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Is Organic Baby Food Better?

Katlyn Joy |31, July 2013


Every parent wants the very best for their baby. You want to protect your child from everything. And this can make you a mark for every company who sells you on the idea that what they offer is the safest and the best for baby. So when it comes to organic baby food, is it really best or is it a scam?

What Does Organic Mean?

For a food to be designated organic means that it is free of harmful pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial flavors or colors, preservatives or genetic engineering.

Does Organic Matter?

According to a study published in the September 2012 Annals of Internal Medicine, organic food costs more but may not be any more healthy. The study out of Stanford looked at 17 human studies and 223 studies on contamination levels and nutrient density.

The bottom line of the Stanford study is that the published literature does not provide any strong evidence of organic foods being significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. The study did find that organic food is 30 percent less likely to contain detectable pesticides but even conventional produce had pesticides levels well below government standards for pesticides.

Both conventional and organic produce however are likely to be contaminated with pathogens such as E coli or salmonella. The differences for contamination between conventional and organic in these areas however are statistically insignificant.

One study looked at pesticides levels in the urine of children and did find eating a diet of organically grown produce did result in lowered pesticide levels in the children's urine. However, what is not established is whether this means a significant difference in health concerns from this. Some pesticides can be detected in urine but they may be pesticides that only affect insects and are harmless to humans.

However, organic is a big money business. The market for organic food in 1997 was .7 and by 2010 it had exploded to .7 billion. Is the cost worth it? That's a question parents must ask themselves.

Ways to Be Safer

Some measures you can take will make a difference without costing such a pretty penny. Wash and peel your produce before using it. Avoid imported produce and choose local and in season food whenever possible. Some local farmers markets are organic and have programs for families to buy in and get monthly produce in season. Check for what the policies are for pesticides. Get your water tested for pesticides, especially if you live in an agricultural area.

The Mayo Clinic advises parents that the US Department of Agriculture or USDA certifies foods as organic, but the USDA makes no claims that organic food is safer or more nutritious than conventional food.

The Mayo Clinic states, "Some parents prefer organic baby food because it's environmentally friendly. Others feel that organic baby food simply tastes better. What's most important, however, is a balanced diet. Offering your child healthy foods from the beginning — whether they're organic or not — will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating."

What Organic Baby Food to Choose

If you decide to use organic baby food, or conventional baby food, avoid sugary foods or foods with too much flavoring. You set baby's palate and if you get him used to too much flavored foods baby will not enjoy simpler tastes again.

You can make simple baby food yourself by setting aside portions of the same foods you cook your family and not adding seasonings to those portions. For instance, if you are steaming some broccoli, set aside some without the salt or cheese sauce for baby and mush it up or blend it. If you are cooking some potatoes, set some aside without the salt and pepper.

Keep baby safe by always washing food thoroughly and cooking it completely. Don't add honey to food that is for babies younger than 1, as it can be fatal. Keep the texture appropriate to baby's age and stage of eating. Baby needs to be able to handle it without it becoming a choking hazard.

Great beginning foods for baby include plain applesauce, bananas smashed with a fork and thinned with breast milk or formula, carrots steamed and pureed, and peaches blended and strained. Feeding baby doesn't have to be expensive or difficult.

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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