So we all know that eating a whole foods, nutrient dense, organic diet while pregnant is SUPER important. But why?
When mom is exposed to pesticides, herbicides and other toxins, her liver attempts to clear the chemicals first. Without proper nutrition supporting the liver, it can easily get overwhelmed, becoming unable to rid the body of toxins. Toxins not cleared by mom's liver may pass through the placenta to the baby (source here), who's liver is not fully developed and VERY easily overwhelmed. Ultimately, this can affect their development in numerous ways. A study performed by EWG and Commonweal found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants (I highly encourage you to read it here). Awful!
It's easy to feel frustrated and helpless, I totally get it. I get upset reading this information, too. But there are things you can do NOW to make a difference. So, how does the average person on an average budget know how to prioritize? I really struggled in making decisions on where to splurge on organic and when its OK to buy conventional. So, I wanted to share a few tips.
Now, I must include a disclaimer: most of the information I share in the post comes from my mother, Patricia Ryan-Carlson, MD, CCN. I quickly picked her brain while she gave Kate a bath last week (seriously, she’s the best) on why she recommends certain foods MUST be purchased organic. Her order of importance is as follows:
1.) Meat and Dairy – MOST IMPORTANT
Why? The pesticides and herbicides are fat-soluble, meaning they accumulate and are stored in the fatty tissue of the animal. The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than any plant food. Animal feed that contains animal products compounds the accumulation, which is directly passed to the us. In addition, antibiotics, drugs, and hormones are a standard in raising and slaughtering livestock, all of which accumulate and are passed on to consumers as well. Ick. So much ick.
Grass-fed beef (and butter /milk / yogurt / cheese) and free-range chicken and eggs (Note: not just “cage free”) are absolutely worth the splurge.
2.) Fruits and Veggies
Why? There can be as many as FORTY (40!) different pesticides sprayed on each piece of produce (strawberries being the biggest offenders). Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 here. This guide can help you prioritize which produce items are critical to buy organic and which ones are OK to purchase conventional.
Quick tip: While fresh is always the best, I am big consumer of frozen organic fruits and veggies. It’s totally cheaper! Costco is hands-down the way to go.
3.) Everything else: Grains, snacks, processed goods
Work this stuff into your budget when you can. Thankfully, grocery stores like Bakers, Hy-Vee and Costco have their own store-brand organic items. The smallest ingredient list is best and avoid HFCS and artificial dyes. And, remember: just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
- The 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time. 20% of the time, give yourself a break. Perfection when it comes to any sort of “diet” is unrealistic (Hellooooo Panera bagels and cream cheese).
- Baby steps! Start small and cut yourself some slack. Small changes over time DO make a difference. Move more organic items into your diet as you can.