I believe that there is sometimes a common misconception when it comes to eating well: healthy diets must contain organic foods. They also assume that because of this idea, eating healthy is expensive. These two ideas about a healthy diet can cause people to shy away from changing their current eating habits. Either they don’t have the money to buy all organic all the time or they don’t even have access to organic food. They keep eating the same way and tell themselves this is the only way that they can eat. I’m here to say that this just isn’t true at all. I want to help people see that a diet full of delicious and healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive and it also doesn’t have to be 100% organic.
Let’s start with the organic idea. Thanks to marketing and media, the word organic has taken on the association of healthy and that just isn’t necessarily true. Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to bash organic food. I fully support the organic movement, but not everything you see labeled as organic is good for you. I have talked before about the “health halo” that words like organic, gluten-free, and all natural assume. But an organic candy bar is still a candy bar and a candy bar is not doing anything good for your health. Sure, you can feel good that you aren’t eating pesticides or factory made preservatives, but don’t think that the organic candy bar is going to miraculously change your health. Be careful in thinking that as long as everything you buy is organic, it’s healthy. Packaged and processed organic food is still inferior to whole and real food.
Expense is the other issue that hinders people from changing their eating habits. The fact is organic food is more expensive. I wish that we lived in a world where organic practices were the norm and everyone could afford it. Unfortunately that isn’t the case, but that doesn’t mean your health is doomed. I don’t buy all organic food, yet I still manage to have a healthy diet. We are on a tight budget and we can’t afford to buy all organic. Many of you are probably in the same boat. This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat well, it just means you have to be smart about how you shop. When it comes to produce, you can use this chart to choose which foods to buy organic and which you can buy conventional. Generally foods that you peel or discard the outer layer can be bought conventionally without too much worry. Because I have a limited budget, I tend to favor those foods a little more. I buy plenty of bananas and oranges and other citrus, but I also don’t worry too much about buying the other foods non-organically. I just make sure to wash all my produce thoroughly. In the end, a conventionally grown apple is still an apple and it will still trump processed food any day.
That same idea translates to other foods as well. If you can buy organic, that’s great, but don’t stress out about it. As long as you are avoiding the food-like substances that you can find in the aisles of the grocery store, you can still have a healthy diet. Check out this post and this post, to get some more tips on how to be a savvy and healthy grocery shopper. The biggest key is to have a plan and know exactly what you need/want before you get to the store.
When I tell others that they need to eat whole or real foods, I don’t want them to immediately jump to the organic conclusion. I don’t want people to think that I am saying the ONLY way to be healthy is to eat organically. It isn’t the only way and no one should feel stuck in their eating habits because of money or availability. There are ways to eat better, shop better, and ultimately feel better. It’s totally ok if it isn’t an overnight transformation, as slow and steady wins the race. When faced with the choice of what food to eat or buy, make the best choice possible available to you. If that means buying the conventional lettuce, buy the conventional lettuce. A conventional salad trumps organic junk food every time!