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Pregnancy nutrition: What’s the deal with organic food?

If you don’t normally eat organic food, should you make a change during your pregnancy? Experts share their opinions about organic foods that you might want to consider during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman eating organic vegetables

Organic food may seem like a trend, but some feel that you should consider going organic during your pregnancy — if not all of the foods you eat, at least a few specific ones.

“Studies that have come out in the last two years have linked exposures to organophosphate pesticides with increased risks of ADHD and lower IQ in children, and to low birth weight and early gestation among newborns,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook. Is organic all that it’s cracked up to be, or are there ways you can eat cleaner without forking over more money at the supermarket?

Start with a food diary

Bridget Swinney, registered dietitian and author of the newly released Eating Expectantly: Practical Advice for Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy, weighed in on organic foods and what it means to be cleaner and greener during your baby’s development and beyond. For starters, she advises pregnant women to keep a food diary for a week to see what foods are consumed on a regular basis.

Check the lists

Bridget then recommends for the mom-to-be to compare her food diary to the Environmental Working Group’s list of the “dirty dozen”, which consists of produce that is known to be the most contaminated by pesticide residue. The list this year includes apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries and sweet bell peppers.

On the other side, the EWG also offers a list of produce that generally contains the least amount of pesticide residue — the “clean fifteen.” This year’s items are asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, frozen sweet peas and sweet potatoes.

Make a plan

Based on what foods you eat and how often you eat them, Bridget said that it’s easy to make a produce shopping plan. “For foods that you eat once or twice a week — if you can buy those organic, great,” she explained. “If you can’t — and those are on the dirty dozen list — see if you can find a food on the clean fifteen list that you can substitute. For foods that you eat less often, buying organic is great, but it’s not really necessary.”

Grow your own

Bridget also said that even if you don’t have a lot of space, another alternative to buying organic food is to grow some yourself, which can have benefits now as well as years down the road. “It’s a great way to get kids involved in their food, too, and they’re more likely to eat the veggies that they had a hand in growing and preparing!” she shared. “A long-term option is to plant fruit trees, especially for those fruits that are higher in pesticides. For example, we have a fig tree, which supplies us with many figs throughout the summer. We also have apricot and peach trees.”

Above all, don’t stress

If you can eat a completely organic diet, that’s great — but if you only choose to eat a few select items that are pesticide-free, that’s great too. Don’t stress, but try to eat cleaner when you can, because while some exposure is probably harmless and unavoidable, if you can omit pesticide residue from your diet, you’ve made a step in the right direction.

More on pregnancy nutrition

8 Expert tips for healthy pregnancy nutrition
Why chocolate is good for your pregnancy
10 Foods every pregnant woman should eat

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