We’ve all been there, standing in the grocery store, looking at fresh fruits and vegetables, and wondering, “Is organic really better for my family and me? Is it worth the extra cost?”
Organic foods are usually grown with fewer pesticides than other foods. But according to the American Dietetic Association, organic foods may not be healthier or safer than other kinds of foods. There is still not enough research out there to know.
As their babies start to eat more solid foods, some parents have decided to be cautious and to buy organic foods when they can. Here’s a closer look at organic and natural foods and what they offer.
If a vegetable or fruit is labeled organic, it meets certain standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture, including these criteria:
• Only approved fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides can be used. Man-made products are discouraged. Organic farmers often use natural fertilizers, such as manure and compost. Instead of using weed killers, they rotate crops, till, weed by hand, and mulch.
• Genetic engineering and certain types of radiation cannot be used.
Certain organic standards also apply to animals used to produce milk, eggs and meat. For example, they may not be given hormones to promote growth or antibiotics for any reason. Also, the animals must have access to the outdoors, such as a pasture.
Only foods that meet these USDA standards can be labeled with the “USDA Organic” seal.
Organic foods usually cost more than non-organic foods. An organic red delicious apple might cost $1.99 per pound, for example, compared to a non-organic cost of $1.49 a pound.
What Are Natural Foods?
Natural foods are as close as possible to their original state. No artificial ingredients or preservatives are added to them. Examples include brown rice, almonds and certain apple juices. Natural foods may or may not be organic.
What’s a Parent to Do?
First and foremost, it’s important for your child to eat a well-balanced diet. If organic foods are available and you can afford them, great; give them a try. But don’t sacrifice good nutrition for the organic label by neglecting other foods your baby needs. And regardless of whether food is organic or not, handle all food carefully and safely.
Shopping and Safety Tips
• Buy vegetables and fruits when they’re in season. This will help ensure the best quality. For example, buy apples in the fall and berries and tomatoes in the summer. This also saves on fuel to transport produce from far away.
• Read labels carefully. Organic may not mean healthy. Some organic foods are high in fat, sugar or salt.
• If you worry about pesticides, peel all fruits and vegetables. Trim the outer leaves of leafy vegetables like lettuce and cabbage. But remember, peeling may also reduce nutritional value. Pesticides are sometimes found in the fatty parts of food. So remove fat from meat and the skin from fish and poultry.
• Handle all food carefully and safely.
– Adapted from the March of Dimes Foundation. March of Dimes helps moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. And if something goes wrong, they offer information and comfort to families. They research the problems that threaten our babies and work on preventing them in hopes that someday every baby will have a healthy start in life. For more information, visit www.marchforbabies.org.