Friday, April 13, 2007

Organic or Commercial - What Products Do You Use to Feed You Kids/Family?

I was wondering. When you buy food for your family do you go for organic/locally grown products or commercial. I have been always very aware of the foods I eat, however, when Soeren was born I really took a closer look at what we were eating. As I read and researched many things surprised me and as I learned from what I was reading I also started slowly switching the type of foods I was buying. I would look for locally or organic products. I shopped for my fruit, vegetables more at the Farmer's market or organic shops rather than at grocery stores.
When Soeren started eating solids, I cooked almost only organic vegetables and fruit for him. That was five years ago when the "organic trend" had just started. Ever since then many researches and studies have been made that organic food is indeed healthier as it contains less pesticide and toxins. Today, when we buy fruit vegetables, diary and meat products, we still opt for organic and locally grown products. We have been on an "organic" diet consciously for five years. We do not buy organic products blindly though - only those that really make a difference, like fruit, vegetables, meat and diary products.

Out of my own experience I will say we do feel better. I myself have noticed more energy in myself (if that is ever possible LOL!) But I see the biggest evidence in my son. In comparison to my friends who chose commercial food, Soeren is really healthier and fitter. He does not suffer from allergies and is not ill at the slightest sneeze. I am not saying that this is all due to eating organic food but I believe it contributes to our health - and not to mention our environment.

Over at the Daiy Tiffin I had written a series of articles about Organic food. I would be very interested in your opinion about the articles on the DT and here I am keen to know if you use organic or commercial and why.

29 comments:

indosungod said...

Meeta great topic, we consciously made a switch to Organic Milk being scared of all the harmones being added to increase milk production. Where Produce is concerned I look for organic expecially for fruits where we eat the skin like strawberries, apple etc.

But going Organic is not always easy on the wallet it is 2-3 times more expensive. 1/2 gallon organic Milk costs more than a gallon of Regular Milk.

Asha said...

Phew,3 new posts in one night!!!:D

I am catching up now.Thanks Meeta ,it's great information.
In India,we all naturally ate Organic food without knowing that they are "organic"! Here in US,yes they do add all kinds of stuff to grow bigger and tasteless veggies.We do have a small isle for organic food in the super markets but as Indo said very expensive!! I wouldn't pay 3 times more for a bunch of Cilantro!
It's great to go with Organic if you can afford it and have a small family.I am planning to grow my own organic veggies from next month,can't wait.I also freeze some veggies if I can to use them in winter!:)

Sandeepa said...

Meeta
My 2 cents

When my daughter was an infant I used to get Organic Baby Food (the jars) and also some organic veggies like carrots, tomatoes to make her food.

When she started on Whole Milk, we switched to Organic Whole Milk for her and also Organic Eggs. The Eggs are yumm.There is this brand called "StonyFields Farms" who have a line of organic dairy products. I try get their smoothies etc. for my daughter.

However for other fruits and veggies though I get them from Farmers Market, they are not Organic I think. The local Farmers Market do not sell organic produce as in they are not labeled Organic.

Where I live there are stores like "Whole Foods" (a good chain) which has a large organic variety. However these stores are few and I have to travel 40 minutes to ge to one, so its only rarely that I go there.

The Generic SuperMarkets again do not have a variety of Organic Produce. Some stuff like Milk, Eggs, Tofu, Carrots etc. are available as Organic but all fruits or veggies do not have their Organic counterpart.

Sometimes I do get Organic Chicken too. Many of the Chicken packaged as a brand called "Natural" is not really organic I realized, so if you are speaking of packages labeled as Organic there is little choice.

Also as Indo said, price is a factor too. To go totally Organic it would be very expensive. At least "Whole Foods" turns out to be pretty expensive if I buy only Organic produce from there

Sandeepa said...

Speaking of which -- Have you guys tried the kashi Brand of Granola Bars ? Its Natural and very tasty. The Cereal I didn't enjoy much but the breakfast bars are great with oat, flax seeds etc.

