Conscientious parents, mindful of both their children’s health as well as the health of the planet, are questioning their food choices today more than ever. The recent 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) highlighted the emphasis on sustainability by younger generations and their parents. But how to choose foods that are healthy and sustainable without substantially increasing your monthly food budget?
Organic foods, free of pesticides, are widely considered healthier options for humans and the Earth. Organic farming fosters greater biodiversity of plants and animals as well as reduced pollution. In addition, organic whole foods have more nutrients and less pesticides than their non-organic counterparts.
Learn more from Rebeca Plantier about why French cantines outshine other school cafeterias. Click here.
So it’s a no-brainer right? The answer would be yes if organic produce wasn’t approximately 30%-40% more expensive than the non-organic kind. And for some, it may not be that easy to find abundant choices in the organic section of your local supermarket or specialized organic food shops.
Luckily for those of us living in France, the French love of good food and quality products makes eating well much easier!
Here are a few tips for going organic-ish and vastly increasing the chances of better wellbeing for your family and even the planet!
Buy local and faite maison in France
We live in a country where buying delicious, local food is usually fairly easy. The French love their specialty stores, many of which focus on local (usually regional) foods. From cheese shops to vegetable and fruit markets, butchers, bakeries, traiteurs and more – buying homemade and/or local is a cinch and largely healthier than packaged foods full of preservatives.
Do like the school cantines and focus on less waste
Some school cafeterias in France have managed to serve more than 80% of their school lunches using organic foods, without increasing their budgets! But how? Firstly, they offer less meat on their menus (all french elementary schools offer one fully vegetarian meal per week at the minimum). Secondly, they’re ultra-focused on avoiding food waste, thus decreasing the costs of food purchasing.
Children are taught to serve themselves only what they think they’ll eat, and ask for seconds if needed. Some schools go as far as asking the children to weigh their uneaten quantities and challenge classes to waste the least amount possible. This principle can be applied at home by serving family members smaller quantities and seconds only if they’re still hungry. Any leftovers can go in the fridge or freezer for another meal or a “leftover day” during the week.
Focus on only organic versions of certain foods
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), avoid the “dirty dozen.” These are vegetables and fruits with the highest quantities of pesticides present. Buy only organic versions of: strawberries, spinach, kale and collard greens, nectarines, apples, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, bell and hot peppers, celery and tomatoes.
Non-organic is okay for these
On the other hand, the EWG gives the green light to non-organic versions of the fruits and vegetables which make up their “clean fifteen” list: avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, onions, papaya, sweet peas (frozen), eggplant, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi, cauliflower, mushrooms, honeydew melon, cantaloupe.
Focus on whole foods, not packaged organic versions
Walk into any supermarket and you’re immediately surrounded by packaged “organic” foods, which are usually quite pricey. Organic cookies, organic breakfast cereal, organic Nutella, organic crackers… Instead of buying some of these packaged organic versions, try making your own. Home-baked cookies, homemade Nutella, and even homemade granola can be simpler than you think. And how about adding in whole foods for breakfast or snacks – eggs, fruit, or crudités, for example.
Eat less meat
Local, organic and grass-fed animal meats are expensive. If you want to stick to these, then eat them less often – once a week or every ten days. Enjoy them even more when they’re a luxury item!
Wash with apple cider vinegar
This may not yet be verified scientifically, but for those non-organic fruits and vegetables you buy, try soaking them in water with a few drops of apple cider vinegar. Before rinsing, give them a good swoosh in the water to help remove pesticides.
Regardless of whether you go full organic or organic-ish, it’s possible to increase the health and wellbeing of your family by purchasing mostly whole foods, local foods and avoiding packaged products when possible. Living in a country with exceptionally high food standards not only makes this easier but will make your meals even more delicious!