My Adventures in Organic Baby Food

Originally I didn’t think organic baby food would be such a priority for me. No one in my very frugal extended family had considered purchasing organic food because of the extra expense. The turning point came when I read in Consumer Reports, the ultimate thrifty guide, that organic baby food was worth the extra cost not just for the sake of the environment, but for baby’s health.

 

As if I wasn’t already convinced, last Wednesday’s issue of The Seattle Intelligencer drove the point home with an article entitled “Harmful pesticides found in everyday food products”.  The article describes a recent scientific study of 21 children between the ages of 3-11.  Researchers kept careful records of their dietary habits and found that those who ate mainstream produce showed signs of organophosphates in their urine and saliva samples. These findings are a bit upsetting considering that organophosphastes were developed from nerve gas during World War II. During the winter months, the detected pesticide levels were higher in the children, which most likely showed that they were eating more imported fruits and vegetables.  Now, before you get too worried, doctors aren’t sure what effects, if any, organophosphates have on children.  Still, it feels pretty great not to take the risk.  

 

When I first did research about pesticides, I was shocked to find that the foods with some of the highest levels of pesticide residues are family favorites such as apples and peaches. I wasn’t sure I could afford to buy only organic foods, so I focused on buying organic for the foods with the highest pesticide residue.  The environmental working group has developed a printable wallet-sized card that lists the top 43 fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide load.  If you simply can’t afford to buy organic, Tiny Footprints, the website of the Oregon Environmental Council, recommends cleansing produce by mixing one teaspoon of dish soap into a gallon of warm water.  Then thoroughly wash and rinse before consumption.  The  photo below shows one of the fruits with the sixth highest pesticide residue: the humble strawberry.

 Strawberry carries high level of pesticide residue

Once I had procured my produce, I was off to become a baby food Betty Crocker (organic-style).  I bought a fifteen dollar baby food grinder when Roscoe started on solids, thinking that it was the only method for mashing his food.  It very quickly ended up in the back of the cupboard when I realized that our blender and some ice cube trays were all we really needed.  I peeled and boiled or steamed the food, tossed it in the blender with some extra water and poured it into ice cube trays.  Then I dumped the frozen cubes into Zip lock bags for storage with labels and dates. Mainly I did large batches at once—which was quite convenient but sometimes backfired when Roscoe decided that he hated my four large Ziplock bags full of sweet potato puree.  You can find some simple directions for home blended baby food on Wholesome Baby Food’s website.  Here Roscoe has decided to use his dinner as a facial treatment rather than an actual meal. 

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In the beginning, I was determined to make every drop of baby food myself. When I complained to my daycare provider about exhaustion and the stress of preparing Roscoe’s food, pumping breast milk, and writing lesson plans, she suggested a revolutionary idea: buying a little sanity in the form of prepared baby food. In the end I made some of Roscoe’s meals myself but also found deals on prepared organic foods.

 

The best discovery I made on prepared food for Roscoe came outside of the baby food aisle.  I bought large jars of organic applesauce and boxes of frozen organic pureed squash that worked great as baby food.  I also used cans of organic pumpkin and as my son grew, I used cans of organic beans and as finger foods.  Here Roscoe considers the complex flavors of pureed squash. 

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Earth’s Best was our standby in jarred baby food and teething biscuits. Roscoe always loved their food (much better than anything that emerged from my blender) and we appreciated the fact that their whole line of baby foods are certified organic.  By buying large boxes of several dozen jars of Earth’s Best at Costco, the cost was just a few pennies more per jar than standard baby food.

 

When Roscoe started to be able to feed himself, we discovered Healthy Times puffs.  They are wheat-free, dairy-free, and soy-free but Roscoe never seemed to notice that they were missing anything.  They had much less packaging than mainstream puffs and were very fairly priced. Healthy Times was started by a mom over twenty years ago who was looking for organic, healthy alternatives and now has a whole line of foods including jarred baby foods and teething biscuits.

 

Annie’s Homegrown is more of a kids brand than a baby food label, but we’ve started Roscoe on the bunny crackers and would love for him to grow up with the brand name.  Annie’s has been around for a decade and were far ahead of the mainstream organic food movement.  They offer crackers, cereal and even organic macaroni and cheese that are appealing to children and much more nourishing than the mainstream alternatives.

 

The lesson that parenting seems to teach over and over again is, “be flexible.”  If you’re planning on making every drop of baby food from scratch, be open the fact that exhaustion may occasionally trump your plans.  Or, if you think it’s utterly impossible to make your own baby food, give it a whirl and see what you think.  The decision to feed our son organic food has raised my family’s awareness about the quality of our produce and the contents of our fridge are now reflecting our move toward organic foods.  We have the youngest member of our family to thank for propelling us much further on our green journey.