When you first start feeding your baby solid food, you may wonder why you bothered paying a little more for organic when most of it ends up on you and the bib.
However, there are a multitude of reasons why starting your baby out on organic solids is worth every penny.
Obviously all the advantages of eating organic food for adults also apply when we’re talking about baby.
We have written about the advantages of organic food in a previous article here on EcoVillageGreen but what sticks out for me as a mother, is that organic food is pesticide and synthetic fertilizer free.
For me, it was a really easy decision to feed my child organic food as it meant exposing him to fewer toxins at a critical time in his development.
The side effects, of course, are that organic farming practices are better for the animals being raised and better for the environment, not to mention many argue that organic food simply tastes better.
However, I have to admit that it wasn’t simply about nutrition. I firmly believe in the environmental and health benefits of organic food, so my decision to use organic food was also about setting up behavioural preferences that would hopefully become a lifelong habit.
At this point, if you’re a parent, you are no doubt thinking ‘my kid ate some playdough, a two-week old Cheerio from under the fridge, and what I hope was a dust bunny from between the couch cushions all before breakfast…and you want to talk about behavioural preferences?’
According to paediatrician, Dr. A. Greene, that is all perfectly normal. Most crawling babies will put just about anything in their mouths as they are experimenting with tastes and textures as well as building up their natural immunity by exposing themselves to as many germs as possible.
However, just after a year old our toddlers stop being as experimental. They generally will only eat tastes that they have been exposed to previously. In other words, tastes that they trust. This means two things for parents:
1 – If we feed babies highly processed foods with sugar and other additives, for example a commercially processed apple sauce, they may not recognize a natural apple taste when we go to give them an apple later in life.
2 – We need to expose our children to as many tastes as we can, keeping in mind that you should introduce foods one at a time to be able to identify any allergies or reactions easily.
Dr. Greene talks a bit more about this in the following video:
So, by starting our babies on organic baby food, we truly are helping to establish important eating habits early on.
However, the reality is that budgets can be tight for young families, and buying organic does mean more money. So what are your options?
Organic baby food on a budget
1 – Make it. The simplest and cheapest thing you can do is make your own organic baby food. This is what I did as we were eating mainly organic anyway. I used a KidCo Food Mill to just grind up whatever we were eating, and it’s very portable if you’re eating away from home.
2 – Store it. If I think of the times I used a commercially prepared baby food, it was usually when I was in a rush. The baby was crying, I had nothing prepared and it was easy. However, in less than an hour you can make enough organic baby food to last you the week and for very little money. I used to freeze purees in an ice cube tray, but there’s also some nice equipment out there specifically for storing baby food, such as an 8 pack of 2 oz containers or ice cube trays with lids to prevent freezer burn. Less than an hour of preparation a week can save you time and money in the long run.
3 – Choose it. Not all food takes up pesticides and other chemicals equally. The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide gives a list of the biggest offenders when it comes to pesticides. So, if you can’t afford to always buy organic, then at least consider buying the organic counterparts of these products as they are the pesticide nasties: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines and grapes imported from outside the US, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (from the US), lettuce, and kale or collard greens.
Organic baby food on the go
As I mentioned above, if you are prepared you will always have baby food to take on the go. However, if I’m honest, there were plenty of times when I turned to commercial products and luckily there are lots of options out there.
Earth’s Best is a widely available brand of organic baby food and they have a fruit starter kit and vegetable starter kit if you want to give their product range a try. The jars are completely recyclable, which is nice, and they also make great little containers for paints, crafts, screws…you name it.
Plum Organics and Happy Baby both make products in pouches, which are often more convenient than a jar as they take up less space and can’t break. When your child gets a little older, they will enjoy the independence of being able to suck the food straight from the pouch. There were a number of times I handed a pouch over to my son while we were in the car (I was safely stopped at the time) and just dealt with the consequences of the mess later. He would love it!
Organic baby food reading
Dr. Alan Greene, from the video above, has a book called Feeding Baby Green, which includes recipes, as well as tips on how to set up healthy eating habits and avoid raising a picky eater. It’s a great general read for people wanting to know more about why organic food is important for your child.
Karin Knight’s The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet has more than 200 recipes that are easy and quick to prepare. It doesn’t focus on organic food, but obviously you just need to use organic ingredients in the recipes to achieve that. The book includes a timetable of when to introduce foods, it marks recipes that freeze well, and there is a spot in the back that lists all the recipes with space for you to rate each recipe and add notes – a lovely keepsake.
I can really only speak from my own experience and I am by no means a nutritional expert, but I am a mom. I chose organic baby food for my son and I continue to choose organic for our family. We grow some of our own food, as I want my son to know where food comes from. When he comes shopping with me we talk about what’s in season, where the food comes from, how far it had to travel, and organic versus inorganic options. Obviously, there will come a day, too soon from now, when he makes his own food choices, but hopefully some of this will stick with him.