Plenty of Options When Choosing Organic Baby Food
Lots of health-conscious women go organic when theyâ€™re pregnant, which is smart for minimizing their babiesâ€™ risk of exposure to toxins. I definitely tried to eat organic about 90% of the time during my pregnancy and thought it was so important that I dedicated an entire chapter ("The Big O") of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Momâ€™s Healthy Eating Guide to going organic.
If youâ€™re going to make the effort and spend the cash when your baby is developing,Â itâ€™s only natural that youâ€™d want to do the same once sheâ€™s ready for her first bite of real (well, mashed) food. I certainly wanted that for Willa once I started introducing her to food around 6 months.
I make my own baby food when I have time with my Beaba Babycook, but the entire process takes about 45 minutes. Time is definitely short for me these days and feeding my baby is often an on-the-go sport, so I need some reliable healthy stuff to throw in the diaper bag.
Willa took on the project of testing organic baby food with gusto (see image). And while sheâ€™s not the critic her mommy is, she definitely exhibited some likes and dislikes. We tested 10 productsâ€”all USDA-certified organic and containing no artificial preservatives (some do have added vitamin C)â€”with special attention to the delivery system and packaging for each brand. Here's a snapshot of several of the brands on the market and whether theyâ€™re worth the price. Grab a bib and go!
And just one tip I wish someone had given me: Donâ€™t feed your baby directly from the jar. She will only be eating a few spoonfuls of food at first, and once your child has â€œcontaminatedâ€ the container, you need to throw it out. Instead, transfer the amount for the feeding into a separate small dish first, then cover up the food container and refrigerate it. Most companies tell you on the packaging how long you have to use it once opened (usually two to three days), and most jars contain two to three servings. And if you microwave the food, always test it first to check for hot spots!
Ages: 4 months+
Flavor: The 1st foods are very simpleâ€”just bananas, carrots, etc. For jarred food, it tastes pretty fresh, and I like the fact that they offer "1st prunesâ€ for babies who need to get things moving! The 2nd foods get more interesting and include tasty "antioxidant blends" and "wholesome breakfast" options like Apple Peach Barley.
Price: 1st foods (4 months+), 63 cents; 2nd foods (6 months+), 86 centsâ€“99 cents; 3rd foods (9 months+), $1.13â€“$1.20
Delivery: Glass jars. The pro is that theyâ€™re recyclable. The con is that theyâ€™re breakable.
Whatâ€™s special: Since Earthâ€™s Best is one of the largest organic-baby-food companies, the prices are reasonable and you can find the products virtually everywhere.
Find it at: Target, as well as drugstores and health-food stores nationwide.
Ages: 4 months+
Flavor: The Stage 1 flavors are all a mix of fruit and vegetables, which I like. They also make Smoothie Fruits, which are all fruit and a bit on the sweet side. Flavors include carrot, apple and parsnip, broccoli, pear and peas, sweet potato pumpkin, apple and blueberries, apples and bananas, strawberries and apples, and peaches and bananas. The Smoothie Fruits are cheekily called the Red One and the Yellow One.
Price: Stage 1 foods are $1.89â€“$1.99 for 3.5-ounce pouches (enough for about three feedings), and $1.39â€“$1.49 for 3-ounce Smoothie Fruits.
Delivery: Lightweight BPA-free plastic and aluminum pouches. I love them because you just squeeze out as much food as you need at the time, and then you can refrigerate the rest for two days. You can even freeze the pouches.
Whatâ€™s special: These are really excellent for travel and do not explode in your suitcase.
Find it at: This recent British import is sold exclusively at Babies "R" Us and Toys "R" Us stores nationwide, as well as online.
Ages: Instead of using months, Gerber uses Milestone Symbols, such as Supported Sitter and Sitter, to help parents select age-appropriate foods.
Flavor: Very straightforward. Bananas taste like bananas. The green beans are not inspiring in taste, smell, or color.
Price: The food comes as a two-pack in small plastic containers with snap-on lids. 1st foods cost $1.39 for a two-pack; 2nd foods are $1.49.
Delivery: The food is packaged in 3.5-ounce plastic containers and come in a package of two.
Whatâ€™s special: Nothing much. But you can always make it more interesting and protein-packed by combining with plain yogurt.
Find it at: Supermarkets and drug stores nationwide.
Ages: 6 months+
Flavor: Flavor combos for the littlest ones are kept simpleâ€”sweet potatoes and pear. But 9 month+ tykes like Willa can enjoy such exotic combinations as quinoa, black beans, and bananas in the Baby Dhal flavor.
Price: $5 per box of 12 cubes.
Delivery: Comes frozen in cubesâ€”kind of like a mini ice cube tray. The tray is BPA-free and recyclable. Just pop out the number of cubes you want, and defrost in the fridge or heat in the microwave or on the stove top. Great for home, but not on the go.
