Akron Children’s Hospital dietitian Lindsay Bailey said a common complaint she hears is that eating healthy is too expensive.
A case in point is organic produce, which for some shoppers can be prohibitively expensive.
But if organic fruits and veggies are out of reach financially, Lindsay said non-organic produce is better than no produce at all. The point is worth emphasizing because fear of pesticide residue has prompted some people to shun fresh produce altogether.
Organic farming, which uses natural fertilizers and no pesticides, yields environmental benefits. But debate has simmered over nutritional and safety issues regarding organic vs. non-organic produce.
Fruits and vegetables have proven health benefits, and experts say kids should consume lots of them whether or not they are organic. Research has shown conventionally grown produce carries more pesticide residue than organics. But there is no proof that the pesticide levels commonly found on fruits and vegetables pose a health risk.
“Research also shows organics aren’t necessarily more nutritious,” Lindsay said. “I would tell people that it’s not absolutely necessary to buy organic, but if you are concerned about pesticides, there are steps you can take to reduce exposure.”
An organization called the Environmental Working Group issues an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue, and a “Clean Fifteen” ranking of produce with the lowest levels.
“A consumer can also do a mixture of organic and non-organic produce,” Lindsay said. “Having fruits and vegetables in the diet from either source is better than not having any at all.”
To reduce risk, thoroughly wash produce. And if cost of organics is a problem, Lindsay noted that buying fruits and vegetables in season is cheaper, and some stores now sell organic produce at comparable prices to conventionally grown produce.
An American Academy of Pediatrics article about whether organic food is worth the price notes that even organic produce may contain some pesticide residue carried by wind, water or soil.