A blog reader recently asked for basic instruction for going as organic as possible, as cheaply as possible. Based on our experience going more and more organic, here are my suggestions:

–Don’t change everything right away
–For 1-2 weeks, just read the ingredient label on every packaged item you purchase or eat. Notice words ending in “-glyceride,” “,-ose,” “-flavoring,” “-color,” and other words like “high fructose corn syrup,” “added for freshness,” and ANYTHING you can’t easily pronounce. These items are typically created in a lab somewhere and added as filler because it makes the food less expensive to produce, thereby making it more profitable (but more toxic to your body!) Also, notice the serving size and sugar content of nutrition labels. You will begin to notice a pattern.
–After you become more aware of what you are eating, began noticing labels on the front of food packages like “conventionally grown,” “100% natural,” “all natural,” “organic,” and “USDA organic.” Unfortunately none of these guarantee totally natural foods, as there are loop holes in all legislation. But as a general rule, “conventional” is grown according to current standards in the name of profit, “natural” means there are no preservative chemicals added to the finished product before packaging, and organic (specifically USDA organic) means the food was grown in an environment with no pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, etc. It is the safest item produced and sold in commercial stores.
–Start shopping. Do some price comparisons at different stores, as there are significant differences for the same item. Eating healthy is, unfortunately, somewhat expensive. I have found the least expensive method to be as follows:

–Buy any produce that you peel (bananas, avacados, onions) conventional
–Buy any produce you eat without peeling (apples, squash) organic. If money is really tight, get this conventional as well. It will contain some pesticide residue, and perhaps some genetic altering, but at least in can be washed thoroughly and doesn’t contain toxic preservatives.
–Any canned foods should be purchased “organic.” It is generally only slightly more expensive, and can usually be easily found on the shelves right beside the conventional version.
–Buy as few packaged foods as possible. ANY packaged item (crackers, cereal, pasta, etc.) should be bought natural or organic (check the ingredient label to make sure there are no preservatives and that it contains only ingredients that you know! You’d be surprised what they can legally call natural!).
–Several items can be found at bulk discount stores.
–Buy milk raw if possible, organic if not (the brand Organic Valley is a very good one!) Likewise, other dairy should state something like “made from milk from cows not treated with….” Avoid processed cheeses (American, Velveeta, etc), as they are not naturally produced.
–You can cut out a lot of expense by eating less meat, but when you do eat meat, I recommend looking for organic if possible, natural if not. Make sure the label says something like “from cows not treated with ….” Avoid any pork product that says something like “……added for freshness.” If you have storage space, it is least expensive to find a local natural or organic farmer (or call your local butcher) and buy 1/4 or 1/2 cow or pig. This cuts the per pound price almost in half–even cheaper than regular meat! If you can find meat that has been “pasture fed”, even better! When buying seafood, look for the term “wild-caught.” This is generally the healthiest. In colored seafood (shrimp, salmon, lobster, crab) avoid anything that says “…added for color.” It is another chemical. The good salmon is often called “COHO,” and this term is often used instead of “wild-caught.”
–Home-make whatever you can. Breads, pastas, rolls, cookies, cakes, etc. can all be homemade quite easily. If you can’t, try to buy it organic. I don’t trust most “natural” versions of these. I LOVE the website http://www.allrecipes.com/ You can find a recipe for almost anything, complete with reviews by people who have tried to make it.

I recommend that, to physically notice the difference in your health, set a goal to go as organic as possible for 2 weeks. During this time, do not eat out at a restaurant and do not grab anything at a snack area, rather eat only what you buy and make. After 2 weeks, you will likely have more energy, and may notice countless other benefits. If you decide to “cheat” you will very likely experience a stomach ache, headache, indigestion, diarrhea, or worse! Our society has become so immune to the chemicals going into our bodies, that it is actually quite interesting to experience what your body does without them, and what they do to a body that has been without them for a while.

Finally, if you are going to spend the extra money, make sure you get the nutritional benefit as much as possible. The best ways to cook most foods is to bake, steam, broil, or grill. Try to avoid microwaving, frying, or boiling, as the process destroys much of the nutrition.

Well, I think I succeeded in making myself sound like a complete fanatic. Maybe after our past health issues, I have become that. I guess we have just grown more confident in the safety of eating ingredients created by God as much as possible, rather than by man. In any case, I hope I have answered any questions, sparked some ideas and thoughts, and if nothing else, made you more conscious about what you are consuming. If you decide to experiment, let me know! I would love to hear how it goes!