A baby’s first bites of solid foods are thoroughly entertaining to watch. New flavors and textures provoke faces that are both adorable and incredibly funny. What’s not so funny is that in some instances, there are invisible contaminants, fillers, and unhealthy ingredients hiding in those tiny spoonfuls of food. And if your baby is eating non-organic food, he’s also eating pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and synthetic preservatives and additives.
While traces of contaminants are tiny, they build up quickly in a child’s diet as children eat more food pound for pound than adults. In fact, children one through five years of age eat three to four (or more) times as much food per pound of body weight as an average American adult. In addition, their developing bodies are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify.
Because there is a growing body of evidence showing these toxins can impair child health and development, common sense compels us to minimize exposure whenever possible. Especially during pregnancy and infancy when their bodies are most vulnerable, we need to take precautionary action – a “better safe than sorry” approach and choose an organic diet for our little ones. Not only does an organic diet reduce exposure to contaminants and synthetic additives, some studies also show that organic foods are healthier and have more antioxidants and added nutrition.
There are a variety of options and many opportunities to take toxins off the menu. Here are some easy ideas for feeding your baby an organic, safe and healthy diet:
1. Store bought. With the growing interest in organic foods, there is also an increase in availability of pre-made organic baby foods. Some are on the shelf right next to their conventional counterparts and other can be found in the refrigerated or frozen food sections. Look for names like Plum Organics, Happy Baby, Homemade Baby, Tasty Baby, or Sprout Baby Food.
2. Delivered. Referred to as “baby food catering”, home delivery services are the pinnacle of convenience. Service providers include Bohemian Baby and Pomme Bebe.
3. Homemade. Not nearly as intimidating as it sounds, homemade baby food is the freshest and most inexpensive option (with the added benefit of having the least impact on the environment). My wife makes all of our son’s food and has been super charged with how easy and enjoyable it’s been. She uses fruits and veggies with a variety of colors and tastes then adds in probiotics and flax seed oil for additional nutritional benefit.
To make your own, pick one time a week to cook and puree selected foods and then freeze in an ice cube tray for handy serving sizes. WholesomeBabyFood.com offers age appropriate recipes, as well as tips for cooking and storing food. You can also get a handy, portable food grinder and freezer storage trays at Fresh Baby. Find local, organic food in your neighborhood using the Eat Well Guide, which lists not only grocery stores, but also co-ops, farmer’s markets, and CSAs (where you buy a share of food from a local farm).
Organic on a Budget: For many parents, buying all organic all the time is a financial impossibility, so keep this in mind: certain foods have higher levels of chemical residues including meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, as well as apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries – so focus on getting the organic versions of these items. Some foods typically have very low levels of residues and are okay to purchase conventionally grown, including avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, kiwis, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and eggplant.
You can also invest selectively. We have committed to trying to feed our son 100% organic for at least his first year (yes, I said “trying,” no one’s perfect). When they get older, choose the foods they eat the most of. If they eat a ton of apples, make sure you’re buying them organic even if you can’t buy everything organic. Overall, just do the best you can and concentrate on consistently providing a healthy, fresh, well-balanced diet for baby and family. Bon Appetit!
Sources: • Consumer Reports. Better for Baby? Our analysis finds organic food is safer for children. January 2006. • Landrigan, P. et al. Children’s Health and the Environment: A New Agenda for Prevention Research. Environmental Health Perspectives. June 1998, 106, 3, 787-794. • Virginia Worthington. Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 1, 2001, 7(2): 161-173. • Lombardi-Boccia, G. et al. Nutrients and Antioxidant Molecules in Yellow Plums from Conventional and Organic Productions: A Comparative Study. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2004, 52, 90-94. • Asami, D. et al. Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2003, 51, 1237-1241.