MH speaks to the experts on what you need to know when making the switch.
WORDS STEFFI TAN
Parenting involves many tasks, not the least of which is making sure that your child is eating right. Some time ago, you may have walked past the organic section in your supermarket and considered making the switch, but also wondered if it’s worth the higher sticker price. Three dietitians are here to answer all your questions about the topic!
What Exactly is Organic Food?
According to Suzanne Khor, a senior dietitian in private practice, ‘organic’ is a labelling term that indicates the food has been produced in compliance with certain guidelines.
For example, one such guideline is that organic foods are grown without synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, says Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at the Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre. Thus, organic foods typically contain less pesticide residue, fewer multi-drug resistant bacteria, and are not genetically modified.
Adds Vanessa McNamara, founder and lead dietitian at The Travelling Dietitian, a certified organic food will also contain no or only very small amounts of food additives and products such as preservatives, colours, and flavours. This can be an advantage for a growing child since the long-term harmful effects of exposure to such substances are still little-known, says McNamara, although both she and Chia note that past research has not proven that organic foods are necessarily more nutritious than non-organic foods.
Still, Khor highlights the importance of having as little an amount of processed food as possible in a young child’s diet, as much of the development of the body and especially the brain takes place during the early years. She adds that the vitamin and mineral content of organic food is also found to be higher than non-organic foods, which is also helpful in children’s development.
Where does the Locally Available Organic Foods Originate From?
According to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), Singapore does not have a local certification on organic food products, says Chia.
Most of the organic foods in the Singapore market are imported, so parents need to look out for organic certified labels by different countries to choose their products. Some examples of such labels to look out for are those stating ‘USDA organic’, or the Australian equivalent ‘Australian Certified Organic’, advises Khor. The ‘Certified Organic’ label means the product has been reviewed by an organic certification company that has been approved by the relevant local government authority. Conversely, products without the ‘Certified Organic’ label and/or just simply with the word ‘organic’ included in its name might not have met the full requirements to be truly considered organic.
What Should I Know when Making the Switch?
So if you do decide to take the step into the world of organic food, how do you ensure that the switch in diet is a comfortable process for your young one? Says McNamara, organic fruits and vegetables often do not look as good as their non-organic counterparts, thus mealtimes might seem like a less attractive affair to the child. In addition, if your child’s present diet mostly consists of food that contains a high amount of food additives, he might find the taste of organic foods quite different at first. However, this is something that young children should quickly get used to.
Khor says that normally there are very few adjustments needed when making the change to organic. A plus point of organic foods is that they usually taste fresher than non-organic produce, which could make them more appealing to the taste buds of children.
Chia echoes the point that the transition from conventional to organic food is usually an easy one for the child, so there are no specific steps to follow in the switching process. Instead, parents can set the pace for introducing organic food into their child’s diet as they feel is appropriate, depending on their child’s preferences and particularity.
A practical note when grocery shopping that McNamara offers up to parents would be to be mindful of the shelf life of organic food, which is often shorter than the non-organic versions due to the absence of preservatives and/or wax used.