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As a kid, when I found a small animal eating my apple from the inside out, I would freak out and give it to my brother. Nowadays when I find a hungry caterpillar eating my greens I am so happy I could kiss it.

We have recently switched to organic food. For years I have been walking into the organic food shop looking at the prices and walking out again. But I finally decided that I can no longer ignore the dangers of all the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on my inorganic produce that are quietly poisoning us. So I made the switch.

The first thing I noticed was how good the food tastes. Tomatoes taste like the ones my grandma used to grow. Broccoli taste like broccoli is supposed to taste. My 5yr old who was fairly impartial to fruit now asks for fruit platters all the time and my 4yr old now eats zucchini. Because the food costs a little more absolutely nothing goes to waste. I use all the stalks in soups and stews and all half eaten bits of fruit go into a smoothie.

There are hidden costs to cheaper food. There is the cost to our planet and the cost to our long term health. Organic food does cost more but can you really put a price on your health?

If you haven’t already made the change here are some tips to help you ease into it.

  1. Find a farmers market.

Farmers Markets are a great way to get excellent produce at a good price. The food may not always be certified organic but it is usually chemical /pesticide free. Ask the farmers about their farming processes and decide for yourself. It is a great way to connect with the farmers and appreciate where your food comes from. Nothing tastes better than a wax free apple picked that morning.

  1. Start gradually.

You don’t need to rush out and buy everything organic today. Start by working out which fruit and veg you use the most and then find out which ones are the most heavily sprayed and decide to switch to organic for those 4 or 5 vegetables from now on.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes out with their Dirty Dozen list every year which is the shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. According to them the worst offenders are:

Strawberries, Apples, Nectarines, Peaches, Celery, Grapes, Cherries, Tomatoes, Capsicum, Potatoes, Cucumbers, Spinach/Kale/green leafy

It is hard to buy a punnet of organic strawberries for double the amount of conventional, I know, but the many pesticides used to grow strawberries are amongst the most dangerous and controversial. I would prefer to pay more and eat them less often.

Potatoes too are grown with some very nasty fungicides which surprised me. I assumed that because they grew in the ground they would require fewer chemicals. Not so.

You could start by committing to buy organic apples, potatoes and leafy greens from now on.

The EWG also comes out with their ‘clean 15’ guide. This is a list of produce that uses the least amount of pesticides. This includes:

Onions, Pineapple, Avocado, Corn, Cabbage, Peas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant. Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Banana, Sweet potato, Grapefruit, Mushrooms.

Generally, the thicker skinned vegetables require fewer pesticides.

Eventually you might want to consider switching to organic coffee, wine, milk and grains but for now just choose some organic vegetables from the dirty dozen list and you’ll be off to a great start.

*I do believe organic, grass fed meat is a must. I don’t compromise on the meat. I’d rather eat less and ensure I’m eating the best quality. The hormones given to animals to enhance growth and the antibiotics which are needed to prevent disease because of the crowded conditions these animals live in, are bad for the animals and bad for us. Support farmers who respect animals and buy organic, grass fed meat (and eggs and dairy).

  1. Wash your produce.

It’s important to wash your produce before eating it this goes for conventionally grown as well as organic vegies. Although you can’t wash most of the pesticides off because they are systemic which means they penetrate right through the fruit, you can wash off the spray that sits on the fruit. Sadly even organic vegetables can have pesticides on them because of spray drift from neighbouring farms.

  1. Don’t stress out about it.

Don’t worry if you are not able to switch to organic right away. Stressing about it won’t help anyone. Don’t avoid all the fruit and veg in the dirty dozen list just because you can’t afford organic. It is definitely better to eat conventional vegies than none at all. Do what you can. Whatever small changes you can make will make a difference to your toxic load.

According to EWG, “consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest. If consumers get their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown produce ingest less than 2 pesticides daily.”

So eat organically where possible and wash all your produce really well. Remember, if your lettuce is safe for a caterpillar to eat then It’s safe for you to eat.

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