The Big O: How and Why to Eat Organic When You're Pregnant

Chow on 03.14.11
Guest Contributor bio

Photo: karen H./Creative Commons

I remember the first time I was pregnant. I read “What to Expect” cover to cover by the end of my first trimester, followed their diet to the letter—and gained 50 pounds. But while I was strategically eating two eggs a day when the book said my son’s brain was developing, I wasn’t thinking about what I was ingesting along with all that extra food: chemicals.

Here’s a scary fact: In 2005, the Environmental Working Group found that the average infant is born with 200 chemicals and pollutants in his or her blood. Some chemicals are things that are difficult to avoid, such as the flame-retardants and preservatives on wood, carpet and furniture. But many are pesticides and insecticides that are sprayed on foods as they’re grown or processed.

And here’s the good news: According to Healthy Child, Healthy World, a national non-profit devoted to children’s environmental health, you can lower your pesticide exposure by 90 percent simply by avoiding the top 12 most contaminated vegetables. (Drum roll, please.) Here are the worst offenders, in ABC order: Apples, Bell Peppers, Celery, Cherries, Grapes, Lettuce, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Potatoes, Spinach and Strawberries.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll drink more milk during your pregnancy than you did when you were in kindergarten. But remember that non-organic milk comes from cows that typically have been injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to boost their milk output. As this hormone has also been linked to cancer, you might want to think about going organic with your milk and milk products.

Crave protein? (I was a burger addict.) Conventional meat production includes giving the animals hormones to bulk them up, antibiotics to fight infection and pesticides in their feed. Try to buy organic, or better yet, think about organic vegetarian options: According to The Global Warming Handbook, one pound of meat requires eight times as much energy to produce as one pound of veggie protein like tofu.

Think the “Big O” is more expensive? Think again. I broke down the average kids’ lunchbox for for “Hollywood Green” and found that the organic version was actually less expensive than the conventional! (By pennies, but still.) Save even more by planting an organic garden or window box for those veggies that you eat most. This makes so much sense considering organic tomatoes can be five dollar a bag–the same price as enough seeds to grow organic tomatoes for an entire season.

If you can’t afford to go all-out, choose wisely by buying organic milk, meat and the fruits and veggies on the “dirty dozen” list. Happy bumping!