L'Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec

A Guide to Eating Organic

There are many reasons as to why you should or would want to switch from eating meals mainly comprised of conventionally grown foods, to favoring organic foods. Organic foods turn out to be more local, healthy, and grown sustainably when compared to their conventional counterparts. It may seem overwhelming and impossible to begin this shift, but step by step it can get better, easier, and habitual. Take a look at a few suggestions that may be helpful, which are listed in the last blog post, titled ‘Transitioning to Organic Foods for the New Year’. 

It’s one thing to begin something, and another to stick with it. Despite all the benefits that come with organic foods, favoring them can seem difficult to do at first because of the increase in price. The price of organic foods often makes people back out, give up, or not even begin to try. But there are a few suggestions that could be useful towards your commitment to organic foods while also making it light on your budget, which includes:

  1. Eat seasonally – buying produce that are in season means that they haven’t been imported from far off distances, which also means that they are fresher and cheaper.
  2. Buy in bulk – bulk food is cheaper than individually packaged food and products, helping you save money along the way.
  3. Freeze bulk foods or leftovers – freezing a portion of the bulk food you purchased or the leftovers of a big meal you made helps in your contribution to fight the massive issue of food waste while ensuring that you have extra in your freezer.
  4. Plan menus – by planning what your meals will look like each week you can draft up a shopping list with only ingredients that you truly need. 
  5. Acquire knowledge – read up and learn more about how your commonly-bought produce items are grown. From there you can see if there are more sustainable agricultural methods for that specific produce item, and how you can support that kind of agriculture. Then you can see what the most affordable sustainable options are.
  6. Use your compost – use your compost (made from organic produce) as fertilizer for your garden. Vegetables and fruit that you are growing will then be fed, grown, harvested, eaten, and will then decompose, starting the process over again. It’s a cycle!
  7. Eat out less, or, due to the pandemic, order less take-out – it may seem nice to not have to cook after a tiring day, but it’s so much more expensive in comparison to the affordable option of cooking. 
  8. Check items carefully before purchasing – before buying anything, check that it’s in good condition, not moldy, etc. so that you get your money’s worth.
  9. Check expiry dates – the above point can also be said here.
  10. Subscribe to an organic basket distribution program – the benefits in subscribing to this program is that you support local organic farms. You get a healthy, fresh, local, and organic produce basket in return! Équiterre’s Family Farmers Network has an excellent distribution program located in Quebec and New Brunswick. 

As said before, there are many reasons as to why you would want to turn to organic foods, but there are naturally some people who are more inclined or predisposed than others. 

  1. You are sensitive to chemicals
  2. You are asthmatic and/or allergic to fragrances
  3. You wish to raise your children in a healthier environment
  4. You wish to adopt a healthier lifestyle
  5. You care about the environment

To learn about the details for each of these groups, take a look at the ASEQ-EHAQ’s eco living guide.

In conventional farming practices, every crop has a different requirement for chemical input, with some requiring higher inputs than others. These chemicals then remain on fruits and vegetables, from farm to table. If you’re looking to avoid produce that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue, take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Dirty Dozen list, where the top twelve produce containing high amounts of pesticide residue are listed. The Environmental Working Group makes these lists annually, in accordance with data taken from the USDA. You don’t need to fully avoid the listed produce items, instead you can just swap conventionally grown produce with their organic versions, which would be a safe and good option if you don’t want to fully commit to eating 100% organic.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2020

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

ASEQ-EHAQ also recommends opting for the organic option of root vegetables, which are grown in the ground and therefore absorb the chemicals found in the soil. So, think about adding beets, yams, turnips, onions, carrots, and others to the Dirty Dozen list.

We are what we eat! Choose wisely!