granola Bars – easy to make, made with real foods, super delicious!
So there you go. Those are my thoughts.
Now, if you do have organic, free range, grass fed, locally grown, yada yada food available to you (and I would venture to say that most of us do) then I encourage you to look further into these options. That’s what this series within the series is about after all. :) But overall and above all and absolutely positively, focus first on eating Real Food.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Coming up next week in this series: What does “organic” mean – Why I feel like organic food is important – Is it worth it to pay more for organic food?
Thanks for this! We are on a TIGHT budget and while we can get some organic foods, most of it we can’t. Actually the only organics I’m able to get is carrots and occasionally broccoli (as far as produce goes). I was thrilled to find our local Winn Dixie (only in the south I think) with organic red potatoes about a month ago. But I haven’t seen them since. I can also get organic frozen corn and organic corn chips at my local WD too. And because of GMO’s we stick to organic corn products. Now, my dad does have a garden so in the summer (which is here!) we get lots of good ‘organic’ squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupes, onions, corn, beans ect. I am able to get grass fed beef and cage free eggs on occasion. I’m also able to get non hydrogenated (is that the right word) milk and fresh cheeses. They aren’t certified organic but it’s a local dairy that I trust! The rest of the stuff, we do what we can.
Oh and we are FINALLY getting a CSA this summer! :)
So, I think it’s very important but with our limitations, we do our best!
Right now I’m at the point of mainly doing good by getting real food on the table. But when I can afford organic and/or less processed food, I go for it. We are on a super tight budget right now but I try to stay away from the cheaper convenience foods because I know all the sodium and preservatives aren’t good for us. Thank you for encouraging us to eat better! :)
VERY well said Laura! I think the most important thing to remember is to focus on putting fuel in our bodies that will help us do God’s work here on earth. As one of my fav girl friends reminds me (in fact, she’s the one how got me hooked on you and your blog) but she reminds me that no matter how hard we focus on eating right, organic, free range, yada yada, we can still get sick, get cancer, etc… but God is Sovereign.
Well said Laura! I can’t afford to buy organic, but I’m making as much as I can from scratch. I do like to splurge every now and then. You recommended Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce and I ended up purchasing it so I could make my own Teriyaki Sauce, which was amazing by the way. I have also been soaking grains, thanks to you!
Thanks so much for writing this. I am trying to start eating better and have been so overwhelmed with how big of a switch it is to go from one extreme to the other and have stopped looking at each baby step. A friend and I were just talking about how to Eat really “good” food on a tight budget and buying a whole cow is a bit much right now. So thanks for encouraging us on this adventure that we are all just starting out on learning from you who has been doing this for a while now!!!! Thanks for being a Godly example for us to follow.
We just started on our real food journey a couple of months ago. The first thing I switched was our dairy. I started buying our basic whole foods (grains, beans, etc.) in bulk (from Azure) and am opting to buy organic as much as possible. For produce I try to get organic in at least the dirty dozen but really anything with a soft skin or a skin that we would eat. My husband and I agreed that it is important to us to get rid of as much pesticides from our foods. We also are trying to avoid GMO’s. I really am just amazed at what is going on in our food supply and most Americans have no idea! The fact that these chemicals are allowed to be put into/ onto our foods/ animals/ seeds when they have been banned in other countries just amazes me!
With the price of most things going up, our food budget needed to be re-evaluated. Here, the only option for organic meats and most organic dairy are to go to the local health food store and pay BIG bucks for them. We are a whole foods family (for the most part) and where I can buy organic, I do. Mostly though, if we want to feed our children well, non organic meats are going to have to do. We did cut way back on dairy, I do feel organic (raw) dairy is much more preferable then processed dairy products and without that easily available, we barely do dairy. Meat we do buy in bulk, might look into purchasing a half of lamb from a farmer in the state since the lamb season is upon us. I just try to remember to do the best we can, as you always say!!
Agree 100%! We purchase most of our food from Costco and they have an incredible supply of organics. Everything from meat to granola bars! The things that we can’t get from Costco we get from Whole Foods.
We have just recently started this new food journey. The first thing we did was stop eating anything with high fructose corn syrup in it….so basically anything processed that is not organic.
We were concerned that our kids would go through withdrawal from their favorite fruit bar or granola bar, but we found organic replacements that they like even better!
