Mom’s Healthy Market Backpack Giveaway

Mom’s Healthy Market is an online resource for high quality, eco-friendly products for children from companies such as Bebe au Lait, Green Toys, Apple Park Toys, Guidecraft, Tegu, Seventh Generation, E-cloth, Pure Rest Organics, and Eco Baby. Everything on the site is organized by room for easy reference. Check out the “baby room” for some great diapering products or the “kid’s room” for an extensive organic bedding selection, as just two examples.

In addition to the toys and organic food, visit the site for parenting articles or to set up a baby gift registry. Use the code MM20 and you’ll receive 20% off your first order!
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What’s Your Favorite Baby Food Book?

We wrote about making your own organic baby food in the Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Most DIY baby food enthusiasts know about Super Baby Food, which Joy reviewed once upon a time. Do you have a favorite baby food book—or do you rely on the Internet for recipes? Or do you just wing it? (After all, pureeing yams is not exactly a complicated culinary skill to master.)

Speaking of baby food recipe books—we’re giving away Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler. Go to our giveaway post, comment on it, and you’re entered to win!

Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler Review and Giveaway

Homemade baby food became somewhat of a hobby for me. I don’t think my daughter had more than three or four jars of store-bought food, and I smiled smugly when she rejected it in favor of my delectable concoctions of ground oats, flax seeds, and kale. (That smugness has since faded: See the Any Brilliant Ideas for Picky Eaters? post!)

As obsessed as I was with making my own homemade baby food, I could have used this incredible book: Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler by Jeannette L. Bessinger and Tracee Yablon-Brenner of Real Food Moms. Their guide goes way beyond my boring purees, with more than 150 recipes and snack ideas for babies and kids under three. Many of the recipes sound delicious for adults, too—zucchini cupcakes with mascarpone frosting, veggie pancakes, pasta with pesto and garbanzo beans, creamy choco-banana smoothie. And don’t worry—there are still plenty of recipes for “traditional” baby fare such as teething biscuits, grain cereals, and apple sauce.
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What’s Your Favorite Organic Baby Food?

In a perfect world, every one of us would whirl up our own sweet potato purees for baby at all times.  Some of you live in that reality and I salute you!  Since I was working nearly full time while raising my babies, I lived in the land of sleep loss and basic survival and sometimes purchased a little sanity in the form of prepared baby food.

If you do buy baby food for traveling or just to save time, what does your child prefer?  My babies enjoyed Earth’s Best Baby Food and I loved that I could buy them in affordable cases from Costco or individually from Target. I also had hearty approval from my child for Happy Baby Organic Baby Food but I can’t speak to some of the other brands on the market like Plum Organics Baby Food, Sprout Organic Baby Food, or Peter Rabbit Organics.
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Why don’t you . . . buy organic food?

This post is a part of the illuminating Why don’t you” series. No judgment! We’re just curious.

I’ll bet I know the answer to this one: cost. A long time ago, Joy wrote something like this for our blog or our book: “Most Americans would love to buy all organic if they didn’t have to spend more.” I remember questioning that statement. Is that true? Sure, our readers probably do prefer organic food, but a surprising number of people don’t see any benefit to organics and might even prefer conventional stuff.

I have to admit that I’m not motivated to buy organic food for personal health reasons. It just feels really abstract to me. I’ve eaten conventional food all my life, and I’m fine! (No need to educate me about this—I know on an intellectual level that it’s not good to ingest chemicals or feed them to my family!) Less abstract (in my mind) is the global benefit of organic farming practices, which is why I strive to eat organic fruits and vegetables. (And I have to admit I didn’t make much of an effort to buy organic produce until I had a baby.)
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Do You Make Homemade Baby Food?

It may sound difficult, but making homemade organic baby food has tremendous benefits for baby, the environment and your budget.  Also, it is by no means difficult to plop cooked food into a blending device and swirl it up.  Both Rebecca and I have conquered the art of baby purees despite the fact that both of us felt totally overwhelmed as new mothers for the first year.  Have you given homemade baby food a whirl?  If so, what are your standbys and how did you get started?  What challenges have you faced?  We find that like many other green lifestyle pursuits, most people gain the confidence to make the shift when they have friends or family who have tried it before.  Hopefully our readers can provide that online community for each other.  Thanks for sharing your baby food secrets!  And for more recipes and tips, check out our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet.

The Saturday Question: Did You Use Organic Baby Food?

While most families want to feed their baby organic baby food, cost can sometimes be a barrier.  Did you splurge on organic meals for baby?  Did you find a way to offset the cost by making your own organic purees or harvesting produce from a family garden?  If you did buy prepared organic baby food, where did you find the best deals and the best quality? Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us this weekend!

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. 

Fattening Baby, Naturally

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice—just my own experience! 

At my daughter’s one-year appointment, my pediatrician recommended that we increase her weight gain by giving her Pediasure instead of milk.  Considering this same doctor had once suggested feeding our baby Bugles, Pringles, and Lorna Doone cookies just to help her pack on the pounds, my first reaction was very resistant.  After all, I wouldn’t eat those foods—did I really want to start a junk food addiction in my young child? 

I went to the store to check it out, and found that the first three ingredients of Pediasure are water, sugar, and maltodextrin.  So what is maltodextrin, anyway?  It’s a common food additive that can be produced from starch—Pediasure derives theirs from corn.  I’d been careful to feed my baby nothing but organic fruits, grains, and vegetables during her entire first year—it felt like all that care about avoiding unnatural foods would go out the window as soon as she chugged her first bottle of sugary, chocolaty, maltodextriny Pediasure. 
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