Organic vs Local: How to choose the best produce for your family

Organic vs Local: How to choose the best produce for your family

  • Healthy Eating

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    Going to the farmer’s market this weekend? Amongst all of the gorgeous displays of produce, you may find yourself wondering about the differences between organic and local produce. Contrary to popular belief, not everything at the farmer’s market is organic.

    But does it matter? It depends on what your goals and ideals are around choosing food for your family.

    The word local can have different meanings. Sometimes, local means grown within city limits, or a 50 – 100 km radius from the market. Other times, it could mean grown within the province. To know where a food is grown, just ask! One of the greatest benefits of market shopping is the ability to talk to the people who grow the food. It’s an experience you just can’t get in the grocery store.

    If local food isn’t organic, what are the benefits? Locally grown food helps keep money within the local economy, produces jobs for your neighbours, reduces food miles and ensures diverse local food production for a healthier food system.

    At the market, the organic choice may or may not be the most local. While the word local isn’t always strictly defined, organic agriculture is bound by a well-developed system of regulations around how food is grown, what inputs can be used and how the foods are processed. Eating organic helps reduce your exposure to artificial pesticides and herbicides and traditional organic growing methods help create healthier soils for the next generation.

    Ideally, locally grown organic produce would be widely available and affordable…but that isn’t always the case! Most important is choosing the freshest produce possible because it will likely be the tastiest – so your family will eat more of it!

    If choosing organic is important to you, one of the ways you can maximize your food budget is by taking a look at a list called the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Produced by the Environmental Working Group, the lists rank produce in terms of the amount of pesticide residue typically found on produce at time of purchase. You can prioritize your spend by selecting items on the Dirty Dozen list from the organic stalls and feel more confident buying conventional versions of the Clean Fifteen items.

    At the market, you may also find produce that, while not organic, is grown with minimal or no pesticides. This occurs often because the farm is in transition to a certified organic status or simply because they choose to grow that way, without wanting to go through the administrative hassles of certification.

    Whatever you decide, summer is the tastiest time of the year to eat well. Enjoy every last bite!

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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vegetarian cooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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