Should my children go organic?
Mary Jo F. Kutler, D.O., is a pediatrician at Cardon Children’s Medical Center. For more information on this topic, contact Dr. Kutler’s office at 480-496-6444 or call 480-412-KIDS.
Question: I have two children under 3 and have been reading a lot about organic foods. Is it important that I feed them an organic diet?
Answer: The most important thing you can do for your children is to feed them a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and lean meats. Choosing organic foods is a personal decision, and while organic options can provide additional benefits, they won’t necessarily influence the overall health of your child.
Organic foods have become popular among parents because they are natural and have not been genetically modified. They are also typically free of pesticides and additives that may be used in the production of non-organic foods. Because toddlers’ digestive systems are still developing, and their diets tend to be more limited and heavy in fruits, vegetables and grains, their risk of exposure to pesticides from conventional foods can be slightly higher. Also, organic foods may taste better, and are generally more flavorful because they are fresher, and in the case of produce, usually in season.
Reading labels is important. The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labeled as "organic.” Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. A product labeled “natural,” “free range,” or “hormone free,” is not necessarily organic.
Conventional foods are generally less expensive than their organic counterparts, and sometimes organic choices are limited depending on where you live. Making sure your children eat a variety of fruits and vegetables will contribute more to their overall health than choosing a strictly organic diet. Focus on helping your children develop healthy habits by serving balanced meals, and consult your pediatrician with any dietary questions.