Sharmi said...

Nice topic Meeta,
I usually get my veggies from farm market and Indian subzi mundi, but dont really know if it is organic. you made me think on it. after coming to US I have become more aware on what I buy. I see the nutritional facts for trans fat, for high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients etc. even sugar content. makes me really know what I and my family are eating. will post some more on this later.

cheers
sharmi

Sandeepa said...

Sharmi
Indian Sabzi mandi is definitely not Organic. Thats with me too I buy a lot of my Indian Veggies/other grocery items from there.

If its Organic, it will say "Organic" on the label some where, actullay it will be pretty prominently displayed as the price is hiked :)

Dee said...

Hi Meeta,
I buy organic diary for Chintu and select veggies/fruits are organic (like carrots, celery, bananas, apples..), since I know that these have higher pesticide residue.
It is more of a personal decision for me because I am a vegetarian and I know that we will be losing more vitamins and nutrients as the shelf life of the regular ones are greater than the organic. So I wanted to make sure that whatever that we get the most of whatever the little nutrition is available. There was an article in last month's (or the month before's) 'Parents' magazine regarding buying what in organic really matters.I'm sure the web should have this info too..
-Dee

Asha said...

Here is a definition of Organic,

"Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones",

From this site:
http://www.organic.org/home/faq

Now you know Indians in India grew up eating MOSTLY "organic" food and meat!;D

In US, yes,we do need to look for Organic labels if you want to buy anything grown naturally!!!!!

indosungod said...

Sandeepa I totally forgot the eggs, in our household Organic Milk is for the kids, we adults drink the regular milk but the eggs all of us eat either free range or organic eggs.

Organic is going commercial in a way, since everbody is getting conscious about organic foods and their benefits the food industry is trying very hard to water down what constitutes Organic, so we have to be very careful in reading the fineprint (Oh! how we hate that). It is always not easy being an informed customer when 15-30 minutes is all you have for shopping.

Sheela said...

Meeta,

Thanks for bringing this up - I took it for granted until now - We have been using organic for a long time...

Talking to some of my friends living in different cities, apparently, i got lucky - my city has several farmer's markets and organic and health food stores... plus in summer we grow our own veggies and fruits using compost we make at home, no fertilizers; in addition, we visit local farms and learn about how they grow their produce and buy regularly from them.

Unlike other food labeling fiascos (like "free-range" for instance), the USDA Organic seal says that a product is at least 95 percent organic. http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html

Now as to whether we use 100% organic foods only, I cannot say yes. But, in the long run, I do believe there are health benefits - especially by not consuming the pesticide and wax...

Kay said...

I'll jump in with more stuff later, but just wanted to sneak in for a moment to say - Indian food isn't naturally organic. Indian farmers uses a very high amount of pesticides and fertilizers (even those that have been banned elsewhere like DDT which produces birth defects).

Here's a post on my blog on why I chose organic stuff...

Those of you that grow your own produce, :) Wow! I so proud of you all! I wish I can do that right now... maybe soon! And hopefully some of you with those lush veggie gardens, can guide us newbies.

Praba said...

Nice post, Meeta.

Like others, we do organic milk, eggs, yogurt, cereals, bread etc both for us and for the kids..Our local organic market is Wild Oats. Veggies - we are slowly making a transition on that front too...
I try to look for sale items in veggies/fruit in the organic market, and you often find some. Bananas, Brocolli, mushrooms, beets etc. we buy organic and they are not overly expensive - taste yummo!

But we still buy some produce from generic/desi stores - a combo of all three stores works for us for our produce...I am not sure if I will go completely organic on the produce...I like lot of the desi veggies - okra, egg plant, karela etc...which we don't get anywhere else..

I guess, with veggies since we don't consume raw, I am ok with regular stuff - wash and cook nicely - i feel like I am safe. (but you never know...)Fruit, we stopped buying grapes - because I read it has the highest amount of pesticides...

