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Eating Green

"The Pesticides and ADD Connection"

"Cancer Risk Lower in Wild-Caught Fish"

"Toxic Plastic Found in Canned Food"

"Meat, Hormones, and Your Child's Fertility"

The headlines are hard for any mom to ignore: We're bombarded with reports, studies, and, frankly, conjecture about whether the way we grow, harvest, and store food before it gets to our family's dinner table (or that fetus in the womb) is harmful or not. "During pregnancy and exclusive breastfeeding, all of what your baby receives nutritionally comes from what you eat. It's a time of greatest control and opportunity, as well as greatest risk," notes the Al Gore of the pediatric world, Alan Greene, M.D., author of Raising Baby Green: The Earth Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care (and yes, that's his real name!). Later, when your baby moves to solids and table food, choosing organics at least some of the time can reduce her intake of the pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics commonly used in agriculture today.

Of course, no one is really against organic foods (how can you dis Mother Nature's best?), but Dr. Greene's take is only one side of the story. Many authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), don't feel you need to spend the extra, sometimes substantial, cabbage, if you will, on these foods. "Organic foods are better for the environment, of course, but the science does not support their superiority," notes pediatrician Steven Abelowitz, M.D., medical director of Coastal Kids Pediatric Group in Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel, California. "Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the AAP makes any claims that they're more nutritious or safer than other foods. To a pediatrician, making sure your baby receives a balanced diet is what is preferable."

Although that message is refreshingly reassuring, going organic at least some of the time appeals to many families. But the truth is, certain foods will have a bigger impact than others. So to help you get the most organic bang for your buck whether you're pregnant or introducing table foods, take a bite out of this menu plan before you hit the grocery store, er, farmers market. FYI: None of these recommendations are hard-and-fast. Take what you like, leave the rest.

 

During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is naturally a time when you scrutinize every bite you take, so splurging on some organic foods is likely to feel like the right thing to do. But what you choose to buy organic during pregnancy depends on only one key factor - what you crave, says registered dietitian Bridget Swinney, author of the books Eating Expectantly, Baby Bites, and Healthy Food for Healthy Kids. Keep a journal of what you eat over a period of about two weeks, then put your money where your mouth is and buy organic versions of the foods that top your list if they also appear high on the toxin charts, Swinney emphasizes. Peaches, apples, strawberries, and potatoes are common culprits (Get even more info at Foodnews.org).

Dr. Greene has two other suggestions for moms-to-be. His biggest beef at this stage is with, well, beef. He points to a recent study that found a link between mothers who ate conventional beef more than once a day during pregnancy and low sperm counts in their adult sons. The men in this study were also three times more likely to have consulted a fertility specialist, according to study author Shanna Swan, Ph.D., an ob-gyn professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York.

Plus, grass-fed, organically raised cattle are leaner and healthier overall, says Dr. Greene, and their meat can have about five times the amount of brain-building omega-3 fatty acids as regular beef. Though the cost of organic meat can be double that of regular, Dr. Greene suggests treating it like a side dish and eating smaller servings to keep the meal cost the same. If you'd rather spend your money elsewhere, simply buy lean cuts of beef and stick to four servings or less a week.

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