Okay, so we're trying to eat healthier-- what some groups of people call "whole food" eating and others call "clean" eating. Basically, to me, this means I am trying to feed the family minimally processed foods-- things that are as close to the form they exist in nature as possible. Fresh peaches instead of canned. Whole grains instead of white flour. Avoiding premade store bought foods that typically have "high fructose corn syrup" or "partially hydrogenated soybean oil" as ingredients or anything else that's more likely to come from a chemistry lab than a typical pantry. And, that means we are eating lots more fruits & veggies.
I have come to realize that besides just eliminating extra ingredients, I also have to start considering if the produce I buy at the supermarket is safe for my family. In an ideal world, we'd just grow our own food. But unless you live on a farm or in a fairly rural area, that just isn't happening. I know that the next best thing is to buy local, organic produce. Unfortunately, the primary crops in this area are oranges and strawberries. Not exactly a balanced diet.
The next problem is that it costs waaaaaaaaaaaay more to buy organic produce at the grocery store than conventionally grown produce. So, what's a person (on a budget & wants to eat healthy) supposed to do? The answer: Prioritize!!
An environmental group (EWG) has compiled pesticide testing data from commonly consumed crops (each sample was washed & peeled as a consumer typically would) and ranked the results. The 12 worst offenders are referred to as the "dirty dozen" and are the foods you definitely should buy organic. On the other side, the "clean fifteen" are the foods with little to no contamination that you can continue to eat conventionally grown without concern. By knowing which foods to spend the extra money on AND which it isn't necessary, you can save money while getting the best nutrition for your family!!
As an interesting (and slightly scary) sidenote, this year's testing also included jarred baby foods. Varieties from the dirty dozen still showed notable pesticide & chemical contamination while the varieties from the clean fifteen showed no residues. I would hypothesize that these results can be carried over to frozen and canned varieties as well, letting you know which canned/preserved items should probably be purchased organic as well.
Download a cute reference card here from the ewg website. This list was updated for 2012 by ewg within the last week or so.
The 2012 Dirty Dozen
+ Green beans & Kale/Greens (which technically don't have the most but do have the worst kind of pesticides)
The 2012 Clean fifteen