February 14th, 2011

Organic Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

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There is something so special about Valentine’s Day when you’re a kid.  My kids spend endless hours reading through each valentine that comes home from school and sorting through all the candy, pencils and other loot.

We gave a lot of thought this year about what to attach, if anything, to the valentines handed out in school.  One idea was to attach organic lollipops.  This idea prompted a long discussion about why we would choose organic lollipops vs. their non-organic cousins.

We talked about what ORGANIC means

Organically produced foods must be produced without the use of:

  • Antibiotics
  • Synthetic hormones
  • Genetic engineering
  • Other excluded practices
  • Sewage sludge
  • Irradiation

Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients or preservatives to maintain the integrity of the food.

Ok-so far, so good.  The organic lollipops are made without all of the above.

But what about all the ingredients that organic lollipops are made with?

The lollipops I was thinking of buying listed the following as their first three ingredients:

  1. Organic evaporated cane juice (aka sugar)
  2. Organic tapioca syrup (aka sugar)
  3. Organic brown rice syrup (aka sugar)

Photo used under Creative Commons from Terrin in Virginia

All the ingredients in the lollipops were organic and therefore not grown with any chemicals or pesticides. The sugars used are not as processed and refined as the evil high fructose corn syrup or other processed sugars. But regardless of how sugar is made and where it comes from- corn, juice concentrates, cane, beets, tapioca, brown rice or honey, sugar is sugar. All sugar contains four calories per gram and are handled the same by the body. Sugar is addictive. Sugar can cause obesity, diabetes, gum disease, a weakened immune system and a myriad of other health concerns.

No matter how you look at it, too much sugar isn’t healthy.

There are so many organic sugary treats out there- ice creams, cookies and snacks- and although they might be free of chemicals, dyes and pesticides, they aren’t healthy.  Yes, it’s better to have sugar that’s organic, but too much even of organic sugar isn’t a good thing.

Sorry to pick on you, lollipops. You are just one example of  the many organic foods that are processed, contain lots of sugar and are unhealthy.

How to choose healthy organic food

Organic foods can contain all sorts of unhealthy ingredients. Sugar isn’t the only bad guy. When choosing where to spend your money on organic food:

  • Read ingredient labels carefully.
  • Be wary of long lists of ingredients that you don’t recognize.
  • Stick with organic fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts as much as possible.
  • Enjoy processed and/or sugary organic foods in moderation.

We didn’t end up sending in lollipops. Once class did get candy (after much begging from my son).  For the rest, we stuck with boring pencils and tooth brushes to help clean up the mess.


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*Photo used under Creative Commons from D. Sharon Pruitt

16 Responses to “Organic Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sandra Lee, Lori Popkewitz Alper. Lori Popkewitz Alper said: Read my new post on:Organic Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy http://t.co/Wu8HdlR […]

  2. It’s funny — when I was a kid, we just sent in the valentines and that was fine. When did this tradition start of attaching all kinds of stuff to them? I was surprised when my son got all this stuff from the kids (or the parents of the kids) at his previous school — we’d sent in just the valentines and I was embarrassed! This year, though, I’ve opted out. We gave out goodies to all his classmates for his birthday, have been sending out lots of thank-you notes, and I’m spent, so we’re skipping all the hoopla for V-Day!

    Anyway, to weigh in on your question: non-food goodies might be better considering all the junk they will get from everyone else.

    One last thing: sewer sludge? Does sewer sludge end up in our food?!

  3. I agree Aviva-what happened to the days of sending in plain valentines with out all the attachments? My kids (7, 9 and 10) all had classroom parties -which they LOVE. All the junk is coming home right now-which they also LOVE. I am curious to see who will will the most creative, non-food goody award this year.

    Sewer sludge can help your food grow-it sometimes used as fertilizer. Sewage is processed and treated (sewer sludge) and can then be recycled and applied as fertilizer. Organic foods are produced without sewer sludge. Pretty disgusting, isn’t it?

  4. That is seriously disgusting, Lori! Oy vey.

    I’m interested in what wins the most creative non-food valentine attachment, so please do share! 🙂

  5. Yes, beyond disgusting!

    According to my kids the winners of the most creative non-food valentine attachment went to their teachers who gave them a “homework pass”. The second place winner was a homemade valentine with a ruler attached. I was amazed at how many homemade valentines there were this year.

  6. Valentine’s Day cards used to just come by themselves. Occasionally one would involve a sticker, or the really cool ones would have a lolipop or a small heart shaped chocolate, but it was hardly expected. I still like the sticker idea. What kid doesn’t love them?

    I had the same thought about how organic doesn’t equal healthy when I saw the familiar green circle on a box of…toaster pastries. No way can those things be good for you!

  7. True-stickers are always a good bet! Those “pop tarts” aren’t good for you….but they sure are yummy! Everything in moderation-right?

  8. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this yet. I like Michael Pollan’s rule. You can eat any junk you make yourself. I try my best not to buy “treats” – organic or otherwise.

  9. Ugh, I hate the aisle at the store with all the organic fruit snacks and potato chips and brownies and cookies… exactly as you say, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy!

    That being said, I don’t really mind letting the kids indulge a few days a year (Vday, Easter, Halloween, birthday, Christmas)– the Valentine that really got me all riled was lip gloss, for my 6 year old daughter! Yuck.

  10. Hi Robin-wow, lip gloss! That’s a new one. All boys over here so we haven’t experienced the lip gloss valentine gift. People are certainly getting creative with their valentine attachments!

  11. […] Organically produced goods must be produced without the use of: […]

  12. […] a green journey you probably spend a lot of time searching for non-toxic personal care products and safe foods to eat. With almost 1/3 of our lives spent in bed, what we have in our bedrooms does affect […]

  13. I have been saying this for a little while now! I’m so glad that I’m not the only one shouting, hey that’s not healthy. 😛 My kids are homeschooled so we don’t have as much junk forced on us. That being said, I came across a homemade Valentine’s “card” where you turn a Valentine’s pencils into arrows. As long as I could find the time, I would help my kids make those…then the kids get a cool pencil. 😛 The stickers is a great idea!
    Danelle recently posted..Flax Seeds BenefitsMy Profile

  14. […] and truthfully I have become complacent with my cereal choices and forgot to  heed my own advice: not everything you buy at a health food store is healthy. After posting a photo of my cereal cabinet on Facebook my lovely Facebook community was quick to […]

  15. […] it is impossible and cost prohibitive to buy everything organic. Our focus tends to be on organic foods, but there are a few organic products that deserve our attention and should be added to our cart […]

  16. […] juice concentrates, cane, beets, tapioca, brown rice or honey, sugar is sugar. All sugar contains four calories per gram and are handled the same by the body. Sugar is addictive. Sugar can cause obesity, diabetes, gum […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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