We all know how important it is to eat healthy foods, right? We often pride ourselves on selecting organic products, on making our own baby food, on drinking lots of water, and on watching fats and sugars.

But there are hidden chemicals in foods that can be deleterious to the health of your kids and of you as well. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, there are a number of chemicals that are added to foods and/or packaging that can contribute to obesity, puberty problems and other health issues. We thought we would outline a few of them for you so you can “be on the lookout” as you venture out on your next grocery shopping trip.

I usually look at labels anyway for dyes and the like, so?

Some of the chemicals that present problems are part of the packaging, not the ingredients. That is why their presence might not be either obvious or disclosed. The five “problem leaders” are:

  • Nitrates and nitrites: These are the most familiar to us, since we know about their use for the preservation of food and their presence in processed meats (like hot dogs) – they can interfere with the production of hormones by the thyroid gland.
  • Phtalates: Found in many plastics, these chemicals can impact childhood obesity and heart disease as well as male genital development.
  • Bisphenols: These chemicals, which include “BPA”, are used to line metal cans. They can affect the onset of puberty, decrease fertility, increase body fat, and negatively impact both our immune and nervous systems.
  • Percholate: This is added to dry food packaging in order to control static electricity and is not only disruptive to thyroid function but can also affect early brain development.
  • Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs): Used to grease-proof food packaging, these chemicals can reduce the body’s immunities and even reduce both fertility and birth weight.

So what am I supposed to do?

In addition to maintaining strong oral hygiene habits such as brushing your teeth and cleaning your tongue to rid the mouth of some chemical build-ups, here are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the exposure to these chemicals:

  1. Read labels!
  2. Don’t use plastics with recycling codes 3, 6 or 7.
  3. Avoid using plastics in the microwave or dishwasher.
  4. Use more glass and stainless steel containers.
  5. Reduce the consumption of processed meats.
  6. Eat more fresh or frozen produce instead of canned products.
  7. Clean all fruits and vegetables that you are using when you can’t peel them.
  8. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you handle food.

Staying informed and vigilant is the best path to healthy living and wellness for your children and you!