Her lessons start before school begins…

Stretch has gone back to college and the two youngest will begin another year at public school starting tomorrow. The cheer you will hear from Southern Maryland tomorrow morning will be all those moms as their babies get on the buses to school!

Tonight, I had to make a grocery store run for some supplemental ingredients. I can’t get EVERYTHING at the farmer’s market, as much as I’d like to. So I needed carrots, celery, kosher salt, stevia sweetener, peanut butter, and a few other things for the kiddos to pack in their lunches. While perusing the produce aisle for fruits that are lunchbox-friendly, I introduced MG to “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen”. MG knows how much I enjoy buying delicious locally produced food, and she’s heard the word “organic” in our household pretty regularly, but tonight I decided to teach her how to look for organic produce, the difference between organic and non-organic; and when faced with a choice (and a limited budget) what decisions to make to stretch the food dollar AND eat as safely and cleanly as possible.

If you aren’t familiar with “The Dirty Dozen” of food, the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) publishes a list of the conventional fruits and vegetables that are found to be contaminated with pesticide residue. They publish a list yearly based on the previous year’s testing (2012 list is based on the 2011 test findings) and come up with the twelve foods that test HIGHEST in pesticide residues. The recommendation is that when buying these twelve foods, consumers should buy organic if at all possible in order to limit exposure to pesticides. This year’s list in order includes:

Apples
Celery
Sweet bell peppers
Peaches
Strawberries
Nectarines – imported
Grapes
Spinach
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Blueberries – domestic
Potatoes

PLUS Green Beans and Kale/Greens

MG loves apples, so we searched out the organic apples. Her first comment was “they’re so much SMALLER than the ‘regular’ apples!” And while that was true, I explained to her that those bigger apples were bathed in chemicals to give them resistance to pests, and fertilizers to grow larger, and probably sprayed with chemicals to keep them from spoiling while they were trucked in to the supermarket. Whereas the smaller, less beautiful apples looked like they were pulled straight from the tree, and even smelled more like apple. We added organic celery, carrots, and spinach to our cart.

I needed a few other things as well, and MG was in charge of ensuring we stayed on the right side of our Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen food lists. The “Clean Fifteen” are the foods with the least amount of pesticide residue, so if you have to make a decision on purchasing organic or not based on your food budget, these are the foods that are the most “ok” to purchase conventionally:

Onions
Sweet Corn
Pineapples
Avocado
Cabbage
Sweet peas
Asparagus
Mangoes
Eggplant
Kiwi
Cantaloupe – domestic
Sweet potatoes
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Mushrooms

I did get mushrooms, as well as some lemons. I have melon and cantaloupe from my local growers, as well as eggplant, onions, and sweet potatoes. I have my food list printed out into a handy card I keep in my wallet. You can get yours here. It makes remembering a no-brainer, and while I perused the store for other lunchtime staples (chocolate almond milk? Yes please!), my daughter was able to take the card and do her own comparison on organic vs. conventional. She spent the rest of the grocery trip seeking out the organic labels on everything from produce, to ketchup, to her peanut butter! She came out of the trip knowing that her body will be well fed, and I came out of it knowing her mind got some feeding too.

When shopping for anything, we DO watch our pennies, so knowing where I can save when I need to is important. We are not 100% organic in our home, but we are far closer to it than ever before. Up until tonight I have been the only member of the household who has cared enough to be educated, and to take responsibility for feeding the family the best quality possible. Now I’ve enlisted my 14-year old daughter’s help, I’m looking forward to many more organic opportunities with her.

I hope she is too.

Have a great first day at school, MG…and ENJOY that organic apple at lunchtime.

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2 thoughts on “Her lessons start before school begins…

  1. Hi there! I have a request…I realize there aren’t toddlers anymore around your casa but I’m wondering if you could give some suggestion on introducing foods to kids. Mine eats cheese crackers, cheese sandwich, PB&J, mac n cheese, chips and cheese, and cheese. You get the idea of my problem? I own stock in Mirilax!

    • Ok, I’m no expert, just a mom who has a range of kids who have a range of appetites. All of my kids went through the “I only like THIS” stage, and none of them ended up malnourished. What I have discovered, across the board is that toddlers and very young children tend to be more open to eating new things if those new things are simple and interactive. Carrots and dip, apples and peanut butter, an assortment of raw veggies. Also, when younger, my kids were all about RAW fruits and veggies, especially if I let them pick what they wanted and “help” by washing it, and selecting their special plate, and sitting on the counter while I cut it up for them. The boy especially took to fruit before veggies, so take the cheese she likes and give her cheese cubes and grapes? Or cheddar slices with apple! Another suggestion is to let her pick out some stuff from the farmer’s market, or produce section of the grocery store and then she can help you prepare it. It may make her more interested in the food. Finally, and this is what I had to do with my son, limit her choices – to things OTHER than her “easy” favorites. My son refused to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and frozen pizzas… so I rid the house of them. He was stubborn, but he wasn’t about to starve. If she digs in her heels, that’s the last resort. She’ll figure it out, it’s a phase. They like showing their independence… just keep reminding yourself “this too shall pass.”

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