From 6 to 12 Months
You're probably getting ready to make the transition to solids, if you haven't started already. The definitive answer about buying organic or conventional baby food will depend on whom you ask. If you were to query Jay Hoeckler, M.D., emeritus consultant with the Mayo Clinic, he'd say, "Organic baby food can limit your baby's exposure to pesticides and other potential contaminants in foods. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says organic foods are no safer or more nutritious than are other foods." Organic baby food can also be considerably more expensive.
Now contact the Environmental Working Group, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that works to protect children from toxic chemicals in food, water, and other products, and the folks there would say there are still too many residual toxins in baby food -- even if said levels are lower than the standards set by the USDA. Perhaps it's moms erring on the safe side that has inspired many organic baby food brands to sprout and succeed. There are a number of successful start-ups, among them Yummy Spoonfuls, Healthy Times, Jack's Harvest, and Plum Organics. Some established brands also have created their own organic offshoot (Gerber Organic).
Of course you can always make your own food, too, which at this stage requires simple purees. If you choose to be your baby's personal chef, it's always best to buy organic. That's because pound for pound, babies eat and drink more than adults, which means they tend to be exposed to a higher concentration of toxins than we are, says Dr. Greene.
From 1 Year to 18 months
Once your baby is ready for whole milk, organic whole cow's milk or whole-bean soy milk are good places to start -- for exactly the same reasons you might choose them in pregnancy. Environmental chemicals are stored in fat, and because high-fat whole milk is such a big part of a toddler's diet, it's best to go organic when a baby switches from breast milk or formula, says Swinney. Three other popular organic choices for toddlers are potatoes, apples, and ketchup, again because kids eat so much of them. Plus, organic ketchup has double the level of antioxidants, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis.
And remember: eating green doesn't have to be an all-encompassing lifestyle chance. Your baby will thrive with a well-balanced healthy diet free of as many processed foods as possible, whether they're organic or not. The organic impact goes far beyond the dinner table, local grocery store and our children's well being. It's a cause for global longevity. Says Cummins, "We're not going to solve our public health crisis, we're not going to stabilize the climate, we're not going to be able to deal with more expensive fossil fuel energy unless the organic alternative becomes the norm again." It appears that preserving the environment is not unlike politics: every little vote for the future counts.
The Dirty Dozen
These fruits and veggies top the list for their pesticide load. Go "O" with those when you can.
3. Sweet bell peppers
9. Imported grapes
Source: The Environmental Working Group