Snacks for kids - i to the most part try not to get from regular groceries..but in the organic market, we get fruit leather, snappea crisps( i want to recommend this to folks - yummo!), nut bars, etc..and cookies baked fresh from bakery - no popular brandnames....no Lays chips, no oreo cookies...might show up when we are traveling and stuff - for the road.

I believe in supporting fair trade foods too (coffee etc), alongwith organic - so we try to sneak in that too once in a while if our grocery bills permit..

will post pics on my foodblog on healthy snack ideas...i did one on fruit leather once...

SJ said...

Hi Meeta, interesting topic.
For milk, and other diary and eggs I buy organic. Most fruits as well. I have been making bread for my family for the last 7 months or so I guess that qualifies :-)

When my daughter was younger I bought organic as far as possible for her. Not she eats what we do and buying organic for everone all the time gets expensive as well doesn't have the wide variety of regular stop. I must explain here, I like to make one stop and get all my groceries as far as possible. So I go to Fred Meyer, or Safeway as opposed to Trader Joes or Whole Foods for my weekly grocery trip. An occasional trip to these places are great when I have time.

I once read an article that girls seem to be reaching puberty in USA as early 6-7 years. Though it as not been proved, it is suspected by many pediatricians that it has to do with all the growth hormones in milk and animal products.

I am surprised to see most mom's on this forum seem to be going organic to a higher degree than I do :-) I used to think I was the only "worry wart" since in my daughter's daycare class of 8 kids, I am the only mom who brings sends milk from home (to ensure she drinks organic).

Praba, I didn't know about grapes. A loves grapes, unfortunately I have not been buying organic as the adults at home eat them a lot too. A healthy snack I have discovered at Costco are the organic soyabaens. My 2 year old loves them, especially opening the pod (they are in the pods like peas) is like a game for her.

Sandeepa said...

SJ
I don't send milk to school, she drinks her milk there. Now you got me worried !!!

Shall search for the Soybean here.

However my family eats 98% non-organic I would say, because most of our meals are regular Indian meals with veggies and spices from the Indian Grocery

The Fruits seem to be a good idea but to be truthful I have not really seen a wide choice of Organic Fruits always. Is this true with all other states ?

I have only heard of Whole Foods and Wild Oats here but they are scarce

Sandeepa said...

Ok so as I was Googling this is what I see
Despite claims that organic foods are better for your health, no clear scientific evidence exists that organically produced foods provide a health or safety advantage. Nutritionally, organically and conventionally grown foods are the same. However, it's important to note that organic foods may perish more quickly if they have been in the store longer. Freshness may matter more than anything else.br/>
this is the URL:
http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/cancer-patients/prevention/nutrition/organic_foods.cfm

What do you think

Reena said...

Sandeepa, I love Kashai brand cereals too. Actually I eat it any time of the day.:)):))

Meeta, I am also very careful when it comes to my 3 year old. I used to give her half and half in the beginning when she was not eating properly but then switched to organic whole milk.

Will post in detail later. Now pressed for time.

Praba said...

hi sandeepa -

don't worry, please. sometimes I wonder it's all a hype...lets not get worried...i let my kid eat a whole summer of junk cereal last year...

may be you could try the horizon individual pack of milk cartons - comes in plain, chocolate, vanilla (starbucks has it) - you get it in costco and w/oats, whole foods too - my cousin buys it in bulk from costco, and sends it to school in her kids' lunchboxes..

Kay said...

Sandeepa, Organically produces stuff may not have 'extra' vitamins, but they dont have any chemicals pesticides or fertilizers. The keyword here is 'no pesticides', not more nutritious than 'GMO' or conventional(pesticide laden) foods.

Organic food need not be expensive. There are so many other places to buy organic stuff with a smaller budget. Oh gosh, I have to rush now. I will write a post on that soon - where to look for organic stuff other than Whole foods/TJS/Wild oats.

Sandeepa said...

