Knowing what to feed baby can be confusing. There are more options today than ever before – from the types of foods offered to the packaging. The health of the baby, personal preference, availability, prices and time constraints all contribute to the question “what to feed baby?” I asked myself this question years ago when my kids were babies. As a Registered Dietitian, I had studied infant nutrition. Our farm had ample room for the big garden I planted. I thought it would all be so easy until all three of my kiddos were milk/soy protein intolerant and colitis continued into the introduction of solid food. I feel for you mommies and your babies that know that struggle.
As parents, we choose to either buy our baby food or make it ourselves. And within those two choices, we can decide if we want the products to be grown conventionally or organically. But what do those terms mean?
Organically grown foods are grown using only natural pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. The USDA has guidelines the growers must follow in order to attain the organic label on his/her product. These guidelines can be found at USDA.gov. Conventionally grown products are grown with either some or all synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. The USDA does not make any claims as to which farming method is better.
It is important to note that organic and conventional refer to how the food product is raised. Harvard and Stanford Universities are two of many institutions to prove there are no nutritional differences between foods grown with either method. It is how the product is grown that determines the organic label. Since fewer crops are grown organically, and it is more labor intensive to raise organic crops, the law of supply and demand is the reason organic products cost more.
Pesticide residue is perhaps the biggest concern when choosing between conventional or organic products. It is important to note that in terms of baby foods, this is less of an issue than when looking at whole foods. This is because all baby foods must be peeled before processed either commercially or at home. Therefore, there will be no pesticide residue on any product being made into baby food, whether it was grown organically or conventionally. When making one’s own baby food, either from foods purchased at the store, grown in your garden or someone else’s, be sure to use a clean brush and scrub the peel under running water. Then remove the peel. Never use chemical, bleach, or soaps to clean a peel as fruits and vegetables have pores and those agents can travel into the product.
The terms organic and conventional refer to how the food ingredients were farmed. Commercial regular baby food, commercial organic baby food, and homemade baby food from either conventional or organic products are all basically the same nutritionally if processed correctly. Knowing what the terms conventional and organic mean will hopefully help you with one of your many decisions when selecting baby foods.