Monday, October 3, 2011

31 Days to a Cleaner Diet {2}: Fruits and Veggies

Happy Monday, guys!  I am a little behind today because we just got back from our 5-year college reunion in Ohio.  It was awesome but we left Luke home with my parents because of the drive and we both missed him SO much!  Our hearts literally ached for him.  Now we are home and he is napping so I’m back with the second post of the series! :) 

 thisblessedlife button[5]
{Feel free to grab the button!  My friend made it for me and I love how it came out!}

This week we’re going to work our way through the major food groups and discuss how to clean them up.  With each category, I will give you a “Good” and “Better” option for you.  (Think of the “Good” category as baby steps and the “Better” category as running.)  Simply choose which one fits your stage in the game right now. 

Hopefully this will help those of you at the beginning of this journey feel a little less stressed out about making changes, and encourage those of you who’ve already started to take the next step up.  :)

As always, if you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments!

So, let’s talk about our first topic:

{1} Fruits & Vegetables

{Truly, the best option here is to grow veggies and fruits in your own garden, and/or buy only produce that’s grown locally.  That’s the premise behind the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – you can check out my mini-review of it here.  Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t have the land to grow all our own food, or the time, or even the inclination.  That’s okay.  Moving on! }


Your better option here, clearly, would be to buy organic everything. 

But that’s ridiculously expensive, not always an option in most supermarkets, and honestly, in my humble opinion, not even entirely necessary. 

The good option is to buy organic foods from the Dirty Dozen list, and don’t stress as much about the others. 

This is what I try to practice with my family. 

I always, without hesitation, buy organic spinach and lettuce, for two reasons:  I feel like spinach has been in the news way too many times for contamination, and also because I can scrub the heck out of an apple or a peach a lot easier than I can manually wash every piece of spinach or lettuce.   (Side note: it really bothers me that almost all organic spinach comes in big plastic containers.  It always strikes me as pretty ironic.  At least they’re recyclable!)

wedding and cedarville 175

Probably our third most purchased product besides those two are bananas, which (due to their thick skin) are on the “12 Least Contaminated” list.  Sweet.

Coming in fourth and fifth in our house would probably be baby carrots and cucumbers, which are ambiguously in the middle. 

Here’s what works for me:  I don’t stress at all about the 12 Least Contaminated (life is too busy for that right now), I always buy organic lettuce and spinach, and I always take advantage of organic veggies when they go on sale.  This means that I’m usually not buying the same veggies every week.  For instance: I don’t buy imported grapes, but if I see organic or U.S. grapes on sale, I buy them.  

Also, don’t knock frozen organic produce!  When they go on sale, they are often cheaper than their non-organic counterparts, which makes buying them a no-brainer. :) 

wedding and cedarville 174

I always, always, always, organic or not, wash my fruits and veggies before eating.  Unless it came from my own garden. :)  I don’t think you can ever be too careful.  Is it annoying?  YUP.  I hate it.  But to me, a non-negotiable step.  {I think it goes without saying that I don't wash my bananas before eating.  That’s obvious, right?  I really hope so. lol}

Here’s an eye-opening chart, taken from the book Real Food by Nina Planck, pages 149-150:

List of pesticides from USDA; 1 is least amount of pesticide, 100 is the most:

Peaches 100
Strawberries 89
Apples 88
Spinach 85
Nectarines 85
Celery 83
Pears 80
Cherries 76
Potatoes 67
Bell peppers 66
Raspberries 66
Grapes (imported) 64

Papaya 23
Kiwi 23
Bananas 19
Broccoli 18
Onions 17
Asparagus 16
Sweet peas 13
Mango 12
Cauliflower 10
Pineapples 6
Avocado 4
Sweet Corn 1

This list is a few years old, so you might notice that cabbage is now on the least dirty list instead of cauliflower.  All the Dirty Dozens remain the same. 

So, let’s break this down into a real-life situation.  Let’s say peaches are your most favorite fruit.  Your local store doesn’t carry organic.  You can’t find a local farm that sells them (one of our local farms practices lower-pesticide use.  Still gross, yes, but my best alternative for fresh peaches in bulk.) 

If you really can’t find an organic peach at the store or a low-pesticide farm, then I would bring the non-organic peach home, scrub it well, then peel it.  The majority of the pesticides reside just under the skin of the fruit, so peeling will help a lot.  Yes, you won’t get as much fiber (and call me crazy, but I actually like the skins of most fruits!), but you’re putting a much safer food into your body. 

I know this got a little long, but hopefully some of you appreciated this breakdown.  

Oh, and one last thought:  there’s something to be said for buying produce when it’s in season.  Taste will be exceptionally better, price is often much more reasonable, and there’s just something to be said for enjoying fruits and veggies when they’re at the peak of freshness rather than when they’ve been sitting in a giant fridge for 6 months.  Just a thought. :)

Now I’m curious:  do you buy organic produce?  How do you decide what to purchase and what to pass on? 


  1. I do the same as you. Certain things I try to get organic and other things I don't care as much about like the bananas. Excited for the rest of your series!

  2. I don't normally buy organic produce, but the way you've broken all of this down for us, I think I might start at least buying what you recommend. I never knew about all of those pesticide counts! We lived in Monterey, CA, for 18 months (aka the salad bowl of the US) and I always felt like I could find good quality produce at a reasonable price, even if it wasn't organic (although, almost everything was). You've encouraged me to really think through what I'm doing now, so thank you :)

  3. I sadly do not buy organic produce. I wish I could and I should probably just do it for some things, but it just seems to kill the grocery budget when feeding two adults and two teenagers who are active and often hungry (C:

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Honestly, just buying produce, period, puts you ahead of the game compared to a lot of Americans. It's still a wiser choice to eat fruits and veggies than processed junk ANY day. Just be sure to wash well - and make changes when and where you can! :)

  6. When it comes to buying frozen veggies and fruits, double check the ingredients. There are many companies that put preservatives and all around 'stuff' that is not good for us in with our frozen strawberries and beans. One brand might be way healthier for us than the other, double check everything. Same with canned goods. As they say 'fresh is best.'

  7. I try to always buy organic, but on occasion I'll pick up something that can't be found organic. For example, I don't think I've ever seen an organic papaya. With a lot of foods I notice that organic tastes better. Organic bananas, for example, have a better flavor when organic. Not everyone seems to be able to taste the difference, but I do.

    ~ Raederle


I'd love to hear from you! Comments make my day! :) I generally respond to comments right here on my blog. If you have a more specific question for me, you are always welcome to e-mail me at blessedlifeblog{at}gmail{dot}com.