Being the mother of two boys and now infant twins is no easy task. They are always hungry! One thing that can be challenging to a mom of a toddler who is just starting on solid foods and another toddler who is always hungry, but can be very picky, is the dreaded question, “what is there to eat?” When I first became a mom, nutrition for my children was fairly simple. I relied on warming up bottles or nursing my children as the sole form of their nutrition. I never paid attention to all the choices available at the grocery store. However, as my oldest son approached his first birthday, a solid diet became much more important, and I realized there are many different options in the grocery store.
There is a point where you just need to arm yourself with accurate information to make quick and easy decisions when observing all of the food options out there. I have found that in order to do this, I need to select the food that fuels my family based on facts, not fear. It is part of the unspoken mother code to feed your family delicious, healthy and nutritious food–at least the majority of the time.
Here is a short list of things I often think about when heading to the grocery store:
Buying organic food is a food preference, not a matter of food safety. It does not harm my children to feed them food that is not organic, and I more often than not select food grown by the conventional method.
When it comes to food production, the “organic” label refers to a specific production method, not the quality or safety of food. Organic farmers, ranchers and food processors follow a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-defined set of standards to produce organic food and fiber. For example, organic farmers are allowed to use certain pesticides and herbicides, non-synthetic fertilizers, non-GMO seeds, and/or organic feed.
There is no scientific evidence that proves organic food is healthier or safer for your body than the conventional counterpart. In fact, there are also very strict standards from the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration that convention farmers must follow to ensure food safety. If you’re worried about pesticides, it’s important to remember that just because food has been grown organically does not mean that it was grown completely free from pesticides. There are certain pesticides that are allowed for use in the production of organic crops.
Regulations exist to determine which pesticides are allowed for use, but not how much can be used. As farmers, we must be good stewards of the land. Therefore, we only apply what is needed to maintain healthy crops free from insects and diseases. Whether you choose organic or conventional, you will have selected a safe and healthy choice for your family. It seems like trying to get my toddlers to eat their veggies is still my biggest dilemma!
Gluten is the name for the primary protein that is found in wheat. There is a small percentage of the population who are not able to consume food containing gluten. There are three important reasons to not consume gluten:
For the rest of the population, however, consuming food that contains gluten is not an unhealthy option. I have seen packaging that calls chicken, oatmeal and other items that do not contain the gluten protein, labeled as gluten-free. Gluten-free labeling has been used as a marketing tactic to make a product seem healthier to the consumers who buy them. Just remember, going gluten-free is a food preference, not a food safety issue.
This is something that you see a lot in the grocery store. This topic is something we as farmers feel very strongly about. There is a lot of controversy regarding this topic, but GMOs have been proven safe in repeated and unbiased scientific studies that have taken place over decades. GMO technologies include when plant breeders use genetic engineering to develop new crop varieties with more desirable traits. One example of this is developing crops with a greater resistance to disease or a higher tolerance to drought. Scientists have been studying GMOs for years and have concluded there are no health risks associated with growing or consuming GMO foods. There are also no benefits from consuming foods that are GMO-free. I recently read an article that you could now purchase GMO-free water. Water! Know the facts, so you don’t fall victim to a marketing scheme. There are only 10 GMO crops on the marketplace today, and water is NOT one of them! Foods must go through years of rigorous testing before they are allowed to even enter the marketplace. GMO foods must be approved by scientists with the USDA, the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (along with several other domestic and international organizations).
The conclusion is there are many choices available to us, and it is up to us as consumers to make the choices that best fit our families. As mothers, we love our families and we will do whatever it takes to protect them. For me, I find comfort in feeding my family “real food.” I recognize that prepackaged foods that claim to be organic, gluten-free or GMO-free may sound more “healthy,” but many of these labels are marketing fads designed to play into consumer fear. If we can teach our children good habits such as eating healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables we are doing our jobs correctly. We have so many regulatory agencies in the U.S., and food that is grown in this country is safe for us to consume no matter what method is used. We just need to decide what our preferences are. It’s important for us all to be informed when making selections. If you’re ever confused or need more information, reach out to a local university scientist, nutritionist or even a local farmer. We’ll help you separate fact from fiction and provide you with the tools to make good choices for your family.