Healthy Debate: Should You Go Organic This Thanksgiving?

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Photo by: Tara Donne ©2009

Tara Donne, 2009

For my family, the Thanksgiving meal is all about digging into to a seasonal bounty of  our favorite foods. While I may be able to find many turkey day must-haves organically produced, they come at a much higher price. Do I need to go for broke this holiday?
Turkey

Grass fed? Free range? Organic? The sheer number of choices is enough to make you want to forget about the turkey altogether! It really comes down to a personal decision, but make it an informed one. We broke down the details and crunched the numbers on your turkey options – get the facts.

Side Dishes

What would Thanksgiving be without mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce and stuffing? Some of the main ingredients in these recipes are worth buying organic because the conventionally grown varieties tend to contain higher amounts of pesticide residue.

According to an Environment Working Group (EWG) study, celery, potatoes, carrots and domestically-produced green beans are worth buying organic. Out of a score of 100 (with 100 being the highest amount of detected  pesticide residues) they all score between 62 and 100.

Sweet potatoes and onions score low on the pesticide scale (10 and 1, respectively). Somewhere in the middle are cranberries with a score of 31 and winter squash with 32.  If you choose the conventional varieties, reduce pesticide residues by washing your fruits and veggies before use.

Want more information? Check out the top 12 “dirtiest” and 15 "cleanest" produce items.

Desserts

The EWG guide can also help you decide where to buy the ingredients for all those classic fall desserts. Apples are on the top of the pesticide residue list, scoring 89, while pears come in at 61. And if you're planning to serve in-season grapes at your feast, they fall somewhere in the middle of the scale with  a 42.

Weighing Your Options

So what’s the best way to go about smart shopping? My solution – most of these items are in full bloom at my local farmers’ market, where I know they haven’t been grown with the same types of dangerous chemicals, even if they aren’t certified organic. If I can’t find something at the farmers’ market, I check out the EWG list to decide what to get organic at my local grocery store based on my budget.

Bottom Line: You have lots of options! I choose local over organic for most of my Thanksgiving fare, but that might not be possible for everyone. Do some research as to what’s available in your area and spend those Thanksgiving dollars wisely.

Tell Us: Will you go organic or conventional on your Thanksgiving table?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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