There’s a definite trend among many families to seek out organic products for health and environmental reasons. If your baby has started or is about to begin eating solid foods, you may be wondering if you should focus on an organic diet for your little one. Since there is still considerable discussion among experts as to the benefits of organic foods, here’s a guide to help you make the best choices for your baby’s nutrition and your family’s budget.

What defines “organic”?

“USDA Organic” or “Certified Organic” seal on your food means that the item must have an ingredients list and the contents should be 95% or more certified organic and that they are free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes. Additionally, they must not be processed using industrial solvents.

Is organic food worth the price?

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The short answer to this question is “maybe.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has conducted extensive analyses of scientific evidence surrounding organic products and the conclusion is mixed. Here’s what they’ve found, in summary. First of all, they have concluded that organic foods have the same vitamins, minerals and other nutritional levels as conventional foods. There are a couple of factors, however, that may have an impact on your baby’s health: lower pesticide levels and lower levels of antibiotics.  Despite these conclusions, there is no direct evidence that a diet based on organic products will result in better health or decreases the risk of disease for your little one. 

What most experts do agree on, is that what’s most important is providing a healthy and balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and quality proteins, while limiting processed foods. Organic products are significantly more expensive than their conventional counterparts, so it may not be necessary or possible to choose a 100% organic diet for your little one. In fact, according to the AAP, for families with a limited food budget, it’s not necessarily a good idea to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic produce while reducing overall intake of other healthy foods.

Which organic products to buy?

Here are some guidelines as to which organic foods may be worth the higher prices and why: 

  • Meat and poultry: Conventional farms use hormones to accelerate growth and antibiotics to prevent disease. Non-organic meat, poultry or products that contain these ingredients will have traces of these elements. Purchasing certified organic products will minimize your child’s exposure to pesticides, chemicals, and hormones. 
  • Milk: The same considerations regarding meat and poultry apply to milk and dairy products.  Since most babies and toddlers tend to drink a lot of milk proportionate to their weight, a shift to organic products might be worthwhile. 
  • Fruits and vegetables:  Given the wide variety of growing and processing conditions for fruits and vegetables, we’ve selected a list of those products with the highest levels of pesticides. In order to avoid pesticide residues, it may be worth buying organic varieties of these products. cherries, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, nectarines, kale, peaches, grapes, celery, tomatoes, pears, nectarines, apples. Keep in mind that this also applies to products like juices or puree.
  • Prepared Baby foods: Parents who feed prepared baby foods primarily, may benefit from switching to organic since they make up a large proportion of their child’s diet. Non-organic baby foods may have some chemicals and preservatives added during processing and cooking.

Ultimately, your choice of foods for your family is a personal one and depends on many factors including location, budget, time and convictions.  It’s always best to provide your little ones with a balanced and varied diet, whether conventional or organic. If you have questions about the best foods for your baby, don’t hesitate to consult a pediatrician, health care provider or nutrition expert.