What to Do When Organic Isn’t an Option

Whether you’re stuck in a food desert or have a tight food budget, you don’t need to be exposed to dangerous pesticides.

Despite the fact that organic food is your healthiest option, buying it isn’t always feasible. A recent study conducted by the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center found that, overall, organic foods cost 47 percent more. And if cost isn’t a limiting factor, not everyone has equal access to fresh produce (let alone organic produce), such as those living in food deserts.

Organic trumps all, since it’s better for you and the environment, but the Consumer Reports study points out that eating conventionally grown produce is still better than not eating any fruits and vegetables. Here are five ways to protect yourself if conventional produce is your only option.

#1. Look for Country of Origin
Knowing where your food comes from matters. If you’re stuck buying conventional produce, aim for these very-low-risk options, according to Consumer Reports:

• Asparagus grown in Mexico
• Avocado grown in Chile, Mexico, or Peru
• Blueberries grown in Uruguay
• Broccoli grown in America
• Cabbage grown in Canada, Mexico, or America
• Cantaloupe from Honduras or Mexico. Avoid those grown in America
Celery grown in Mexico
• Cilantro grown in America
• Eggplant grown in Honduras
• Green onions grown in Mexico
• Mangoes from Mexico
• Mushrooms grown in Canada
• Onions grown in Peru or America
• Papaya grown in Belize, Brazil, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, or America
• Pineapples grown in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, or America
• Prunes grown in America
• Spinach grown in Mexico
• Sweet corn grown in Mexico or America
• Watermelon grown in Guatemala
• Winter squash grown in Guatemala, but not America

#2. Avoid the Worst Offenders
The Environmental Working Group identifies the most pesticide-laden produce on the market, naming it the Dirty Dozen list. Limit eating these foods whenever organic options aren’t available.

To add to this list, Consumer Reports says high-risk produce (in terms of pesticides) include peaches, tangerines, plums (from Chile, but not America), apples (from America, but not New Zealand), green beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, and sweet potatoes.

#3. Clean Your Produce
Thoroughly washing your produce can help clean off the pesticides. Researchers at Consumer Reports recommend washing fruits and vegetables for 30 seconds to a minute, using a produce brush when possible. They even suggest washing foods that you’re going to peel to help avoid contaminating your clean food with pesticides.

Consider making your own produce wash.

#4. Grow Your Own
Don’t want pesticides in your food? You can choose not to put them there if you grow your own food. You’d be surprised what you can grow, even in a small space.

#5. Don’t Rely on Organic Canned Foods
Organic canned foods sounds like a great way to eat organic on the cheap, but you’re just swapping out one evil (pesticides) for another (BPA). The only organic canned-food brand that does not contain BPA or harmful BPA replacements is Eden Organics. Opt for frozen or dried organic foods, instead. Dried organic beans are not expensive, and Consumer Reports found that frozen organic foods are sometimes cheaper than conventionally grown ones.