Praba
Thanks for the info. I have been looking for such cartons but have yet to find them. Let me try again.
I get the "StonyField Farms" Yogurt Drinks though. But again they taste best cold and S doesn't like them if not chilled :( so I avoid during winter

Praba said...

good info on the google article, S. Hubby and I often debate whether the extra price you pay really buys better health or just mental peace of mind or both...There's no such study I think that measures the marginal benefits.

Even with the organic labeled foods these days, I feel a little uncomfortable and skeptical whether to believe 100 percent or is it all a marketing gimmick...I cant trust.

Milk is something that we all agree I think it's important to go organic - once a day 6 to 8 ounces of regular milk wouldnt do much harm...In India, i saw a piece on sun tv the other day as to how many kinds of hormones cows get injected to make more milk in one of the milk farms in chennai...I was shocked...I grew up on Aavin milk, and did my mom worry about what hormones went in? I didn't grow big feet..:-) (reference: read an article sometime ago that growing up on hormone injected milk has led to some odd disease where one can grow ogre sized feet...hee...hee...)

Cornucopia - cornucopia.org - is an organic industry watchdog...read this shocking article about dean foods that markets horizon label - http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/0510-17.htm -

to quote parts of it:

"Some of these large factory farms, including one operated by Dean Foods that is selling milk under their Horizon label, are gaming the system,” said Kastel. Dean has admitted to shareholder groups that in order to maximize profits, they sell all of the calves born on their 4000-head farm, allowing them to save on providing expensive organic feed to animals for the first year of their life. They then purchase one-year-old animals that have been administered drugs and been fed nonorganic feed to replenish their herd."

any thoughts?

Meeta said...

I am really glad that this has started an interesting discussion. First what I notice from the feedback here is that there are huge differences to buying Organic food in the US and Europe. Here in Germany Organic food stuff is getting more affordable. The guidelines and regulations for organic food stuff is very strict and as Europe grows many organizations produce organic food stuff in the "cheaper" European countries like Bulgaria etc. but under the strict eyes of the German health board. So, this allows us to purchase organic food cheaper too. So, just as an example. The store I buy some of my organic fruits and vegetables also offers a certain conventional produce variety. The price I pay for one conventionally grown kiwi is 0.39 cents (EURO cents) and for an organic kiwi is 0.45 cent. the difference of 6 cents is really worth it in my mind.

Second point is what Sandeepa researched on the net. That is not entirely true. As Kay mentioned that organic means no pesticide, chemicals or fertilizers. But it also means no artificial flavors and it does also mean on average on average, do contain higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C, and antioxidant phytonutrients. For this I would request you all to read Is Organic Healthier?, an article I wrote for the Daily Tiffin. I also recommend to check the Helpful Reads links at the bottom of this article.

Praba, organic food controls go through very watchful eyes. Each country has its own regulation board and define what the guidelines are for food stuff be be allowed to be labeled "organic." I also researched this in great detail and documented my findings in an article What is Organic?.
I know for a fact the the UK and Germany are two countries that have the strictes rules. And even all other countries exporting their food stuff to these countries have to qualify with guidelines defined by these. The European Union too has a regulatory board that defines what can come into Europe that is labeled "organic." in the US it is the US National Organic Program (NOP). There are always certain black sheep - everywhere and I appreciate those people who set out standards to smoke these black sheep out.
I do not want everyone to think I am an organic hippy mum or anything. In the end it is a choice you make. I buy organic wherever I see the sense in doing so. I know I am doing something good for my family and yes that does give me peace of mind - I also get my peace of mind knowing that I am doing good for my environment too. Because in the end I am giving a piece of Earth back to my son who hopefully will benefit from it.

indosungod said...

Sandeepa, have you tried Trader Joes? their prices are reasonable compared to Whole Foods. Safeway and Giand carry their own brand of Organic foods much cheaper than the national Organic brands. So your local grocery store should have their own organic brand.

We have another one in our area called My Organic Market (MOM) where the prices are reasonable and they carry special varieties of food not available in regular stores.