I am just getting educated on the food we eat, which I think is crazy when I think about it! For my entire life I have just “trusted” the food that was on the shelf at the grocery store. No more!
LOVE this series!!
Jess Miller says
Can you also address what your stand is on produce washes and what you know about them? If you can’t buy organic at least wash in a produce wash?
I don’t know what Laura will say, but I’ll share what we do, organic
or not. I usually wash all produce in a clean sink, with a few
splashes of apple cider vinegar (the cheap kind), and a small squirt
of dish soap. I do use a non-toxic, earth friendly dish soap (Sun and
Earth). I soak, with occasional swishing, for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Then I drain the water, spray the suds off the produce with my sprayer,
and refill the sink for a cold water rinse. Finally, as I’m removing
the produce to dry on a towel, I’ll run it under the tap for a second
rinse. There is no need to purchase expensive produce washes. I
figure we wash and rinse our dishes with dish soap then eat off
them, so it’s safe to do the same with our food.
I do think it’s important to wash organic produce well, because there
are some pesticides that are allowed to be used with the “Organic”
label. Now if you grow it yourself, or purchase from a farmer that
you know doesn’t use pesticides, it’s not such a big deal.
Lynn T says
I used to think I could not afford organic eating. And it’s true, I can’t. I can’t walk into my grocery store and fill my cart with organics or go to Whole Foods with a page of things. However, the more I delve into this world/culture of whole food organic eating, the more I see everyday average people who DO it. It’s a way of life that each must choose. It seems when your eyes are opened to this way of living you begin to notice things and talk to people about it. It’s kind of like the pregnant mom who starts to notice signs and commercials that never entered her ears before. Or the play groups of moms around the corner that she never knew before. I am a part of a produce co-op in my small town. I am so grateful. We have chosen to live organic (b/c of many things). So I find it some how or go without. It’s amazing how creative/investigative you can be when cut out processed and conventional. Sorry for the long post, maybe I should start a blog:) I’m passionate about healthy eating. The book Plan-D was a major player in my journey.
Brit @MomAnswersWithBrit.com says
I love this! Thank you so much for writing this series! We are slowly working towards eating more whole foods (we just submitted our first order for Azure Standard yesterday!).
You will LOVE Azure! You can’t beat their prices!
For the last four years we have been a Feingold Family due to my son’s sensitivities to chemicals and dyes. We eat natural foods and whole foods, not organic foods. I am blessed to have both a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods close to my home, as well as supermarkets with organic/natural aisles.
I am not sold on the organic label, although I am sold on the natural one. My older daughter’s LDL’s went down 40 points after we switched to natural foods with no garbage and partially hydrogentated stuff in it. And I bake with butter!
I have read this many times…if you cannot pronounce it, you sould not be eating it!
Thank you for this- so encouraging!
I happened upon a blog the other day that looked like it had tons of great info on healthy, natural living/eating. But after reading a bit, it seemed like she had a holier-than-thou attitude. She even said that if you can’t afford organic veggies, then don’t eat veggies. She was trying to live perfect in an imperfect world.
Thank you for being REAL! I enjoy reading your blog. I’m working towards less junk foods. I think my biggest problem is providing healthy snacks and lunches for my hubby. Otherwise, I cook with real food. One step at a time… :)
As silly as it may sounds, sometimes you have to do things for the husband like peeling his oranges in order to get them to eat the healthy stuff!
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
Although I get what you’re saying, I feel like you completely omitted that genetically modified (cloned) “foods” aren’t “real food”. You can go buy corn on the cobb, but if it’s genetically modified corn, even though it’s technically considerd a whole food, you’re not getting anything healthy.
I buy organic to keep my family safe from GMO’s, and I’m surprised that I haven’t read any of that here. Processesed or not, I’d feed my family cardboard before I’d feed them anything genetically modified.
Totally agree! Stay away from GMOs!!! I’m surprised there isn’t more public awareness of Monsanto and the rest of those GMO goods mfgrs.
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
I pass out brochures that I keep in my diaper bag any time the topic of healthy eating comes p if that makes you feel any better!
I will definitely be getting around to talking about GMOs. I have the post all written (in my head!). I agree with you, GMOs are terrible and I avoid them too. But, many people are in a different place in their healthy eating journey and it’s important to encourage baby steps. But yes, I will be getting around to this topic during this series for sure!
