To Peel or not to Peel?
Baby Food for baby
Firstly – if you decide to begin introducing solid foods to your baby before he or she is 6 months of age, it is best that you always peel all fruits and vegetables before you cook and puree them.
Otherwise – despite the fact that the peels of fruits and vegetables contain much nutritional goodness – you may be concerned about some other issues for your baby:
- problems with digesting the peel
- the potential for choking
- the potential for allergies
- a too strong, or a bitter taste
- residual waxes and pesticides
Problems with digesting peel…
- Consuming fruit or vegetable peel can cause an upset tummy in some babies – others have no problems.
- When you want to introduce a fruit or vegetable into your baby’s diet, first consult your baby’s doctor.
- Peel the food the first time you give it, and once you are certain that the food agrees with your baby, try cooking it with the peel on.
- Carefully monitor your baby’s reaction to the same food with and without the peel.
- If there is a digestion problem, try again when your baby’s digestive system is more mature.
The potential for choking…
- If you peel fruits and vegetables for your baby, you will minimize the risk of choking.
- Unpeeled items can be hard to puree to a completely smooth texture, and small pieces of peel may remain, though these shouldn’t present a serious choking problem.
- Large pieces of un-pureed peel would certainly be hazardous for younger babies, so always remove the peel before cooking and pureeing fruits and vegetables if your baby is very young – or ensure that the puree is really fine, and any pieces of peel are very small.
- If your baby is old enough for finger foods, be sure to peel any fruits or vegetables that you give him or her until you are fully confident in his or her ability to chew well.
The potential for allergies…
In a sensitive baby, it is possible that fruit or vegetable peel could trigger a reaction. The allergenic potency of some foods – including apples and peaches – is higher in the peel than in the flesh of the fruit.
A too strong, or a bitter taste…
Your baby may find the taste of fruit or vegetable peel too strong or bitter for his or her taste. In this case, remove peel from the foods you give to your baby – but try again from time to time.
Residual waxes and pesticides…
- The skins of many fruits and vegetables harbour often hazardous pesticide residues – and pesticides are believed to contribute to behavioural problems, learning difficulties and serious health problems.
- A baby’s body easily absorbs pesticides, so is particularly vulnerable – however, the benefits of a diet rich in fresh produce far outweigh the risks, so do not exclude fruit and vegetables from your baby’s diet.
- Peeling fruits and vegetables may – according to some experts – remove up to 99% of pesticide residue.
- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most pesticide residues remain on the skin of produce, and don’t pass into the food.
- The FDA and the UK’s Food Standards Agency advise thoroughly washing produce, rather than peeling – as vitamins, nutrients and fibre are also present in the skins.
- Wash and scrub items thoroughly under warm, running water (warm is more effective than cold), or use a special product that is available for the purpose – do not use ordinary soap, as it may also contain harmful chemicals!
- Delicate fruits – like strawberries – should be soaked, then rinsed.
There are, however, some pesticides that cannot be removed from produce – by washing or by peeling! These are the systemic pesticides that are often applied at the roots or to the soil around crops,which are then absorbed into the plant in order to destroy pests who attack the plant tissue.
Buying certified organic (or 100% organic) produce is the only real solution to this problem – and to pesticide residue on the skins of fruits and vegetables. Although it is more expensive, it may be the right thing for you and your baby – and there are benefits in flavour as well.
Do remember, though – you still need to wash organic produce well, as bacteria may remain from organic fertilisers, or from just handling. Even bananas skin should be washed, as the skin may be handled by your baby, transferring bacteria to the fruit itself – and then into his or her mouth!
Other ways to minimize risks to your baby from pesticide residues:
- Make your baby’s diet as varied as possible, so there is not frequent, on-going exposure to a particular pesticide.
- Don’t give baby fruits and vegetables with bruised or mouldy skins. These often contain higher concentrations of pesticides.
- Buy ‘locally-grown’ – produce transported over long distances will have been treated to keep it ‘fresh’ for the journey.
- Buy in season – out of season produce will have been imported from overseas.
In many countries, testing of produce is normally undertaken annually, after each harvest, and results may vary from year to year and country to country. The following lists are from the Environmental Working Group in the US, for the year 2013.
Fruits and vegetables testing high for pesticide residue:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Sweet bell peppers
- Summer squash
Whenever possible, buy the organic versions of the above foods for your baby.
Fruits and vegetables with very small amounts, or almost no detectable pesticide residue:
- Cantaloupe melon
- Eggplant (aubergine)
- Sweet corn
- Papaya (pawpaw)
- Peas (frozen)
- Sweet potato
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.