If you haven't yet jumped on the organic bandwagon, now may be the right time. More supermarkets than ever are carrying organic products, many under their own labels, and the selection of organic foods and other items has expanded greatly. But the array of products and labels can be confusing. Is that organic banana worth more than the conventional one? And what exactly makes it organic?

First, let's define what an organic product is. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farmers do not use synthetic pesticides, except on a very restricted and limited basis. They protect their crops from pests in a variety of ways, including choosing resistant varieties of crops, rotating their crops, and providing an environment in which pests' natural enemies and/or organisms beneficial to their crops can flourish. The result is food that people can eat without fear of taking in dangerous chemicals found in pesticide residue. Pesticides are particularly harmful to children, whose bodies are still developing. More than one million children eat at least 15 pesticides every day from nonorganic fruits and vegetables, by one estimate.

Clearly, buying organics is a good thing for your health, not to mention for the environment. But it's not necessary to cram your wagon with organic everything. When it comes to organics, not all items are equal. Certain fruits and vegetables are more likely to be contaminated with pesticides than others, depending on whether they have a protective rind or tend to absorb chemicals from the soil they're grown in. Below, from the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, is a list of 10 types of produce you definitely should buy organic:

  • peaches
  • apples
  • pears
  • winter squash
  • green beans
  • grapes
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • spinach
  • potatoes

Consumer Reports cautions that you may also want to make a special effort to buy organic meat, poultry, milk, and other dairy, since the animals producing these products are often given hormones and antibiotics to minimize their likelihood of getting sick. The problem? Those hormones and antibiotics find their way into your bodies and those of your children.

What can you safely buy that's nonorganic? Avocados, bananas, corn, mangoes, onions, papaya, and broccoli are probably okay in their conventional versions. Also, breads, pastas, cereals, chips, and other packaged foods do not necessarily need to be organic. And since the U. S. Department of Agriculture does not yet have organic certifications standards for seafood, there's no need to pay a premium for fish that may or may not contain mercury and other contaminants.