As a busy parent, time isn’t always on your side. Making baby food from scratch can be stressful and time consuming, especially when it comes to appeasing picky eaters. Luckily, there are several pre-made organic baby food options that take the guesswork out of feeding your child.
Since the National Organic Program of the USDA has developed strict rules and regulations that govern USDA certified organic foods, those carrying the USDA organic seal cannot contain GMOs or any artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. And certain studies show that organic fruits and vegetables have significantly more antioxidant polyphenols than conventionally grown produce. Encouraging an abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables at all ages is key, but organically grown produce can provide some additional benefits without the GMOs or preservatives.
And speaking of ages, our nutrition experts point out that baby food stages aren’t standardized but there are general guidelines that many brands utilize. Keep in mind that every baby develops differently, and some babies are ready for stage 2 before they are 7 months old, while others may not be ready until they are closer to 10 months old. Talk to your pediatrician to help guide you throughout the process, and remember that it’s important for babies to advance through the stages on their own time.
As a general rule of thumb, Stage 1 foods generally consist of a single ingredient purees and are ideal for babies ages 4-6 months. Stage 2 foods are best for babies ages 6-9 months and start to incorporate more than one ingredient. Stage 3 foods are for babies 9-12 months, and they feature a lot of different textures and new flavors. Stage 4 foods are for babies at least one year of age and typically indicate that table food can be introduced.
A note on heavy metals in baby food: If you’ve heard about concerns regarding heavy metals in baby food, it’s important to know that they are naturally occurring and enter the food supply from natural sources like soil, water and air. It is nearly impossible to completely avoid these metals, but parents can minimize the risk by feeding their baby a variety of foods. Opt for grain-based cereals and snacks instead of rice-based options and be sure to limit fruit juices. Our experts say you can and should keep giving carrots and sweet potatoes because they contain important nutrients, but given that they grow in the ground, they may naturally contain higher levels of heavy metals so be sure to serve them along with other fruits and vegetables.
To make sure you’re giving your child the very best, we put several brands to the test through a panel of kids, moms and editors to see which organic baby food products are the best for your baby. We’ve also included information on what measures each brand is taking regarding minimizing heavy metals in their products.