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
I understand baby steps, I just haven’t ever heard you reference GMOs, and they’re much more dangerous than pesticides and white flour. I look forward to your post about GMOs so others can be aware of the foods they’re eating that they mistakenly think are healthy.
Danielle B says
Thanks Laura! Some of us ARE in the baby step phase, and are trying to wrap our brains around this. Not all of us have been doing this for years and years.
It’s like telling a baby Christian you need to be in the Word for 1 hr a day or memorizing scripture every day, when they are just getting into reading the Bible every day.
Those things are important, but but lets not OVERWHELM the person.
What a wonderful post! I, like the previous poster, appreciate how real you are. I am never made to feel inferior because *I* don’t have 250 lbs of wheat in my garage and preserve hundreds of jars of produce every year. Also, your recipes don’t call for obscure ingredients with complicated steps, but are mostly just real food alternatives to basic meals our families already love.
The organic food dilemma is complicated. On one hand, produce is already so expensive (especially in Alaska) that it is hard for many to justify the purchase, let alone the organic kind. On the other, we are just beginning to understand all the consequences of consuming fruits and veggies regularly doused with pesticides. I agree that eating seasonally, frozen, locally, and ordering in bulk can really help with that. Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands in frustration over it all though. In two weeks our veggie CSA starts and my sweet husband is planting some raspberry shoots a friend gave us in our backyard. So baby steps!
One thing that really affected me that I haven’t seen you post about, was from your kitchen eBook about purging the plastics from your kitchen. I have done my best to follow suit and use bamboo spoons and spatulas and Pyrex containers for leftovers. One of the things my friends and I were discussing were how to avoid using Saran Wrap and plastic baggies (for daily lunches and stuff) and how to avoid using the microwave. Thanks!
Charlotte Moore says
I just made these chewy oatmeal granola bars. I used coconut peanut butter and because it was so runny I only used about a teaspoon of coconut oil. I put cranberries, walnuts, and unsweetened coconut flakes in them. They seem to be missing something. not sweet enough for me and I think I would like regular peanut butter next time. They firmed up real well in the fridge, but broke easily as I tried to get them out of the dish.
They were really easy to make.
We don’t usually make room in the budget for organic produce, but I buy it when it is on sale (close to what I pay for regular produce). I have to say one reason to buy organic when you can is that IT TASTES BETTER! I’ve read this is a misconception, but I have to say I notice a difference.
Thanks for the encouragement, Laura. We are soaking our grains and focusing on eating more real food. For us, organics will come in time.
Thank you for your website, first of all – I’ve learned a lot of things about eating well, gardening, and cooking. I’ve applied as much as I can.
For the most part, I really agree with what you’re saying about healthy eating. That said, I do have a lot of trouble – not with the concepts, but with the “putting it in practice” part. First off – the big one – is that I’m a full time university student. Tiny budget + full time job + classes and papers does not leave much time or money for eating well and cooking.
My roommates and I can’t even afford groceries right now…fortunately, we’re living off of a dwindling supply of frozen (very healthy!) home cooked dinners from loving parents, aunts and uncles. :) Produce is significantly more expensive, although I buy what I can whenever I can, and organic produce is through the roof. I’m guessing that this site is mostly aimed towards well-established adults and homemakers, so of course I understand that it’s not people in my situation per se that you’re giving advice to, but I just wanted to thank you for taking the stance that people should do the best they can in their own situations.
I’m so glad to hear (or, well, read) someone saying “It’s not the end of the world if you don’t eat organic.” At one point I really worried about organic/vs regular food…of course, now it’s more worrying about getting groceries period, but I appreciate your stance nonetheless. :)
Thanks again for an amazing site.
P.S…any Canadian readers of Heavenly Homemakers? I love the idea of Azure Standard and the like for when I do have my own home, but I’m having trouble finding an equivalent here in Canada…
Thanks for this article. I am trying to serve my family more natural foods, but have wondered about this very thing. At times I have wondered if I am serving a non-organic food from the dirty dozen, like say an apple, is that really any better a snack than a granola bar? This encourages me to keep on serving the foods that “can remember where they came from” even if that doesn’t always mean organic.
