We all want to eat a healthy diet free of additives and chemicals, and it’s particularly true for moms-to-be. After all, preliminary research suggests that exposure to pesticides may pass through the placenta and affect birth weight according to Enviromental Health Perspectives.
But the reality is that organic food can cost up to twice as much as conventional. So how can you load up on healthy foods without draining your bank account? Knowing which staples contain the highest concentration of chemicals can help you decide what to splurge on—and when you can save, says Kate Geagen, R.D., author of Go Green, Get Lean (Rodale Books). And shopping smart can help you save big. With the following expert advice, you’ll protect both your health and your bottom line.
1. Prioritize your produce
When produce is sprayed with pesticides, the majority of the residue lingers on the outside. That’s why produce with peels that you discard, such as corn, avocado, and onions, rank among the safest, according to research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). So if you’re looking to trim your grocery bill, choose the conventional varieties of these fruits and veggies.
On the other hand, it’s worth it to spend on produce with edible peels. Apples, celery and cherry tomatoes top the list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides. Researchers from the EWG say that switching to organic versions of this “Dirty Dozen” can reduce your pesticide exposure by up to 80 percent. For a full list of cleanest and most contaminated picks, visit ewg.org/foodnews.
2. Shop big-box stores
“It’s amazing how widespread organic foods have become,” says Geagen. She suggests checking out the selection at large stores, like Target, Costco and Wal-Mart. Many offer organic baby food, canned goods, and snacks, as well as dairy products and produce. But remember that “organic” isn’t synonymous with “healthy,” says Geagen. “Organic cookies and chips are still high in calories and fat.”