Could your child be at risk for exposure to toxic chemicals and harmful pesticide residues in baby food? Many health experts say yes, citing that the manufacturing processes can leave highly concentrated levels of pesticides and other chemicals in baby foods.
As a concerned parent, you’ll want to give your baby the best start in life. Proper nutrition is the best way to ensure that your baby will grow strong and healthy. You’ll want to choose a variety of foods that not only give your baby the most nutritional content, you’ll also want to focus on foods that minimize risks to your baby’s health and development. One option many parents turn to is organic baby food. Though organic baby food may be more costly, you shouldn't sacrifice to risk your child's health. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of organic foods for babies, review some good organic food brands, and give you some tips for making organic baby food at home.
Why Choose Organic Baby Food?
Nonorganic foods are grown with more synthetic chemicals compared to organic foods grown with natural compost and manure. Livestock is often treated with growth hormones, antibiotics, and fed genetically modified grains and byproducts. Organic soil and feed management may or may not increase nutrient levels in fruits and vegetables but can definitely reduce exposure to contaminants, chemical residues, and GMOs.
Pros and Cons of Organic Baby Food
There are no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in organically grown foods. Additionally, organic meats are free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic baby food eliminates exposure to harmful chemicals that can compromise your baby’s immune system or disrupt the normal development of your baby’s hormones, digestion, and natural disease-fighting abilities.
Many people find that organic foods simply taste better. With babies, it’s all about taste.
Eliminating pesticides and fertilizers is not only good for the body, it helps ensure that your child is not exposed to chemicals in the air, water, ground, and other food sources that you cannot control at home.
According to the Mayo Clinic, organic foods have not been shown to be more nutritious than nonorganic foods. And while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that organic foods meet certain thresholds to contain organic labeling, they don’t guarantee that organic baby food is any safer or more nutritious than regular baby food.
Organic foods cost 47% more than nonorganic foods, on average. Translating that to baby food prices, the Washington Post found that a jar of organic baby food cost $0.85 compared to $0.65 for the nonorganic equivalent of the same brand.
Tips for Buying Organic Baby Food
Know where to buy. Check local supermarkets to see what brands of organic baby foods they carry. Most stores will have major brands like Beechnut and Gerber. Shop at all-organic markets like Earth Fare and Whole Foods Market for specialty brands. Also, many retailers like will have their own store brand or brands exclusively available at stores like Target. You can also buy online at Amazon as well as direct from many producers’ websites.
Read the label - look for USDA Organic.
Baby foods that carry the USDA Organic label are certified to be 95% organically grown according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Animals must be fed with organically grown feed that is free of growth hormones, antibiotics, and animal by-products. Furthermore, USDA Organic foods are not irradiated, which is the process of exposing foods to radiation designed to reduce E.coli, listeria, salmonella and similar pathogens. One of the potential problems is that irradiation can reduce nutrient levels in baby foods as well increase levels of chemical and pesticide residues. Baby food with the USDA organic label may contain up to 5% nonorganic ingredients. Pears and apples may be treated with approved antibiotics and approved synthetic substances can be added to organic soil.
Know your organic baby food brands. Here are some popular organic baby food brands to choose from.
Beech-Nut Organic has an extensive variety of organic baby food in jars and cold puree foods in pouches. Along with other varieties, Beechnut baby foods are made with non-GMO ingredients and are pesticide-free. A well-known name in baby foods, you’ll find Beech-Nut Organic varieties in your local supermarket.
Earth's best makes organic foods and products for every stage from infants to young children with special dietary needs. They offer both soy based and dairy based organic formulas. As well as formula for babies with sensitive digestive systems. You’ll find rice, whole grain and multigrain cereals for the next stage along with a variety of fruits and vegetables in jars and pureed pouches for older babies. For your toddlers and young children, there are finger foods and starter foods, as well as gluten-free and allergy-free alternatives for growing kids.
