Organic Baby Food
At about 4-6 months of age when it is time to introduce new foods to your baby, one of the biggest decisions you will make is whether to choose conventional or organic baby food. In order to make this decision, there are several factors to consider. Which is safer and more nutritious? Can you afford to choose organic baby food? Can you afford not to? It is important for each family to do their research, look at all of their options, and decide what is best in their situation. Some factors to consider are nutrition, safety, and cost, but first, what does “organic” really mean?
Organic foods are those that have been certified by the United States Department of Agriculture’s organic program. This means that the growers or producers of these foods comply with many government regulations such as not using chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Also, animals are not given antibiotics to control disease or growth hormones to make them larger. Instead they are provided with organic feed, clean living conditions and allowed to graze freely in order to reduce opportunities for illness. This makes organic baby food a very popular choice for those who are concerned about the environment and pollution with chemicals.
The scientific information regarding the nutritional differences between organic and conventional baby food is unfortunately, not entirely clear yet. Several organizations still debate the benefits of organic versus conventional food nutrition. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, several studies have been done that show the nutritional content between organic and conventional foods is similar. A pureed conventional squash and a pureed organic squash will provide basically the same amount of vitamins and minerals to your baby.
In regard to pesticides, the USDA states that organic produce definitely has a lower amount of pesticides but that even conventional produce pesticide residue is below government safety limits. However, some choose organic to reduce exposure even further. In order to decrease pesticides, it is recommended to wash all produce thoroughly under running water two times. Choose produce that has thick skins such as bananas and oranges versus produce with thin skins such as strawberries and peaches. Peeling these foods can reduce exposure as well. Choosing domestic over imported produce can also help to limit pesticides.
Another possible benefit of organic foods is that they do not have any additives such as artificial colorings or flavorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives or MSG. The Food and Drug Administration regulates all food additives and determines safe levels for consumption. Just as some people can have a reaction to foods like peanuts or milk, others can have reactions to certain food additives. However, some of these additives have been implicated in causing a wide variety of more serious health conditions from ADHD to cancer.
While many are already convinced that organic baby food is best for their child’s diet, cost is often an obstacle. Organic foods can cost almost twice as much as their conventional counterparts. One way families have worked around this issue is by making their own organic baby food. Organic produce such as squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes can be steamed, boiled or baked and then mashed, pureed or blended. Foods can be frozen in small containers to maintain nutrients and be used at a later time. If the idea of mashing potatoes is not your cup of tea, there are still options with buying organic with cost in mind. Buy in bulk and look for sales that you can combine coupons with to maximize your dollar. Sometimes it might be necessary to cut costs in other areas in order to provide your baby with what you think is best. Ultimately, the decision to choose organic or conventional is one that should be discussed with your pediatrician and take into account all of your beliefs and circumstances.
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