The other day I was going through the organic section of a grocery store here in Chicago. I was near the pasta and beans in the one aisle of the store with the big "Organic Food" sign dangling overhead. I passed by a little boy as he leaned over the side of his shopping car to reach for a brightly colored chocolate bar with the word "organic" prominently displayed on the label. "Organic?” scoffed the boy’s father who pushed the cart. “That’s silly, Adam. Organic chocolate is silly.”

When to Buy Organic Food

Now, I have to disclose that I love chocolate. I try not to eat it very often, but I love it nonetheless. As I get older I like good chocolate. If that chocolate happens to be organic and good, I may defer to the 20% of my 80% rule. This is the rule that says if I eat great and exercise well 80% of the time, my body should be able to manage the other 20%. So far so good. That said, I can see the point of what the boy’s father was talking about. It seems the word “organic” now skews far beyond foods that are whole-heartedly healthy. A chocolate bar that is full of sugar – whether it’s organic or not – is simply not good for you.

From pineapples to potato chips, chocolate to cheese and beans to bread…organic foods are everywhere. Not so long ago it was mostly fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products that donned the brown, green and white USDA Organic logo, assuring us that the quality of our purchase was produced humanely and with no pesticides, hormones or antibiotics.

Market research tells us the number one motivating factor for people to buy organics is not the benefits for themselves, rather their children. Of course it’s no surprise to see less traditional products, including cereal bars, ice cream, juice, cracker and other snacks made with 100% organic ingredients. Now the question is asked – Are these organic products any healthier than their conventionally-produced counterparts?

Yes and no. The quality of organic ingredients is always far superior to conventional ingredients. Aside from not using conventional pesticides, petroleum, sewage-sludge-based fertilizers or bioengineered substances, 100% organic products prohibit the use of 38 synthetic ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners to name a few. Therefore, the 100% organic cereal bar or bowl of ice cream is much better for people than the conventional version – mostly because its ingredients are healthier. However, many of these products are still void of the nutrition that can be found in whole foods. Many are also laden in sugar. Organic sugar may be better for your body in general, but it still adds unwanted body fat the same way conventional sugar does.

The fact of the matter is that organic “junk food” does exist. Don’t start filling your cupboards or kids’ lunches with the organic version of its conventional counterpart and expect instant health and wellbeing. Yes, the organic products are absolutely better for our bodies, but they still don’t take the place of other naturally nutritious organic foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat.

The next time you go to the store, make an effort to buy organic items that have expiration dates less than a week away. This likely means the product is less preserved, containing less junk. Yes, it may cost a little more, but your body will thank you.