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More and more people are seeing the value in going organic. When you think about it, who wouldn't want to buy organic food?

Fruits and vegetables that are grown organically are free of chemical pesticides and have a higher nutrient content due to superior quality soil conditions.

Organic animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy do not contain hormones or antibiotics - these animals have been raised humanely and fed an organic plant-based diet. Because foods containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) do not require labelling as such, buying organic food is the only way to guarantee the food you are eating is GMO-free. Furthermore by buying organic food, you are helping to support small farmers dedicated to sustainable farming practices.

While most of us recognize the benefits of buying organic food, it seems that the one thing that holds us back is the preconception that we can’t afford it. Here are 10 ways to include more organic food in your diet without breaking the bank:

  1. BUY LOCAL: Imported food often travels thousands of kilometres to get from farm to table. ripening during the trip and incurring ever-rising fuel costs along the way. Local produce from Ontario farms will be fresher, picked ripe and often times less expensive. You just have to know where to look (See Tip 3).
  2. BUY IN SEASON: It’s so much cheaper to eat what is in season and definitely worth the wait. I have worked on an organic farm and, in my opinion, there is nothing better that eating a tomato ripe off the vine in the summertime. Once you try it you’ll never want to eat a truck-ripened tomatoes again! And remember, tomatoes don’t grow in cold weather so buying tomatoes in January is intrinsically more expensive.  It may seem difficult to make the adjustment to seasonal foods when you are used to having all types of food available year-round. However, if you start listening to your body, you’ll learn that it doesn’t want a cold salad in the winter, but rather would prefer a hot bowl of soup or chili.
  3. SHOP AT FARMERS' MARKETS: Support local Ontario farmers by finding an organic market in your neighborhood. You’ll discover some of the best tasting produce, often picked that morning. The prices are much cheaper than buying organic produce at the supermarket, and often cheaper than the conventional produce, since you are eliminating the middleman. These markets may also carry organic meat, homemade dog food and treats, fresh pressed cider, raw honey and more. Shopping at a farmers' market encourages you to become more creative with your cooking; if you see a good-looking squash, pick it up and let it inspire you to create a special dish. To find an organic farmer’s market in your neighborhood, visit www.veg.ca. Some are even open year-round! I recommend you BYOB (bring your own bags).
  4. JOIN A FOOD CO-OP: A food co-op is a non-profit, member owned and operated store that focuses on the sale of organic and environmentally-friendly products. You can save quite a bit on your monthly groceries by shopping at a co- op. If you live in the downtown Toronto area, check out Karma Co-op in the Annex, or contact the Ontario Natural Food Co-op to inquire about their buying clubs.
  5. WASH YOUR OWN VEGGIES: Buying pre-washed vegetables may save a little time, but are often two to three times the price. I suggest washing and drying your veggies before putting them away in the fridge. This way they’ll be ready to go when you need them. Note, however, that your vegetables won’t last quite as long if you wash them first, so make sure you only buy and wash what you know you’ll use in a reasonable amount of time.
  6. BUY BULK DRY GOODS: At your local health food store, you’ll find a bulk section where you can purchase organic grains, beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and other dry goods. You’ll save money buying bulk versus prepackaged (brand name) versions.
  7. JOIN A CSA: A Community Shared/Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is where you purchase a share of a farmer's crop in advance of the growing season. The CSA guarantees the farmer a living wage and a secure market while giving its members access to fresh, local, and organic produce at competitive prices. Once harvesting has begun, you can pick up your boxed share of assorted produce weekly at a predetermined time and place. Most CSA’s will also offer a half-share which is good for singles.
  8. ORGANIC FOOD BOXES: There are companies such as Green Earth Organics, Front Door Organics, Mama Earth Organics and Wanigan that offer home delivery of organic produce. You’ll pay between $25 and $60 per box, depending on the size you choose. The contents of the box will vary from week to week but you are also usually allowed to make one or two substitutions in your order.
  9. GROW YOUR OWN HERBS: Fresh herbs are often frustrating to purchase because you generally must buy more than you need for a particular recipe, leaving the rest to rot in your fridge. So why not grow your own? You can even buy already potted organic herbs and keep them by the window in your kitchen. This way you’ll be able to just pick what you want as you need it, while also knowing exactly what was used to grow them.
  10. DO WHAT YOU CAN: If you can’t afford to go completely organic, you can always make changes gradually. Certain fruits and vegetables have been found to have higher pesticide residues than others and so it would be wise to at least buy organic in those cases. For a list of which fruits and vegetable have the most and least pesticide residues, visit www.avivaallen.com to download a convenient printable pocket guide.

    Switching to organic foods will mean a slight increase in price, but is a well-advised investment in your health.

Organic Food

Aviva Allen is one of  Toronto's leading Kids' Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters.

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