When my firstborn was a baby, I was so concerned about everything. It’s so hard to be a parent. You want to do what’s best for your child and what’s best is not always known. One day something is the greatest idea ever, the next day it’s the worst. Like they say on Project Runway, “one day you’re in, the next you’re out.”
What I fed my kids was a big concern for me (no surprise there). What do I feed them, how much? I decided I would make their baby food, with our loads of CSA veggies. I was so happy that my oldest son especially loved my sweet potatoes. So much so that his nose turned orange from all of the sweet potatoes he was eating! My pediatrician had a good laugh at that one. Now, at eight, he won’t touch a sweet potato! I can still remember googling “orange nose baby” at all hours of the night.
When I read the recent reports on high levels of metals in baby food I immediately thought, this is so concerning! What do you do? How do you avoid them? Is it even possible? I’ve done some research, and yes, it is possible. I’m happy to say that it’s simple!
Want to learn how to avoid metals in baby food?
Let’s go the Chalkboard.
What’s Going On
An October 2019 report released by the Healthy Babies Bright Future (HBBF) found excessive levels of dangerous metals in over 95% of food tested. The baby food was sampled from all over the country and found to have hazardous levels of mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and lead in a variety of brands. Disconcerning to say the least — no one wants to give their baby metal!
Now it should be noted that these metals naturally occur in the earth. They are unavoidable since they are in the soil and water. Unfortunately, the levels become elevated in polluted fields, and it is possible that processing may also affect the levels. Homemade baby food and organic food aren’t immune since crops take up these metals naturally. Organic standards don’t address the levels of metals.
Why Avoid Metals in Baby Food
These metals are harmful in large doses to children and their developing brains. According to the report, “the four heavy metals we found in baby food have a unique significance: All are developmental neurotoxins (e.g., Grandjean and Landrigan 2006, Sanders 2015). They can harm a baby’s developing brain and nervous system, both in utero and after birth, for impacts that include the permanent loss of intellectual capacity and behavioral problems like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). All four metals are linked to IQ loss from exposures early in life.“ Adults aren’t as affected since our brains have fully developed. As I read this my eyes popped out of my head.
What the heck can we do here? According to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, there are some affordable, simple steps we can take to lower exposure to these minerals.
How to Avoid Metals in Baby Food
Healthy Babies Bright Futures have five ways you can lower the toxic metal residue in your child’s diet. These choices contain 80 percent less arsenic, lead, and other metals and make a big difference. Here’s what you can do.
- Switch from rice cereal to oatmeal. One of the first foods often fed to babies is rice cereal. Unfortunately, one of the foods with the highest level of contaminant was brown rice, as it tested extremely high for arsenic. A simple swap is to serve oatmeal instead. It offers more nutritional value and is just as easy to make.
- Avoid teething biscuits and rice rusks. Instead, you can offer chilled cucumber and frozen banana. You can avoid the mess with this teething food feeder. You put the frozen food in, and the kids suck on it. Then you pop it in the dishwasher to clean!
- Switch rice puff snacks to non-rice snacks. Oh, those rice puffs are awesome. To occupy kids, you sprinkle them out on the highchair tray. A bonus is that it helps with fine motor skills as kids work to pick them up. No worries, swap out an ancient grain like puffed Kamut instead, or puffed corn, and you have the same idea, just a different ingredient.
- Switch from fruit juice to water. Arsenic levels in apple and grape juices were exceptionally high. Swapping them out for pure tap water will lower metal levels by 68%, according to the HBBF.
- Vary your child’s fruits and veggies. Sweet potatoes and carrots are found to retain more metals than other types of vegetables. They offer some great nutritional value, so it’s best to incorporate these into your child’s diet. Make sure to vary the vegetables you provide; this sounds so simple, I know. My kid had an orange nose from only eating sweet potatoes. But keep trying different foods. It takes kids many tries to catch onto foods plus as they grow their tastes change.
The Good News
Yes, there is good news! People have been paying attention to this issue since 2011. That’s when baby food first started being tested. Since then there are many gains in the field. According to the report, “children are better off for the efforts: Current arsenic contamination levels in rice cereal and juice are 37 and 63 percent lower, respectively, than amounts measured a decade ago because of companies’ success in reducing metals levels in their food ingredients to comply with draft FDA guidance. They have shifted growing and processing methods, switched plant varieties, and sourced from cleaner fields.” So while we still have a ways to go, we are moving in a positive direction.
What Do You Think?
Did you learn how to avoid metals in baby food? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear them.