Whatâ€™s special: There are 32 milligrams of vegetarian DHA omega-3 fatty acids for babyâ€™s developing brain and eyes. Whatâ€™s more, each purchase of a Happy Baby product helps feed malnourished kids in Malawi and Sierra Leone.
Find it at: Natural and premium retail locations such as Whole Foods, Super Target, and independent natural grocery stores.
Editor's note: On January 14, 2010, Happy Baby recalled plastic pouches of its baby food products due to leaking and swollen packaging that may indicate contamination.
Ages: 4â€“6months+. They market them as on-the-go snacks for toddlers and school-age kids too.
Flavor: These are fruit only and really delicious. Willa and I like the mango, banana, and orange flavor.
Price: $1.79 per 3.5-ounce pouch.
Delivery: BPA-free pouches with child-safe caps.
Whatâ€™s special: Another UK import, this is a small, privately owned company. Plus, the packaging takes you back to your own childhood.
Find it at: Natural foods stores around the country, plus Starbucks.
Flavor: This is the French Laundry of baby food. Even the simplest purees taste amazing. And Willa could not get enough of the more refined Chicken ProvenÃ§al (which is actually for tots 12 months+).
Price: Purees range from $3.25 to $3.75 per 4-ounce container. The hardier stuff like gluten-free Mac and Cheese and Chicken Pot Pie Blend are $4.50 for 4-ounce containers.
Delivery: Recyclable, BPA- and phthalate-free plastic containers.
Whatâ€™s special: Pomme BÃ©bÃ© is made by hand and incorporates fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Find it at: The Pomme BÃ©bÃ© flagship store in Newport Beach, Calif., and online.
Ages: 4â€“6 months+
Flavor: The mostly fruit and veggie blends (like spinach, peas, and pear) are totally smooth and perfect as a first food for tots who turn their little noses up at straight veggies.
Price: $1.19â€“$1.49 for a 4.22-ounce pouch.
Delivery: BPA-free, lightweight, portable, resealable pouches.
Whatâ€™s special: Again, love the pouches for convenience. And the cap on these is child-safe.
Find it at: Babies "R" Us, Toys "R" Us, Target.com, H-E-B, and Buy Buy Baby stores.
Editor's note: The Apple & Carrot flavor with a best-by date of May 21, 2010, was recalled in October. If you still have this product, you can return it for a full refund.
Ages: This company doesnâ€™t come out and tell you which foods are for what age, but Iâ€™ll take a guess. Stage 1/Extra Smooth (for 4â€“6-month-olds) flavors have only one ingredient to help rule out possible food allergies. Stage 2/Smooth flavors (for 6â€“9 months)â€”like their Peas on Earth with sweet peas, brown rice flour, and fresh mintâ€”are a little more complex to help babyâ€™s palate develop. Stage 3/Chunky (10 months+) flavors are appropriate for babies who are eating animal protein (get your pediatricianâ€™s blessing first) and are able to chew.
Flavor: I personally liked the flavor of the previously mentioned Peas on Earth. Willaâ€™s favorite was Bangoâ€”a blend of banana and mango with vanilla.
Price: The product is sold in six 10.5-ounce boxes with 3 cups each for $39.90.
Delivery: Frozen in recyclable, BPA- and phthalate-free plastic tubs. Defrost them in the fridge or microwave them.
Whatâ€™s special: Colorful, cheeky packaging makes mealtime more fun! Plus, the cardboard boxes that hold the containers are printed with vegetable-based ink.
Find it at: Amazon.com, Super Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, and other supermarkets nationwide.
Ages: 4 months+. There are more products in the Stage 2 category for babies 6 months+.
Flavor: Fresh tasting for a jarred product. Willa especially liked the peaches, bananas, and rice flavor for Stage 2.
Price: 79 cents for 4 ounces; 59 cents for a 2.5-ounce jar.
Delivery: Glass jars.
Whatâ€™s special: The price! Itâ€™s cheap because itâ€™s the store brand for Supervalu.
Find it at: Albertson's, Cub Foods, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's
Ages: 6 months+
Flavor: The product comes frozen, so the flavor is very fresh. Just let it defrost in your refrigerator for 24 hours before using.
Price: This company organizes its products by texture. Stage 1 is Creamy Yummy, Stage 2 is Mushy Yummy, and Stage 3 is Chunky Yummy. Stage 1 and 2 are $2 per 4-ounce container; Stage 3 is $3 for 6 ounces.
Delivery: BPA-free, resealable plastic containers.
Whatâ€™s special: The company uses local produce and has interesting flavor combinations for older babies, like adzuki beans and sweet potato porridge for the 12 month+ set.
Find it at: Dean and Deluca stores nationwide, select Whole Foods, and Amazon.com.