Organic toddler foods have gained popularity for good reason. As parents learn the potential health risks from pesticide laden foods, they are searching for organic foods to feed their families. Thanks to increased demand, it's easy to find organic options for your youngest family members.
Why Eating Organic Matters for Toddlers
According to findings released in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there is no direct evidence that eating organic foods offers a nutritional advantage over eating foods grown conventionally. However, the findings indicate some important benefits. Eating organic foods exposes consumers to less pesticides that potentially cause disease; organic foods contain higher levels of vitamin C and phosphorous than other foods, and they may reduce the risk of developing antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Children Eating Organic
Eating organic may be especially important for children. Kristin Andolaro, MS, RD, CHES, LDN, and Virtua Registered Dietician said, "As the AAP points out, avoiding pesticides and potentially drug resistant bacteria as much as possible is what is best for the developing brain of children, so the younger, the better."
Organic Label Meaning
Andolaro believes it's also important for consumers to educate themselves about the definition of "organic." Not all organic foods are created equal and just because a product features an organic label, doesn't mean it's healthy.
"I feel it is very important to know that if you are going to buy organic foods to make sure they are 100% organic," said Andolaro. "100% organic means that the food is only made with organic ingredients; if you buy foods labeled "organic" they contain at least 95% organic ingredients, and that 5% can be grown with pesticides."
Organic Toddler Food Options
It used to be hard to find organic toddler foods, but today there is a large market that caters to this age group. As availability increased, so did the selection. The following are places to look into if you're hunting down organic foods suitable for toddlers:
Your Local Farmer's Market
Farmer's markets are great locations to find organic fruits and vegetables. You may also find organic flours or grains, meats, or honey (never give honey to children under one year of age due to the risk of botulism). Farmer's markets are plentiful during the summer months but many stay open through autumn.
Sprout Organic Foods
Sprout Organic Foods offers uniquely flavored, portable organic foods for toddlers. The Review Stew gave Sprout Organics a great review for their chef-created products, taste, variety, packaging, and nutrition. Safe Mama likes the freshness and convenience of Sprout's foods.
Drinkable purees options include apple blackberry and spinach with buckwheat; peach, banana, and pumpkin with quinoa; acai berry superfruit, and blueberry superfruit. Toddler snacks are also available and include fruit and veggie cereal snacks, fruit and veggie crispy chews, and fruity yogurt bites.
Where to Buy
Earth's Best has an impressive selection of organic foods for toddlers that feature Sesame Street characters to help encourage your child to eat.
Selections include snacks, soups, pizza, frozen meals, puffs, French toast sticks, oatmeal, cold cereals, frozen mini waffles, fruit and yogurt smoothies, biscuits, and cereal bars. They also offer an organic toddler formula for children one year and older.
Where to Buy
On the company website, a box of maple & brown sugar oatmeal costs under $6.00; a two pack cheese ravioli mini meal is around $5.50; peach yogurt puffs are under $4.00, and a 23.2 ounce container of their toddler formula costs under $37.00.
This company launched in 2006 and is operated by moms. Named one of the fastest organic food companies in the nation by Inc. for two years and "Rockstar of the New Economy" in 2012 by Fast Company, their products were highlighted in several publications like Reader's Digest. The Vintage Mom ranked Happy Family products high for their variety, convenience, and nutrition. She also gave high marks for taste which she says in a review that even the grownups enjoy.
Happy Family products for toddlers include meal bowls, fruit and vegetable puffs, fruit and vegetable blends, coconut milk blends, toddler milk, Greek yogurt blends, cookies, and toddler bars. Most products come in their trademark "no BPA" pouch for easy portability and eating.
According to a press release, Happy Family recently joined forces with Stonyfield Farm, a top producer of organic dairy products, to offer portable yogurt pouches for babies and toddlers. The YoTot pouches are made for toddlers and cost about $1.50 per pouch.
Where to Buy
Happy Family products can be purchased on their website, Amazon and many groceries and retail stores. Prices for pouches range are around $2.00; toddler meal bowls and nutrition shakes are under $4.50 each.
NurturMe makes organic freeze dried fruit and veggie meals for toddlers. ABCs & Garden Peas gave NurturMe high marks for their product variety, fresh taste, nutrition, and ease of use. Plush Little Baby shows in a review that they love NurturMe products because of their portability, ease of use, nutrition, and ingredients.
NurturMe meal selections include quinoa cereals, fruits and vegetables, blended meals, and fruit and veggie snacks. To use, add water or breast milk (or dairy milk) to the dried ingredients and mix well.
Where to Buy
You can purchase NurturMe products on their website and at retail stores across the nation; use their locator to find one close to you. NurturMe pouches sell for around $1.50 per pouch. Cereals are around $6 and snacks cost about $3.
Plum Organics has a nice variety of organic foods for your toddler. Homemade for Ella gave the company's products a positive review for their selection, quality ingredients, and taste. In 2013, it was ranked #19 on the Forbes list of America's Most Promising Companies.
Plum Organics offers yogurt, "Mish Mash" smoothie blends that include fruits, vegetables and whole grains, meal bowls, nutrition bars, puffs, fruit and vegetable blends, snacks, teeny fruit chews, and nutrition shakes.
Where to Buy
Plum Organics foods may be purchased on their website, on Amazon and in many retail stores.Use their online store locater to find a store near you. Prices range from about $2.50 for a Mish Mash pouch and $5.00 for a six count box of nutrition bars, to between $3.50 and $3.75 for teeny fruit chews and Bistro Blend meal bowls.
Make Your Own
You can stretch the value of your food dollars by making your own organic toddler recipes. There are many books and websites on the topic or you can adapt your favorite recipes for toddlers by using organic ingredients and serving toddler size portions.
Here are more ideas:
- Add finely chopped or pureed organic fruit to organic plain yogurt.
- Prepare organic hot cereal and add organic banana slices or finely chopped berries.
- Make your own applesauce in the slow cooker using organic apples. Leftovers can be frozen for later use.
- Roast an organic chicken and dice or puree the meat. You can also add it to soups or stews.
- Sprinkle shredded organic cheddar cheese over warm organic elbow macaroni.
- Make homemade organic fruit snacks.
- Modify organic baby food recipes for toddlers by keeping ingredients chunky instead of pureeing.
Andolaro offers the following additional suggestions:
- Top 100% organic fruit with vanilla Greek yogurt. Add your favorite fruits and sprinkle homemade granola on top.
- Dip 100% organic vegetables, such as baby carrots and pepper strips, into hummus.
- Use grass fed beef to make sliders (well done) and make your own sweet potato fries. Just cut the sweet potato to size (you can use a mandolin); add olive oil, and bake.
- Kale chips are fun to make and easy to eat. You can even buy the kale pre-cut to make it easier to prepare. Add olive oil and a small amount of sea salt to the kale and bake.
- Top 100% organic crackers with melted cheese and an avocado slice.
A Healthy Start
You can give your toddlers a healthy start by feeding them organic foods. When you provide them with a wide variety of organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy snacks early in life, you're laying the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy eating and wellness. As Andalaro said, "Your immune system begins in the mouth and approximately 90% of the immune system is in the gut, so what you put in it matters for your entire body."