Healthy Eats: The Dirty Dozen™ and The Clean Fifteen™

By Kyrie Collins, Macaroni KID Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher April 17, 2022

Several years ago, my boys and I visited my grandparents in Oregon. My grandfather was teasing me about my “politically correct fruit,” which means I bought organic apples.

I replied, “Grandpa, this is the very same kind of fruit you ate when you were a kid, but they didn’t call it organic. They just called it food!”

Why Eat Organic?

We have been eating mostly organic produce and meat for several years. My personal experience is that organic fruits and veggies simply taste better.

Whether organic fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts has not quite been determined. Some studies have shown no significant difference, while others have found organic produce to be higher in antioxidants and certain nutrients like zinc and vitamin C.

Certainly ingesting chemicals regularly can't be good for us. When I lived in California, the people who worked on the strawberry farms wore Haz-Mat suits when they sprayed the fruit with pesticides. HAZ-MAT SUITS! Just sayin'.

Understanding Labels

Food can be labeled “100% organic” (contains only organically produced ingredients and processing aids), “organic” (contains 95% or more organic ingredients), or “made with organic ingredients” (contains at least 70% organic ingredients). 

Organic meat means that the animals are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed organic feed. Organic beef tends to be leaner and higher in omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed cattle. Also, the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals may be contributing to an increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a report by the non-profit group Keep Antibiotics Working.

Making It Affordable

Many people have not made the switch to organic produce simply because of the cost. Organic foods do tend to be somewhat more expensive because organic farming is more labor-intensive and tends to produce smaller amounts of food. 

If you want to make the switch to organic, there are ways you can reduce your costs:

  • Watch for sales at local grocery stores on seasonal produce, then stock up and freeze some for later.
  • Many of the stands at local Farmers Markets are organic and have great prices. Bonus: you are supporting the local economy. 
  • Visit an organic pick-your-own farm like Berry Patch Farms in Brighton for a good selection at good prices plus a fun family adventure.
  • For meats, buying directly from an organic rancher might be your best option. Each year, we split a half-side of beef with another family, and our cost comes to about $4/pound for everything from ground beef to NY Strip to roasts. We have enough meat to last almost a full year.

The Dirty Dozen™ and The Clean Fifteen™

If you've considered moving toward more organic veggies, start with the produce on the Environmental Working Group’s "Dirty Dozen" list. These are the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides and chemicals.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell and hot peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The following foods make up the EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list, which is the produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew Melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Mangoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Sweet Potatoes