I agree with what you’ve been saying. I recently read “In defence of food” by Michael Pollan and it has changed the way I shop. I never really understood the whole “organic” craze before. I always considered it another yuppie trend and tried to avoid it, but no more. Another interesting bit of info can be found on you tube, called “sugar: The bitter truth”. It’s an hour and a half long, but if anyone is interested in the metabolic effects of fructose it’s well worth the time. Thanks Laura for being such an inspiration during an often overwhelming transition to organic :)
Cooking from real, whole foods is so much cheaper than the packaged prepared foods like boxed pastas, frozen mystery foods, and quick meal-in-a-bags. Once you get your stockpile full of beans, pasta, rice, wheat, sugar, spices, etc, all you then have to focus on is fresh fruits, fresh veggies, meats, and dairy to incorporate into your meals. I would highly recommend Costco, Azure Standard, and WinCo (West Coast) to stock up on bulk basics.
Whether you can afford organic ingredients or not, eating a meal of baken chicken, fresh steamed veggies, and salad is so much healthier and cheaper than an instant boxed meal.
We eat appx 75% organic foods and spend around $500 a month for family of 5. Pretty cheap if you ask me!
I love all the series you have been doing on food. We are trying to switch over to a whole foods diet and get away from all the processed foods. We do eat alot of home cooked meals, but there are the days when I have to work and my hubby and kids have to do dinner. I have just gone back to work, so I am trying to build a stockpile of frozen home cooked meals for them to pull out and eat for dinner. We are unable to eat organic produce because it will not fit in the budget right now. But we are doing the best we can with what we have available. I do have a question though. What brand of pasta do you recommend, or do you recommend making your own. Thanks for all you do to encourage others with your blog.
I do make my own pasta: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/homemade-whole-wheat-pasta or I buy bionaturae organic whole wheat pasta: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001M08XA6?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwheavenlyho-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B001M08XA6
Jen Fortin says
Organic was important enough for us to switch that we cut out other things. For example, we cut out 95% of dairy, esp cheese. We only eat meat 2 nights a week, most of the time, or eat much smaller portion of meat to make it last. It’s all grass fed, organic beef and non gmo feed chickens. Organic meat is ok to eat, but American’s eat WAY too much of it. We purchase no processed foods, unless you consider ketchup, tamari, mustard, etc processed. No soda’s, coffee, etc…
So, it can be done on a budget but you have to cut out a lot of junk, that’s not good for you anyway. It may sound boring, but we have people tell us all the time we should open up a restaurant. Whole foods made by hand are VERY good, even vegan dishes. Just hope that helps, cause I struggled too.
I love what’s being said here. I’m a big proponent of eating from scratch, even if it’s not organic–I worked in the natural foods industry for a bit and while I learned a lot about foods and nutrition, I also picked up several other things:
1) The natural foods/organic industry is still an industry, and it wants money. There are just as many lies about organic food as are told by the “mainstream” foods industry.
2) The label “natural” is misleading–there are little to no regulations on the use of that word in labeling products.
3) Many organic products still contain high-fructose corn syrup, it’s just organic. This also goes for sugar–it is cleverly disguised as “evaporated cane juice”, “cane juice crystals” and all sorts of other names, which are disguising a refined product (albeit an organic one).
This is why I lean towards an “organic if possible” approach, within the philosophy of “make it yourself because it’s obviously better”.
Though I struggle with the financial side of this too, I’m leaning toward preferring a local approach to food. I recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (HIGHLY recommended, though I don’t agree with her views on evolution), in which a family commits to eating only what they can grow themselves or eat locally for one year. One thing I learned is that many small farm operations may not be able to afford to be certified organic, yet are committed to an organic approach to farming. Buying produce from someone you can get to know seems like a good thing, seen in any light.
I know there are other issues here (mostly GMOs), but I’m still learning too and deciding what I think. Reading “In Defense of Food” is my next step. (Sorry for the official-sounding post–I’m obviously not an expert [yet]! :)
Laura, if you get a chance to read Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale, I would highly, highly recommend it. I used to feel less committed to organics, wondering if perhaps even just focusing on “local” was the way to go. But her book was very eye-opening for me. Every time we can support organic farmers, we are helping to keep toxins and poisons out of our environment. That has huge implications for our health and our children’s health. Am I able to buy all organic all the time? No, but I have more of a commitment to it now, after really thinking through all the implications of conventional farming methods.