The pregnant gal's guide to organic food shopping

by Julie Snyder

organic shoppingOrganic foods have popped up at supermarkets and produce stands. You may be tempted, but find yourself passing them by when you look at the price.

Now that you're pregnant, should you switch? Health professionals advise both ways, so you'll have to make your own decision.

It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing choice. You can choose the factors most important to you. For example avoiding hormones and increasing omega-3s might tip the scales in favor of organic milk, but you are comfortable buying produce from the "Clean 15" group.

Why moms choose organic

We asked moms and moms-to-be why they chose to buy organic products. The excerpts below offer a glimpse at the top reasons for choosing organic foods from an individual's perspective.

Concerns about toxic chemicals: "I don't want my baby exposed to so many pesticides," Melinda says. "I worry that organ formation might be affected during early pregnancy and brain development later on, not to mention higher risks for cancers, blood disorders and more."

It's better for the environment: "Organic farming is earth-friendly. I love that it improves the soil and saves water and energy but its biggest perk is the biodiversity. I'm using my baby's well-being as an excuse to buck the extra cost and just go organic," Tiffany admits.

Organic meat hasn't been treated with antibiotics or hormones: "I figure baby and I get enough raging hormones from me, so I decided to buy organic meat, eggs and milk," Renee says.

Organic farmers treat their animals better: Shannon says, "Animal welfare is important to me. I think they should be free to roam and graze. That's why I wanted to support organic farmers."

Produce is not grown from genetically modified seeds: "Some countries have banned GMO foods. Until I can know they're safe, I'll be avoiding crops and products that have been genetically modified. In the U.S. that means looking for 100 percent organic products," Sophie says.

Organic foods worth the price

Dairy

Milk from organic, pasture-fed cows is produced without antibiotics, artificial hormones, or pesticides, and can also provide extra omega-3s and beta-carotene.

Meats and poultry

Meat from grass-fed, organically raised cattle tends to be leaner overall and has about five times the omega-3s of conventionally raised beef.

Produce

The Environmental Working Group estimates that people who eat five servings of fruits and vegetables from the dirty dozen get an average of 10 pesticides a day.

The Dirty Dozen:
Apples, Bell peppers, Celery, Cherries, Grapes, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Potatoes, Red Raspberries, Leafy greens

The Clean 15
On the flip side, another list fruits and veggies are commonly found to have the lowest levels of pesticide residues. It includes asparagus, avocados, sweet potatoes, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet corn, thorough to pineapple, grapefruit, watermelon, honeydew melons and sweet peas.

Soy products

Most of the conventionally grown soy in the United States is genetically modified. In recent years, soy is heavily contaminated with organophosphate pesticides.

By checking labels and choosing organic processed foods, you'll know any soy you're eating isn't genetically altered or grown with pesticides.

Demystifying the organic label

You see "organic" on a lot of food labels. Use this cheat sheet to make sure your product meets your expectations:

100 percent organic: The food contains only organic ingredients
Organic: at least 95 percent of the product's ingredients are organic
Made with organic ingredients: At least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic

Check the package for the USDA Organic symbol, indicating that the food passes the USDA's organic certification standards. If you don't see the symbol on the package, probably less than 95 percent of the ingredients are organic.

Do you think foods grown organically are a priority for you and your family?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.