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Let’s Talk Organic

From macaroni and cheese to peanut butter and wine, it seems that just about everything is marketed as “organic” these days. With so much buzz that “organic is better,” you may have found yourself reaching for the slightly more expensive organic chicken at the supermarket without really knowing what it means. Don’t worry—you’re not alone.

What is organic?

The National Organic Standards Board defines “organic” as a labeling term signifying products made under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. The term denotes different things depending on the type of food:

Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts and Grains – Grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, have not been genetically modified or exposed to sewage sludge or irradiation.

Beef and Chicken – Raised on 100% organic feed and not given growth hormones or antibiotics.

Milk and Eggs – Organic milk comes from animals that were fed 100% organic feed for at least one year and were not given any antibiotics or growth hormones, such as rBST. Organic eggs come from hens fed a 100% organic feed diet and also not given any growth hormones or antibiotics.

Seafood   – Organic claims are null and void, as the USDA has not yet defined this term for seafood.

Understanding the Product Label

100% Organic” –All ingredients are certified organic. Contains USDA organic seal and/or “100% Organic” claim.

Organic”— At least 95% of ingredients are certified organic. Contains USDA organic seal and/or “Organic” claim.

Made with Organic Ingredients”— At least 75% of ingredients are certified organic. Does not contain the USDA organic seal, but may state, “Made with organic ingredients.”

So is organic better? It depends on your definition of better. Organic foods contain fewer pesticide residues, are said to taste better (although this is subjective), and research shows that fruits and vegetables may contain slightly higher levels of vitamin C. But buying organic might not be economical for every food item. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), you can reduce your pesticide consumption from fruits and vegetables by 90 percent simply by choosing organic for “The Dirty Dozen.”

But above all, remember that when it comes to eating better, it is far more beneficial to consume a nutritionally-balanced diet rich in conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, than to focus solely on consuming limited sources of organic foods.

In addition to the possible benefits organic foods may provide, organic agriculture is also beneficial for the environment. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog to learn how you can adopt a reduced-carbon diet.

Looking for organic, Healthy Dining-approved menu choices? Try these:

Moe's Southwest GrillTaco: The Funk Meister - Tofu, Soft Tortilla from Moe's Southwest Grill
(330 Calories, 13 g fat)
Located in most states, nationwide

Pizza FusionOrganic Eggplant & Fresh Mozzarella Pizza on Multi-Grain Crust (2 Slices of a Large Pizza) from Pizza Fusion
(310 calories, 10 g fat)
Located in AZ, CA, FL, GA, NJ, PA, TX, WA

Burger LoungeBaby Burger from Burger Lounge
(330 calories, 16 g fat)
Located throughout Southern California

Nancy Snyder

Research and Communications Coordinator
Nancy is a graduate student at San Diego State University, pursuing her master’s degree in nutrition, as well as the completion of the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) to become a registered dietitian. Nancy is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the San Diego Dietetic Association, and in her free time, she volunteers at Feeding America San Diego and Special Delivery.  Read More


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