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A Teen's View

Organic Eating

Olivia Sielaff

(August, 2010) My family and I are not like other families in many respects. But there is one thing about us that people usually find interesting and almost alarming. Are you ready? We eat organic food. I know what you’re thinking. "You must be deprived of all the delectable snack foods and Chinese food and other thousand-calorie, artificial treats!" or "Isn’t it insanely expensive?" or "Do you eat out at all?" Well, to answer your questions: no, kind of, and yes. However, these are beside the point at the moment. What really matters is what exactly makes organic food different and why we have an organic diet.

First it’s helpful to know what I mean when I say ‘organic’. The definition of ‘organic’ is food that is produced or is without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial ingredients; nor is it genetically modified. In short – it’s real. I’m not saying that all the other food that isn’t labeled ‘organic’ is fake, but most of the time there are more artificial ingredients in a product than there are real ingredients. Also, the term ‘organic’ is not to be confused with ‘all natural’. Sometimes food companies trick their buyers into believing they’re eating something wholesome if they put ‘all natural’ on the label. However, this just means the ingredients are from nature and not organically grown, which is quite ambiguous. But before I pull you any further into all of the slight nuances of the subject, I should stop.

One of the main questions we’re always asked is "Why did you decide to eat organic food?" The answer goes back at least ten years ago. When my little brother, Ben, was about three or four we realized that he would get super hyper when he ate food with artificial dyes or high fructose corn syrup. Moreover, he and my mom were affected health-wise from all the unnatural ingredients in regular food. So my mom decided it was best to make the switch to organic food. Of course that meant we all had to eat it.

At first, everything my mom bought at the organic grocery store was disgusting to me. I wasn’t used to eating real food without preservatives. It all tasted so different and…healthy. Any six-year-old doesn’t want to be eating healthy food at the time of her life when she can be eating all the junk food and candy in the world (especially from her grandparents)! I craved my fake food. And frankly, organic fruit loops just weren’t the same as the regular kind.

Another question we’re always asked is "Does everything you eat have to be organic?" Thankfully, the answer is ‘no’. My mom wasn’t so strict as to say we couldn’t have any non-organic food for the rest of our lives, because for us that was almost impossible and very impractical. Plus, this means we can eat at restaurants once in a while. For the most part, all of our food is organic except a few snacks and drinks. Even our toothpaste is organic!

All of my friends know I eat organic food, too. Sometimes they jest about how healthy I am and how they shouldn’t offer me a certain food because it’s not organic. I take that as a compliment. Also, at school during lunch if I happen to have crackers or something that isn’t organic, my friends usually ask me the rhetorical question "I thought you only ate organic food?!" I just sigh and roll my eyes.

Whenever I meet new people, and they find out I eat organic food, they always get wide-eyed and wonder how that is possible as if it were some strange punishment my parents enforce on us kids. But my favorite part is when I tell them we don’t have a microwave. Yes, it’s true. The most popular response they give while staring at me through bulging eyes is "How do you survive?" I suppose it’s a fair question. How can any teenager with a ravenous appetite call himself or herself a teenager without a microwavable meal at least once a week? Well, I’m still alive, so it is possible. After they get over the initial shock the next question usually is "How do you make popcorn?" Simple – we make it on the stove in a pot. Anyway, not having a microwave isn’t necessarily an organic thing, because there are organic frozen meals; it’s just a family preference.

Lastly, people always comment on how expensive organic food is. They’re right. Most everyone would probably be eating organic food if it weren’t for the high prices. However, if you just buy the essentials, like meats, veggies, and fruits, then you’re off to a good start. For our family, the price of organic food overrules our health. Knowing that we are taking care of ourselves helps us to get over the sticker shock…usually.

In the end, I’m actually glad that we eat organic food. Even though I crave a fast-food burger or a fruit-roll-up sometimes, I know that I’m taking care of myself by not eating those artificial foods that could fry my brain. And even if we don’t eat out a lot or have a microwave, I’m fine with that. Nothing beats an organic, home-cooked meal any day.

Read other articles by Olivia Sielaff