But for foods we buy in the Indian store there is no organic, for that matter don't even have a clue where they are grown.

Grapes and in vegetables brinjals carry the most amount of pesticides. So if you do not get organic grapes, before you eat the grapes put them in salted water for an hour or two and rinse them out. This should atleast remove most of the pesticides on the skin atleast. My mom does this in India where grapes looks white in color with all the pesticides.

Meeta, Europe has been aware of organic and Genetically modified food for a longer time, and I hear the controls/checks are much stricter than what it is in the US. People here are only now starting to realize the adverse environmental and health effects of these types of foods.

Sandeepa said...

Indo,
NJ doesn'y have Trader Joes.
Theres Whole Foods and Wild Oats but the former is buying the latter I heard

The local grocery stores, Shop Rite, Stop & Shop (those are the supermarkets in NJ) have very limited organic choice.

Dairy, Eggs, Tofu and sometimes chicken yes available as organic.
But veggies not much as I said before

Me too said...

Hi, first time here.

I switched my daughter to organic milk recently and try to give her organic veggies(carrots, peas) whenever possible. Reading about high pesticide levels in common fruits/vegs is really scary!

BTW, I have a question. How do you send milk to school? I mean, won't they go bad without refridgeration for more than 3-4 hours?

Sandeepa said...

meeta
I should really thank you for this post. I realize Europe is much more Organic aware than US. But is this all over Europe or in the main cities.

Because even in the US if you are in Manhatan, DC etc. I guess you have more choice to go organic than the suburbia

Sandeepa said...

Me Too
You can ask the teacher to refrigerate at least in my daughter's school they ask me to label her perishable food items and then they put it in the refrigerator

Or else you can send it in one of those lunch boxes with cooler. I think they are called small lunch coolers
Check this
http://www.keepyourcooler.com/lunchcooler5.html

And 3-4 hrs at room temp should be ok I guess, the class rooms are not very hot, not sure though. What do you guys say ?

Me too said...

Thanks, Sandeepa!

I'm not aware if such refridgeration procedures are followed in my daughter's pre-school. May be when she starts elementary school, I'll try that.

Meeta said...

Sandeepa,

Actually, as people here are more "organically aware" of what they eat many of the supermarkets are offering organic products. So, even in smaller towns you will be able to find a supermarket that offers its own organic products. In the bigger cities, of course, you have more variety and offers.

Many farmers offer a "bio-kiste" which means an organic crate. Where every week you get a crate, different sizes for different prices, filled with organic vegies, fruit, eggs, milk. These are then delivered right to your doorstep. So, those people living in rural places can check the internet if they can find such a service near them. I get a crate every other week and pay 25 EURO. In the crate are vegetables, fruit of the season, cheese and eggs. Being organic I have to use this very fast. Those things I cannot use I steam gently and freeze. In the summer I make a lot of fruit purees for example and in the winter months Soeren gets these in his lunchbox.

Man! Yet another LONG response SORRY!

Vani said...

I started eating Organic food about 3 years ago and am a staunch supporter. We are blessed with an Organic Co-op and Whole Foods Market here in Houston, but I still think for a city as big as Houston, it has very small percentage of people who are into Organic Food.
I buy most of my grocery organic, including some daals like moong, masoor, vatana (dry), and most flours, and rice. When I started, it was quite expensive compared to the commercial grocery in super markets and Desi stores. Now, the gap is reducing, thanks to growing support and more research.
My kiddo, who is in her 7th month is on exclusive organic diet, except part of her formula. I mix Organic formula with her cereal, but for just milk, she likes only Enfamil coz thats what the hospital gave her at birth and she associates that taste to milk.
I think its really important to watch what we feed our kids. For example, researches have proved that the hormones in milk, diary and meat do alter the way our glandular system works. This might be the reason why girls as young as 7 years hit puberty. It scares me to death explaining a 7 year old about changes in her body and what it means, and the whole nine yards of protection....I'm ready to spend few more bucks a week just to postpone that episode to few more years...