When your baby is ready for more than milk, feed him the most natural foods possible for a healthy start.
Your baby's first tastes of solid foods are thoroughly entertaining to watch, as new flavors and textures provoke faces that are equally adorable and hilarious. What's not so amusing is that, in some instances, there are invisible contaminants, fillers and other unhealthy ingredients lurking in his food.
Specifically, nonorganic foods may contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, preservatives and additives. Because some baby foods are made from concentrated fruits and vegetables, nonorganic versions may harbor especially high levels of chemical residues.
Even low levels of contaminants can accumulate quickly in a small child's body. That's because children ages 1 through 5 eat three to four (or more) times as much food per pound of body weight as an average American adult. In addition, a child's developing central nervous, immune and hormonal systems are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify contaminants.
A growing body of evidence suggests that certain toxins (such as pesticides) may impair children's health and development, so consider precautionary action and choose an organic diet for your little one whenever possible. Some studies also show that organic foods contain more antioxidants and other nutrients than conventionally produced ones.
A World of Options
Retail Thanks to growing interest, organic baby foods are becoming more widely available.
Delivery Referred to as "baby food catering," home delivery services are the pinnacle of convenience. Providers include Bohemian Baby (bohemianbaby.com), Petite Palate (Southern California only, petitepalate.com) and Pomme Bébé (pommebebe.com).
Homemade Not nearly as intimidating as it sounds, making your own baby food is the freshest and most inexpensive option (with the added benefit of having the least impact on the environment).
Choose a specific time each week to cook and purée foods using a food processor, immersion blender or baby food grinder (check out Beaba Babycook; scichild.com; KidCo's Baby Steps Food Mill, kidco.com; or Munchkin's Baby Food Grinder, munchkin.com). Then freeze it in an ice cube tray for handy serving sizes. Wholesomebabyfood.com offers age-appropriate recipes, as well as tips for cooking and storing food. You can also get freezer storage trays, a baby food cookbook and how-to DVD with Fresh Baby's So Easy Baby Food Kit (freshbaby.com).
Find locally grown organic food in your neighborhood using the Eat Well Guide (eatwellguide.org); it lists co-ops, farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms, which allow you to buy shares of food directly from a local grower.
Organic on a Budget
For many, buying organic all the time is a financial impossibility, so keep this in mind: Certain foods have more chemical residues than others; these include meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, as well as what the nonprofit Environmental Working Group calls "The Dirty Dozen" (see the complete list at fitpregnancy.com/goinggreen). Focus on finding the organic versions of these items.
Foods with a thicker skin typically have lower residue levels and are OK to purchase conventionally grown. These include asparagus, avocadoes, eggplant, mangoes and pineapples.
Commit to trying to feed your baby 100 percent organic for at least his first year. When he gets older, choose organic for the foods he eats most often. Overall, do the best you can and concentrate on consistently providing a well-balanced diet for your whole family.