The nutritional choices you make for your children are crucial, setting the stage for good health and good habits for years to come. You’ve heard about the benefits of organic food, so you may be wondering if it’s worth the extra expense, especially if you’re on a budget. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (which recently weighed in on the subject of organic food for the first time), what’s most important is that children eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventionally or organically grown.
Organic foods do have lower levels of pesticides and drug-resistant bacteria, says Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, president of the AAP. “That may be important for kids because young children are more vulnerable to chemicals, but we simply don’t have the scientific evidence to know if the difference will affect a person’s health over a lifetime,” says McInerny. Both organic and conventionally-grown foods have the same vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, lipids, and other nutrients that are important for children’s health. “If you’re on a budget, don’t buy the more expensive organic option if it’s going to reduce your family’s overall intake of healthy foods, like fresh produce,” advises McInerny. “It’s better for kids to eat five servings of conventionally-grown produce a day than for them to eat one serving of organic vegetables.”
Families can also be selective in choosing particular organic foods to stretch their budget. The Environmental Working Group has created a Shopper’s Guide that rates the level of pesticides in produce. Their guide indicates that conventionally-grown onions, sweet corn, and pineapples have relatively low pesticide rates, making them safer to purchase. If you can budget a few extra dollars to spend on groceries, opt for organic apples and celery, which are among the most pesticide-laden crops.
But what happens when the dinner table is not your own? Vermonters are fortunate, having ready access to organic options at supermarkets, co-ops, and seasonal farmers’ markets. Vermont restaurants often take advantage of such luxuries, often sourcing fresh, organic produce from local farms. Restaurant patrons can ensure the quality of the ingredients thanks to programs like Vermont Fresh Network. The Network encourages farmers, food producers, and chefs to build partnerships to bring quality to your child’s plate.
For further nutrition tips for kids, visit the AAP website for parents: www.healthychildren.org. (StatePoint)