The nasty components of some Organic Baby Foods that food manufacturer's don't want you to know!
Most Organic Baby Foods are fantastic, made by ethical, sustainable & considerate companies.
Others are large corporations simply aiming to get a piece of the "Organic pie" - although they may still scrape under the regulations and call themselves "Organic baby food" some of them are no good for your baby and not much better than the non organic varieties.
Read through the below tips to help you tell the good brands from the bad!
Is it certified organic?
Many brands put the word 'organic' somewhere on their label without any regulation or being truly organic. Only trust brands which have a say "certified organic" & have a startup logo somewhere on their label. In the USA the main certifier startup logo is the USDA but there are many others Packaging - What is it made of?
- Is it plastic? If so, make sure it is BPA Free.
- NEVER heat anything made from plastic (even if it says microwave safe!) as heat causes all sorts of dangerous toxins to leach out of all plastics and into the food. (Especially in the microwave)
- If you need to heat this item, empty the contents into a glass, ceramic or stainless steel container.
- Is it recyclable? Try always to buy food in packaging that can be recycled - and remember to recycle it! every little jar counts!
- How much packaging is used? Don't support companies that don't care about our environment and who use multiple levels of packaging. For example, a jar, inside a cardboard box then wrapped in plastic. Instead choose to support a company who uses only 1 level of packaging.
Filler ingredients - what other ingredients are in this item?
Baby food really should be only 1 ingredient - the food you are feeding your baby! (And maybe a little breast milk to make a runnier consistency for newbies)
However, when you buy any premade, packaged foods (organic or not), some other ingredients are needed such as preservatives to maintain quality and thickeners/stabilizers to ensure a good consistency.
The percentage of the main ingredient will determine how good this food is and how ethical the company supplying it is.
Do not buy any baby foods that do not have the main ingredient at the first thing in the ingredient list, or that have lots of other ingredients as well as the main one.
For example, green bean puree ingredients should read: green beans, water. And maybe a little citric acid (lemon juice) or vitamin c.
The bottom line is the less ingredients - the better, more pure and closer to nature this food will be!
Preservation method - Fresh or frozen?
Frozen foods are ALWAYS best. They contain fewer (if any) preservatives as the freezing is the preservation method. They are also more nutritious as they have been frozen quickly after harvest or preparation, thus locking in the goodness.
Room temperature foods in pouches or jars are not very fresh or nutritious. They either have preservatives in them (organic baby foods will have natural preservatives). Or if there are "no preservatives", the food has been heat treated to kill bacteria and seal the jar or pouch which raises a few issues;
- The chemicals in the packaging can leach into the food during the heating process.
- Heating foods also kills vitamins and minerals and nutrition levels! So your food may be "safe", has no bacteria and has a long shelf life - but all the goodness of eating fresh, organic baby food is killed! And nutrition levels keep dropping the longer it has been sitting on the shelf.
The bottom line - buy frozen organic baby food or make your own from the freshest local produce you can find.
Additives like DHA etc
Many baby foods and formulas now contain extra additives - which may sound like they are good for you - but think twice before believing the marketing hype!
Anything which says "fortified", "enriched", "supplemented" or "added nutrition" etc should be treated with caution, things such as DHA or ARA (a synthetic version of Omega 3 fatty acid), Iron, Vitamin C, or anything similar are needed in a diet of a child, but if you are breastfeeding (which the AAP recommends until the age of 12 months) then your baby should be getting all of these things from you.
And if you are feeding your baby a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables, they will be getting much of their iron and vitamin needs from those foods.
If your baby is formula fed, they may be missing out on some essential fatty acids which is why many baby formula brands are fortified with DHA & ARA.
However - the jury is still out on the safety of these additives in their synthetic version in food. So - in my opinion - until the jury is in, I am avoiding them. For more info read this article http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/nutrition/a/dha_ara.htm
The company as a whole
While this may not affect the actual quality of the food, I like to access the company who provides each product to decide whether I want to support them with my money. I look at things like -
Are they are large or small company?
I prefer to support smaller companies as they tend to be more ethical, sustainable and local and I feel good knowing I am supporting a family.
Are they a local or international company?
I prefer to support companies who are from my own country - thus creating jobs for my own community.
What other products do they sell?
Do they sell only certified organic and other healthy products? Or are they a big company who makes non organic baby food and has decided to make an organic version of it?
I tend not to support this kind of company because in my opinion they probably started making organic baby food for the money and market share and not because they truly believe in it.
What kind of marketing do they use?
Does this company make sugary or salty "junk" foods as well and still tell the consumers they are healthy?
Breakfast foods are the worst kind of foods for this - many, many cereals and breakfast items are marketed as "healthy" but common sense and a quick look at the ingredients for sugar & salt levels will tell you otherwise.
I prefer not to support a company who misleads their consumers in this way.