News & Views on Child Nutrition
For Parents, Educators, and Health Professionals
by Connie Evers, MS, RD
Issue 59, May 2006

Ask Connie: Should I buy organic food for my family?
FOR KIDS ONLY:Think outside the store!
RECIPE: Creamy Pasta with Veggies
How to Teach Nutrition to Kids, 3rd edition (©2006)

ASK CONNIE: Should I buy organic food for my family?

Q. I keep seeing those "certified organic" symbols on certain varieties of produce and I'm wondering if organic foods are really worth the price. What do you recommend?

A. There has been tremendous growth and interest in organic foods. Certified organic foods are now available in most mainstream grocery stores. While they do cost more, there is data that suggests that eating organic foods significantly lowers the pesticide exposure in children. In one study (1), children who changed from a conventional to a totally organic diet had undetectable levels of pesticide byproducts in their urine after just a few days. While scientists don't always agree on whether small amounts of pesticides are harmful for children, it does seem prudent and wise to minimize your child's risk of pesticide exposure.

The Environmental Working Group has assembled a report card and wallet guide that shows the types of produce that are higher in pesticide residues and those that contain little or no pesticide residues. Based on data from the US Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program (2) and other sources (3), the working group recommends that you purchase organic varieties of the produce highest in pesticides, including apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries.

The twelve least contaminated types of produce include asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn (sweet), kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet peas.

1. Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. Organic diets significantly lower children's dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Feb;114(2):260-3.

2. USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP),

3. Baker BP, Benbrook CM, Groth E 3rd, Lutz Benbrook K. Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: insights from three US data sets. Food Addit Contam. 2002 May;19(5):427-46. For a summary of this document, go to


FOR KIDS ONLY: Think outside the store!

You have probably learned about the food groups by now in school, from the web, or maybe even from your cereal box. But have you ever wondered where exactly all these food groups come from? If you answered, “the store,” you are only partly right.

Say you are snacking on some whole grain crackers and string cheese. Before your mom bought your snack at the store, your crackers and cheese were delivered to the store in a truck, and before that, they were held in a warehouse. Before that, a factory or processing plant took wheat and milk and other ingredients, made them into crackers and cheese, and put them in packages. And before that? At some point in time, your crackers and cheese and all the rest of your food came from a farm or ranch. The breakfast you ate just this morning came from a hen laying an egg or two, an orange picked from a grove, wheat harvested from a field and milk from a cow. It's easy to forget all the work and steps that go into producing the food we eat.

Eating closer to home
While much of the food you eat comes from places far away (sometimes thousands of miles!), it is important to also include foods that are grown nearby. Fruits and vegetables keep more of their nutrients when they are eaten soon after harvest. The more days that go by, the fewer nutrients they will have. There are also many other reasons to eat locally:

  • Fresh food tastes better! Of course, if it tastes better, you will want to eat more fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, beans and other things that are good for you.
  • Food is cheaper if it doesn't have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles.
  • The farmers and ranchers in your area will make more money so they can grow and raise even more delicious fresh food.

Think outside the store
Some grocery markets feature foods that are grown, caught or made close by. In many places, you can also buy food directly from the farmer or rancher that produced it. Farm direct stores are stores or stands found at local farms that sell food directly to customers. A Farmer's market is a place where many farmers and ranchers get together and set up stands where you can buy local food. Many cities have farmer's markets during the warm months of the year. You
can also grow some of your own food in a home garden. If you have never gardened before, there are many books that will help you get started. If you don't have a yard, you can grow many types of vegetables in containers.

Be a food geographer!

The next time you visit the grocery store, take some time to check out where your food was made, caught or grown. For fresh fruits, check out those little stickers that are on each piece of fruit. They will tell you what state or country the food came from. For packaged and processed foods, check the label to see where the food was made. Count how many places your food came from. You could even plot your results on a world map!


Newly revised 3rd edition, ©2006

How to Teach Nutrition to Kids, 3rd edition


The completely revised third edition of How to Teach Nutrition to Kids(©2006) was released on April 1, 2006. The new edition features the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid.


RECIPE: Creamy Pasta with Veggies

This is a recipe I adapted from one I found in Cooking Light magazine a few years ago. It's definitely a nutritional step-up from traditional macaroni and cheese. It's a favorite of my family!

1 slice whole wheat bread
1-2 T. Smart Balance® spread
1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions
2 T. flour
2 cups fat-free milk
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 - 5 ounce bag baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped fresh cauliflower
4 cups hot cooked whole grain rotini (corkscrew) pasta (about 2 cups uncooked)
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Place bread in a blender or food processor and pulse gently to make bread crumbs. Sauté' onions in melted Smart Balance® spread . Add flour and garlic salt; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk and stir constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cooking until thick (about 2 minutes). Add cheeses and stir until melted.

Add spinach, carrots, cauliflower and pasta to cheese sauce, stirring until well blended. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish that is coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Makes 4 generous servings (approximately 1 1/3 cup each)

The information contained in this newsletter is not intended as a substitute for medical and/or nutrition advice. See your physician and/or registered dietitian for individual health and/or dietary concerns.

©2006, by Connie Evers, All Rights Reserved. There is a modest reprint fee for reproducing the material in this newsletter in either print or electronic publications. Please send an email to for details and rates.

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