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A Guide to Organic Foods

By Julie DuBois

organicThere’s been a lot of debate over whether to eat organic foods over the past few years. It’s well known that organics are more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, however, there are certain instances where choosing organic may be a better option. Confusing labels are out there as well. The terms “natural,” “free range,” and “hormone free” don’t mean that the product is organic.

There are three terms certified by the USDA to be organic. A food can be “100 Percent Organic,” in which there are no synthetics in the food. Foods labeled as “organic” must be 95 percent organic. Foods can also be labeled “made with organic ingredients” if they have at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

As far as what foods to choose to eat organic, I typically tell my clients to buy organic meats, eggs, and dairy (animal products).  I believe that if you’re going to spend money on organics, choosing to use it on animal products ensures that the products are humanely raised with no hormones, and less likely to have food-borne pathogens due to the processing. I’ve also noticed personally that organic milk lasts longer in the fridge! (Editor’s note: organic milk in cartons is typically “ultra pasteurized” at a slightly higher temperature and lasts longer.)

Beyond that, many people have heard of some foods that have the highest pesticide residue that you might want to consider buying organic.

  •  Peaches
  •  Apples
  •  Celery
  •  Sweet bell peppers
  •  Celery
  •  Nectarines
  •  Strawberries
  •  Cherries
  •  Pears
  •  Grapes (imported)
  •  Spinach
  •  Lettuce
  •  Potatoes

The “cleanest” fruits and vegetables (which you might not want to spend money on organic varieties) are:

  •  Papaya
  •  Broccoli
  •  Cabbage
  •  Bananas
  •  Kiwi
  •  Sweet peas (frozen)
  •  Asparagus
  •  Mango
  •  Pineapple
  •  Sweet corn (frozen)
  •  Avocado
  •  Onions

Choosing organic has not been extensively studied for its health effects. Personally I believe if you can afford to buy the organic version of your meats/animal products, your health will benefit by ingesting fewer chemicals and pesticides.  Overall, choosing a healthy variety of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and heart healthy fats is the best diet regardless of whether it is organic or not.

Julie DuBois, RD, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Coordinated Dietetics from Texas Christian University. A professional ballet dancer, Julie has always been interested in health and fitness. She enjoys coaching her clients to reach their personal health and fitness goals in a way that is both fun and challenging at the same time. You can contact her at or visit

This article originally appeared on, founded by Olympic gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale and his family, who believe that good taste and healthy food really can go together.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.