By Iona Bonamis
Most of us know that proper nutrition while you are pregnant is essential. By getting all of the necessary nutrients that you and your baby need, you can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications as well as longer-term, chronic diseases later on in your baby’s life. What often gets ignored, though, is the quality of the food we eat. I am referring specifically to organic food versus food grown conventionally with pesticides.
Why is the distinction important? For one, there is growing consensus amongst scientists that exposure to even small amounts pesticides can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Secondly, an increasing number of studies have found that organic production of dairy, meat and produce can boost key nutrients in foods, including antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. That means eating organic food not only helps support a safer and healthier environment; it also supports our own health and our baby’s health and development.
One of the concerns I often hear, though, is that organic food is too expensive. While organic food can cost more than conventional food grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the price difference varies from food to food. There are also many options for more affordable organic food. Below are some tips that will help you eat more organic food without breaking the bank.
- Plan ahead on what you want to buy organic and focus on getting the best deals for those items by shopping around various stores and vendors.
- You also want to prioritize what you want to purchase organic. Depending on what you and your family’s preferences are, you may want to focus on buying organic foods for items that are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, which are the foods that often contain the highest levels of pesticide residues in their conventional versions. You may also want to focus on purchasing meats, eggs, and dairy products that have been humanely produced. Or you may want to eat locally and organically produced products. Or you may want to simply purchase as much organic food as you can! Whatever your preferences are, keep them in mind when you are shopping.
- Buy in bulk. Many vendors (including online vendors and farmers) offer discounts when you purchase in bulk. If your family isn’t able to meet the minimum quota, consider asking your friends and families to join in on a buy. There are also many group buys now on Facebook.
- Learn to read labels and get in the habit of reading labels. Also ask the vendor questions about what their various terms really mean. This will help you understand what is really worth spending your money on. For example, did you know that while organic chickens and cows eat organic feed and are not given antibiotics, they are often raised in confinement? The same is true for chickens and cows fed vegetarian feed. Healthier and more humane choices are organic AND pasture-raised chickens and grass-fed cows, as they actually obtain more nutrients and spend plenty of time outdoors.
- Cut out the middleman and buy direct from farmers through farmers’ markets or community supported agriculture (CSA) programs where you prepay a subscription to a farmer’s produce for the season, or pick your own produce at a farm. There are lots of farmers’ markets, CSA programs, and U-Pick farms throughout Metro Vancouver, and they are typically a lot more affordable than buying from a store. Depending on the food item, it can be even cheaper than a conventional version of the food item, and much fresher! You also have the opportunity to ask questions about how the food is grown. And, to top it off, many CSA programs offer home delivery! You’ll find some of my favourites listed here.
- Grow your own food! When you grow your own food, you know exactly what has gone into them. Plus, if you have little ones, they can join in and help out, and learn first-hand where their food comes from!