Happy Baby is a part of the Happy Family Organics product line and includes a complete line of nutritious first foods, toddler super foods, and kid-friendly healthy lifestyle foods. Choose Happy Baby Probiotic Baby Cereal with choline and DHA. Available in rice, oat, and multigrain, these organic probiotic cereals are great for your baby’s developing brain, digestive system, and eye health.
Sprout uses whole foods from certified organic growers. Their foods and snacks contain no concentrates and are free of preservatives and GMOs. For babies, you’ll find single fruit and vegetable purees along with a variety of fruit-veggie, fruit-grain, veggie-grain, and yogurt blends. They offer foods in three stages for growing babies as well as advanced toddler foods and snacks. Check their website for coupons and special offers.
Peter Rabbit Organics
Peter Rabbit Organics by Pumpkin Tree are certified organic baby foods made without added salt and sugar. It’s also not watered down, so your baby gets more natural fruits and vegetables right out of the pouch. The packaging is also BPA-free, making Peter Rabbit Organics good for your baby and for the environment.
Plum Organics line includes an organic baby formula made from non-fat milk from organically-fed cows. For babies six months and older, the Grow Well line includes foods for bone and muscle health as well as sensitive tummies and a DHA formula. You’ll also find an array of snacks, teething wafers, and stage three meals to introduce your baby to more complex organic foods.
Gerber Organics includes a growing line of cereals, infant to toddler stage foods, juices, and snacks. Gerber is one of the oldest, most trusted brands you can find in local stores. Gerber has many different yummy flavors for your baby to try, just try not to eat it yourself! Gerber's baby food is USDA certified organic, GMO free, and is grown by certified organic growers.
Yummy Spoonfuls is a great choice for already-frozen baby foods. Available in Target stores, Yummy Spoonfuls baby foods and juices have no additives and no concentrates. You’ll find single ingredient stage one options, mixed ingredient stage two foods, and stage three foods when you’re ready to introduce your baby to meats.
On many baby food brands, both organic and nonorganic, you’ll find additional terms like “free range” on meat products, which refers to a farming method rather than just the use of organic feed. Also, statements like” no hormones added” and “natural” may mean that safer ingredients and processes are used, but the products still fall short of meeting the standards for the USDA organic label. As an alternative, you can control the type of ingredients and processing methods by making your own organic baby foods at home.
Tips for Making Organic Baby Food
1. Start by choosing in-season locally grown organic produce.
2. You may want to freeze and store fruits and vegetables to prepare later. Alternately, you can buy frozen organic foods in your favorite supermarket.
3. Use cooking methods like steaming fruits and vegetables, and baking or broiling meats so you can preserve flavor and nutrients in your baby foods.
4. Mash or puree foods in your blender or food processor. Use breast milk or add organic baby formula to increase the amount of liquids and improve the texture of the baby food.
5. Save time by making larger batches ahead of time and storing in your freezer.
Even though you make baby food with organic ingredients, you’ll still want to follow some basic health and safety rules like:
- Limit citrus, dairy, eggs, honey, and nuts for babies under the age of one year.
- Limit exposure to nitrates in foods like spinach, beets, and turnips.
- Limit exposure to E. coli from ground meats. Choose fresh, whole meats that you can pre-cook and prepare in your home meat grinder.
Organic foods, in general, are treated with fewer to no pesticides. Since fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of pesticide residue, choosing organic baby foods is a wise choice. Your baby’s immune and nervous system is also more prone to effects of pesticides than adults. Also, the younger your child is, their body’s ability to detox is much lower than an adult’s. For infants and toddlers with sensitive digestive systems, limiting exposure to high levels of pesticides by using organic baby food is a good choice. There are many brands of organic baby food, many of which carry the USDA certified organic label and come in traditional jars for longer term storage, frozen varieties for a fresher taste, and in pouches for more convenient storage and environmentally friendly packaging. Organic baby food is easy to find online and in supermarkets and specialty retailers. Finally, if you’re already buying organic foods, you can make baby food right in your own kitchen. Starting out with organic baby food is a great way to introduce your child to a healthy and environmentally say lifestyle.