What to Do
The easiest way to eat healthier is to start making your food instead of buying prepared food and warming it. Buying whole foods reduces your exposure to the many synthetic additives found in processed foods. If you are a novice chef, the idea of preparing your own foods from scratch can seem daunting and too time consuming. However once you start doing it, you’ll see how easy (and cheaper) cooking at home really is. Also, involving your children in the process will foster healthy habits. Kids are more likely to eat new foods if they are involved in choosing, buying, and preparing. Spending quality kitchen time will empower them to eat healthy for a lifetime.
- Have your tap water tested to see if any filtration is necessary. Then invest in stainless steel water bottles for your family and make H20 your beverage of choice.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables (even organic) before eating to reduce surface traces of chemical residues, wax, pathogens, and pesticides.
- Trim fat off of meat, poultry and fish.
- Broil or bake instead of frying.
- Eat a wide variety of foods.
- Read labels. Look for foods with few and identifiable ingredients. Avoid the top five risky additives: Artifical Colors (anything that begins with FD&C ), Chemical Preservatives (Butylated Hydroxyanisole [BHA], Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Benzoate), Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin), Added Sugar (High Fructose Corn Syrup [HFCS], Corn Syrup, Dextrose, etc), Added Salt (Look at the sodium content and choose foods with the lowest amounts.)
- Choose your protein wisely: meat, eggs, milk products, and poultry that have not been given synthetic hormones and are antibiotic-free, free-range and/or fed with vegetarian feed. Use these 6 steps to reduce exposure to synthetic chemicals in food.
- Select certified organic as much as possible (especially during your child’s first few years of life.) If you can only purchase organic selectively, prioritize the organic options of these foods that have higher levels of toxic residues: meat, poultry, dairy, apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, strawberries, carrots and lettuce.
- Buy straight from the source, local, and seasonal. Whenever you can, buy directly from those who produce what you want. Get to know where your food comes from and what’s been done to it.
- Buy fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred. (Most cans are lined using a resin made from bisphenol-A).
- Avoid foods and beverages with artificial food colors (anything prefaced with “FD&C”).
- Eat lower on the food chain (i.e. less meat).
- Avoid genetically modified organisms (aka GMOs or genetically engineered foods).
- Choose safer seafood. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website to learn more and print a pocket guide.
- Grow your own.
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Sadly, food and water that should nourish are often tainted with substances that can interfere with a child’s development. Conventional agriculture includes the use of pesticides, synthetic hormones, and even sewer sludge for fertilizer. Foods derived from these methods may contain residues of many contaminants. Of particular concern is the exposure to multiple contaminants that have not been thoroughly studied for cumulative impacts. Most risk analysis focuses on an individual chemical, but they do not evaluate the health effects caused by low level exposures to several. Yet, this is how we are exposed – meal after meal, every day.
In fact, the US Department of Agriculture strictly prohibits mixing different types of pesticides for disposal because individual chemicals often combine into new, highly toxic chemical compounds. Still, there are no regulations regarding pesticide mixtures in foods, even though, in a similar manner, those same individual pesticide residues inter- act and mix together into new chemical compounds when multiple ingredient products are made or when several are consumed during one meal.
In addition, our food is increasingly processed and preserved to the degree that it is nearly unidentifiable. Read the label of most any packaged food and you’ll quickly find it’s difficult to discern actual food ingredients from the chemicals used to make it. And, oftentimes, the materials used to package foods are slowly leaching additional contaminants into the food. These “convenience” foods are laden with synthetic chemicals that we are not biologically adapted to consume.
- People who adopted a vegetarian diet for just five days show reduced levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies. In particular, levels of hormone disrupting chemicals and antibiotics used in livestock were lower after the five-day vegetarian program. The pilot study suggests that people may be able reduce their exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals through dietary choices, such as limiting consumption of animal products like meats and dairy.
- The only human genetically modified food (GMO) feeding study ever published show[ed] that the foreign genes inserted into GM food crops can transfer into the DNA of our gut bacteria. This study gives new meaning to the adage, "You are what you eat." Long after those GM corn chips you munched are history, your intestinal flora may still be churning out the "Bt" pesticide GM corn plants have been engineered to produce.
- Our global, consolidated food system can make it hard to know exactly where your food comes from. A single hamburger patty can comingle meat from a hundred different head of cattle, from four different countries. Or, looked at from another perspective, a single contaminated carcass shredded for hamburger can pollute eight tons of finished ground beef. Given the huge size of many meat processing plants, a single package of ground beef can contain meat from hundreds of cows. In the Jack in the Box outbreak, investigators found that the ground beef from the most likely supplier contained meat from 443 different cattle that had come from farms and auctions in six states via five slaughterhouses.
- In addition to routine antibiotics, at least 70 percent of conventionally raised broiler chickens in the U.S. are fed arsenic. The most common additive is roxarsone (3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid). Roxarsone is an “organic” form of arsenic, once thought medically benign. Once ingested by animals, however, roxarsone can degrade into cancer-causing inorganic forms of arsenic (arsenite and arsenate) within the animal’s digestive tract and in animal waste. Roxarsone is FDA-approved for growth promotion, feed efficiency and “improved pigmentation” of meat. Significantly, the 27 countries of the European Union have never approved this practice as safe.