Should You Use Organic Fruits and Veggies to Make Your Baby’s Food?

blankWhen you make homemade baby food, it’s best to use the freshest produce possible (although using frozen fruits and vegetables is considered fine, too).  But there’s another factor to consider before buying produce for your baby:  organic or non-organic?

Facts About Organic Produce

The “organic” label can be applied to any produce that is grown using natural, non-synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and that isn’t highly processed.  Organic foods have gained lots of attention in recent decades, and have been praised as a healthier, more natural alternative to non-organic produce.

However, if you’ve ever done a price comparison, you know that that organic doesn’t come cheap!  Organic produce is anywhere from 20% – 100% more expensive than non-organic.  The reasons for these higher costs are many, and the higher costs themselves prevent many people from buying organic at all.  It’s estimated that only 10% of the American population buys only organic produce, simply because the cost is so high.

Comparing Organic and Non-Organic Foods

Of course, as parents, we want to give the best to our babies.  So, is the high price of organic produce worth it if it means healthier food for our little ones?  Or is it safe to stick with non-organic fruits and veggies?

The chart below offers some basic information to help you make your decision.

Factors to Consider Organic Fruits/Veggies Non-Organic Fruits/Veggies
COST Organic produce is significantly more expensive than non-organic. Non-organic produce is far less expensive than organic.
VARIETY You may be a bit limited if you buy organic. For example, it might be tough to find organic blueberries! However, as more and more stores carry organic produce, that will likely change. A wider variety of fruits and vegetables are available if you choose non-organic produce.
NUTRITION There’s conflicting research about whether or not organic produce is healthier — some studies indicate that it is, while others indicate that it’s nutritionally identical to non-organic. All fruits and veggies are considered nutritious, so there’s really no such thing as an “unhealthy” piece of produce! We all need to eat plenty of fresh produce, regardless of whether it’s organic or not.
SAFETY Organic produce is grown without synthetic, chemical pesticides, so people who eat it have less pesticide exposure than those who eat non-organic produce.  And since synthetic pesticides are considered toxins, this makes organic produce a slightly safer option. People who eat non-organic produce are more exposed to pesticide residue. Keep in mind, however, that non-organic produce has pesticide levels that are well-below what the FDA considers dangerous.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT* Organic produce is considered more environmentally-friendly than non-organic produce, since it uses more natural farming methods and processing. Non-organic produce is considered to be less “green” than organic, but see our note below for more details.

*NOTE: Many environmental experts advise that people who want to live a “green” lifestyle focus on eating local foods, rather than organic ones. Think of it this way: if you live in Boston, and you buy organic strawberries shipped from California, your food takes a huge amount of fuel to make its way to your shopping cart! Better to buy local strawberries (even if they aren’t organic) if your primary concern is the environment. Of course, if you can find local, organic produce, that’s perfect!

Should I Feed My Baby Organic Food?

So what do we make of all this information?  Here’s the bottom line, as we see it:  to help your baby stay as healthy as possible, feed her plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Period.  Organic produce may be slightly healthier, so if you can afford the price, go for it!  But if buying organic is simply out of your budget’s reach, don’t lose a moment of sleep over it.

What if you can’t afford to switch entirely to organic but are still concerned about pesticide and chemical exposure?  Researchers recommend focusing on the “dirty dozen”:  these are 12 fruits and vegetables that tend to have the highest levels of pesticides.  When it comes to these fruits and veggies, buy organic; then, buy non-organic varieties of everything else.  This’ll help maximize your food budget while minimizing your baby’s exposure to pesticides.

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported varieties)
  7. Grapes (imported varieties)
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens

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Organic? Non-Organic? A little bit of both? How do you decide what kind of produce to buy for baby?

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