When it comes to caring for our precious angels, the world seems to have gone organic crazy! From cotton, veggie onesies and organic diapers to earth-friendly dinnerware, bibs, wipes and hand-made toy giraffes. Trendy, organic boutiques are lining our city streets with products that claim to have been “made with your baby’s health and happiness in mind.” But the question remains: aside from scoring points on the parenting cool-o-meter, when it comes to what we put on our baby’s spoon, is it worth it to buy organic?
First, remember that tiny tots are developing organs to last a lifetime. Due to their smaller size, speedy metabolisms, and less varied diets, infants and children are more vulnerable to health and developmental damage. Therefore, it stands to reason that babies need the very purest and safest foods. And eating organic food grown without pesticides or growth hormones and produced without artificial additives or processing chemicals, is a comforting choice for many parents.
For all you skeptics, rest assured that the regulations set by the Canadian Organic Standards (COS) are strict and also mandatory as of June 30, 2009. A product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients to bear the official “Canada Organic” logo.
Nutritionist, Melissa Piccinin, heads the nutritional pediatric course at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto. The mother of three believes that toxic exposure to young children is a real issue: “Researchers at the University of Washington have concluded that a child organically fed will have 6-9 times less exposure to toxic pesticides than their conventional counterparts.”
Of course, organic living comes at a price. Paying farmers a fair rate for lovingly growing your produce is unavoidable. So before you hit the grocery store or farmers market, you may want to find out when it’s worth spending the extra money and when to scrimp. For example, the U.S Department of Agriculture conducted studies that identified “the dirty dozen”- fruits and vegetables that absorb the most pesticides when grown non-organically. On the list of organic must-haves were apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, bell peppers, celery, potatoes and spinach. Another way to cut costs is to make your own. All you need is a blender and some fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Mash up a banana, puree a baked sweet potato or squish an avocado. Easy peasy.
For truly time-starved moms, there are frozen options available. For example, Sweetpea Baby Food produces ten varieties of frozen, 100% organic meat and vegetable combinations, packaged in easy-to-use ice-cube trays. For where to find it, go to sweetpeababyfood.com.
But if you want your kids to have a truly healthy diet, the trick is to shop local and buy seasonal produce grown close to home. After all, a tomato that has been picked a week ago and has travelled 3,000 miles to reach your grocery store is not nearly as fresh or appetizing, even if it has been grown organically. Plus, ‘locavores’ will argue that the packaging and transportation involved is a pretty naughty eco-crime in terms of carbon footprints.
To ensure that you are not feeding your infants peas and carrots that are older than they are, visit your local farmers market. Shop with the seasons for fresher, tastier, greenhouse-free produce that is richer in nutrients.
Let your children hand-pick the reddest, crunchiest looking apple or the silliest shaped potato. Educate them so that they know that carrots don’t grow in tins. They come with soil on them – actual soil. Go strawberry picking, cow milking, seed planting, apple tasting. You know you’ve done a good job when your child is at school and cites his favourite vegetable as being a rutabaga.