You've decided to try your first batch of baby food, and you head to the store for your ingredients. Now comes another choice—organic or not. By Carolyn Land Williams, author of Cooking Light First Foods
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Grocery stores everywhere are filling up fast with “organic” products. Though the term is often associated with better quality—and more expensive—produce and food, what does it really mean, and do you need to splurge on organic varieties for your baby?

What does “organic” mean?
In 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented uniform standards for American organic farmers and manufacturers. Organic foods must be grown or produced without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and, for livestock, without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified, irradiated, or cloned. Further guidelines govern specific foods. For instance, organic chickens must be raised with outdoor access.

So any foods you buy that carry the USDA green-and-white “certified organic” label have met the USDA’s criteria for containing ingredients that are 95 to 100 percent organic. Whole foods (such as an apple) must be 100 percent organic. For mixed foods (such as a can of soup) at least 95 percent of the ingredients must be organic.

Organic on a budget
There’s a cost to pay for organic foods because most tend to be more expensive than their nonorganic counterparts. There is no clear, direct answer about the long-term effect of pesticides and hormones on humans, but when you think about feeding your baby, going organic and avoiding chemicals as much as possible seems like a good choice.

So how do you make healthy baby foods on a budget? Certain produce retains more pesticides and chemical residue than others, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that uses public information to protect public health and the environment. We suggest you spring for organic varieties of the fruits and vegetables listed above when possible, as well as organic poultry, meat, and dairy.

Excerpted from Cooking Light First Foods, Oxmoor House, © 2010 by Time Home Entertainment Inc.