Is Buying Organic Only About Mommy Status?

This registered dietitian explains what you should and shouldn't buy

Photograph by Daniel Montoya

Organic Mom was in line behind me at the grocery store the other day.

Full disclosure: I have this really bad habit of looking at the contents of other people’s grocery carts. I’m not judging them. OK, sometimes I am judging them. Mostly, I view it as “research."

But when Organic Mom was behind me, I was the one who felt judged.

Organic Mom’s cart contained the following: organic yogurt, organic frozen vegetables, organic almond milk, organic spaghetti sauce, organic whole wheat pasta, and a jumbo pack of chlorine-free diapers. She was wearing a stylish, belted trench. She was talking on her cell phone to a friend about (I swear I’m not making this up) whether the snacks at her child’s daycare were organic.

And me? I wanted to dive onto the conveyor belt and shield my items from view. Ideally, using the frumpy windbreaker that I was wearing.

I don’t exclusively buy organic. In fact, most weeks only a handful of items in my cart are organic. I’m not convinced that my kids’ health will suffer if I don’t get the organic cereal, organic ketchup and organic gummy fruit chews. In fact, according to a brand new analysis of studies released this week by Stanford, organic food isn’t more nutritious than the conventional type.

RELATED: Easy Ways to Go Green

Believe me, I love the idea of supporting sustainable farming with every single food purchase. But I also love the idea of paying my mortgage.

So why does Organic Mom, through no fault of her own, make me feel inferior—like when the moms at baby music class were carrying Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bags and I had the one we got for free at the hospital? Am I secretly worried that by not spending the extra $100 a week, I’m not doing the very best I can for my children? (Or am I just jealous of her Tory Burch flats?)

I think I feel inferior because organic food can sometimes seem like a status symbol—or worse, a badge of good parenting. It shouldn’t be. It should be a choice based on science, personal values and budget. And we should all feel good about buying healthy foods for our kids, whether those items carry the organic seal or not.

Besides, it is possible to balance your family’s health with your family budget. Here are some ways I do it:

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