When your baby is ready to eat solid food, will you choose to feed him only organic foods? It’s a big decision and one that can potentially last a lifetime. There may be lots of reasons to feed your family organic foods-or not. The choice is up to you. Before you decide, it’s good to understand what it means when a food is labeled organic along with some of the pros and cons.
What sets organic foods apart from their non-organic counterparts is that they are grown or processed without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and contain no genetically modified organisms. Produce, for example, grown and farmed conventionally is chemically treated to protect it from insects, molds and diseases. As a result, a residue of pesticides is left on the crop. Certified organic farmers follow a method called PAMS which stands for prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression to manage pest control.
The USDA’s National Organic Program has developed strict standards for any foods that carry the label organic. Those standards include stating that fruit and vegetables are not sprayed with chemicals and that the animals producing meat are fed a 100% certified organic diet and no antibiotics or growth hormones. Also, organic foods must be natural in flavor and color and contain no preservatives. So, pay attention to labels that make certain claims which can be misleading. Produce descriptions touting natural, or environmentally friendly does not mean it is organic.
But is there any nutritional difference between the two? Research suggests not. Organic foods do not provide any more nutritional benefits than conventionally farmed foods. And there is currently no evidence to suggest that an organic diet leads to better health over the long term.
The Pros and Cons of Going Organic
One of the primary drawbacks in choosing to purchase organic foods is the cost. They can be up to 50% pricier than the same non-organic product. However, organic foods have a lower environmental impact. Organic farming is designed to preserve the land and wildlife. If you’re striving to live environmentally friendly, this can be an important consideration.
Some organic foods may be in limited supply at the supermarket since they are subject to their growing season. While traditionally farmed apples, for instance, are available all year long, the organic versions may no longer be stocked at the season’s end.
Naturally, when you feed your baby organic foods, you are reducing his exposure to residues since organic foods carry far less pesticides than conventional produce. Babies may be susceptible to potential harm caused by pesticides because they eat more per pound of body weight than adults. And, babies have a higher percentage of body fat than adults, and toxins like pesticide residue are stored in fat. Rest assured, however, that the residue on both organic and conventionally grown foods does not exceed government safety thresholds.
Do organic foods taste better? You be the judge.
The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list they call the Dirty Dozen – 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest concentrations of pesticides. When considering these purchases, the EWG suggest buying organic. In 2019, the list includes:
|1. Strawberries||7. Peaches|
|2. Spinach||8. Cherries|
|3. Kale||9. Pears|
|4. Nectarines||10. Tomatoes|
|5. Apples||11. Celery|
|6. Grapes||12. Potatoes|
Conversely, the Clean 15 is a list of fruits and vegetables with the least concentration of pesticides and EWG believes that these conventionally grown foods are safe to eat.
|1. Avocados||6. Papayas||11. Cauliflower|
|2. Sweet corn||7. Eggplants||12. Cantaloupes|
|3. Pineapples||8. Asparagus||13. Broccoli|
|4. Frozen sweet peas||9. Kiwis||14. Mushrooms|
|5. Onions||10. Cabbages||15. Honeydew melons|
Fresh or Frozen
Perhaps you’ll choose to make your own baby food. It can be an economical choice and certainly allows you to select exactly what goes into each meal. While you still will need to decide between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables, pureeing them into baby food at the peak of their freshness ensures your baby is receiving the necessary nutrition for his developing body. Fresh produce in season may be a cost-effective choice, however, it must be used rather quickly to keep its nutrients from deteriorating and keeping bacteria at bay. You may want to consider using frozen foods as well.
Frozen foods offer just as much nutritional value as fresh foods. Fruits and vegetables picked at their peak and ‘flash frozen’ actually retain their nutrients longer than fresh produce. This is true of meats and fish also that are frozen immediately after the manufacturing process. Some frozen foods may come with a higher price tag; however, they are a good option for feeding your baby foods that are not in season.
A word of caution when using frozen foods – thaw completely just before use and puree thoroughly. And once thawed, don’t re-freeze these foods as this leads to bacteria growth.
More important than choosing whether to feed your baby organic foods, fresh or frozen, is ensuring he receives a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure to include lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables every day. For more information about choosing organic versus conventional foods, check out Chapter 3 of Carole Kramer Arsenault’s book Newborn 101.