If one of your goals is to eat healthy foods and improve your diet, there’s an easy way to make that happen. Simply go organic. Organic fruits and vegetables may be a bit more expensive than other produce found in your grocery store, but the benefits certainly outweigh the slightly higher cost. Foods certified as organic by the USDA meet standards ensuring they were raised without pesticides or other chemicals that are bad for your body and the environment. It’s a win-win.
Once you bring home your goodies from the farmers market or grocery store, put them to good use by preparing them the right way. Here are some ideas to make the most of your organic produce and put together some healthy meals.
What’s the Difference?
There’s a big difference between organic and conventional farming. Conventional farms use chemical fertilizers, synthetic insecticides and herbicides, and they give animals’ growth hormones and antibiotics to promote growth and stave off disease. Organic farms, on the other hand, use natural fertilizers like manure and compost, natural and environmentally friendly pesticides and herbicides, and let animals grow naturally with an organic diet.
Unfortunately, The USDA label certifying your food is indeed organic is not as common as you may think. Farms must meet strict standards to earn that sticker. Foods can be 100 percent organic or simply organic, meaning the product is at least 95 percent organic. If an item has less than 70 percent of organic ingredients, it is allowed to say it’s made with organic ingredients.
Right From the Start
Before you plunk down your dollars for organic produce, make sure it was produced by a local farm. In this way, you can ensure it did not travel hundreds or thousands of miles to reach you. It will be fresher less expensive without transport costs factored in, plus it’s good to know you’re supporting a nearby producer. To find organic farms near you, try a search at LocalHarvest, which lists small farms and CSA programs throughout the United States.
Another benefit of buying local is that you can be sure you are buying produce in season. It’s a good idea to buy produce like strawberries in large quantities that you can freeze or can and enjoy the freshness year-round.
Organic foods tend to be a bit more expensive than conventionally produced foods, due to higher farming costs. Also, because there are no waxes or preservatives added, they tend to spoil faster as well. What great incentive, though, to eat them while they’re at their best-tasting and freshest. You’re less likely to let something rot in the crisper if you’ve invested more money in it.
Keep it Clean
Although organic produce is grown without pesticides and other chemicals, it still needs to be washed. Don’t confuse organic with ready-to-eat! Be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables under cold running water before using it, and use a produce scrubber to get all the dirt cleared off. Dealing with a little dirt is certainly better than dealing with unwanted chemicals.
A Mix of Old and New
Organic produce is nothing new or fancy, just foods produced in a more natural way. Use them in your favorite old recipes or try something completely new to you. Try organic tomatoes and garlic in your grandmother’s Italian pasta sauce or organic chicken in your favorite slow-cooker recipe. Break out of your routine entirely and try organic spaghetti squash instead of traditional spaghetti. Talk to the farmers at your farmers market or fruit stand to discover their favorite ways of preparing organic produce. They’ll likely be more than happy to share ideas with you.
Cooking organic has many benefits, including being better for you and for the environment. Break free from convention and chemicals and try some local, organic food at your next meal.