Good Food to Go – tips for parents
Nowadays, families are bombarded with fast and unhealthy food choices. It is best to get kids used to healthy foods when they are young. Preparing food for your child and taking the time to talk a bit about where their food comes from, as well as its nutritional value, is an important way to influence their choices later on in life. Once they are old enough, letting them help with food preparation is an excellent way to get them excited about what they are going to eat. Even young children can help by washing fruit, mixing ingredients, and packing up their lunches.
When shopping in a supermarket, stick to the perimeter of the store as much as possible, choosing fresh, whole foods that are more nutrient dense. Take a good look at food labels. Sugar-filled, chemical laden, artificially colored cereals and snacks are not the way to go. (1) There are many great-tasting, all-natural, organic products available. Find below some suggestions on where to start – if you are not there already.
Remove artificial colors such as red #40 and yellow #5
Remove artificial flavors
Remove Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Avoid Trans Fats: Partially hydrogenated oil found in many commercial mayonnaise, margarine, and peanut butter products, fast foods and fried food, and baked goods
Serve organic fruits and vegetables: Avoid pesticides and chemicals
Serve organic dairy products: Avoid hormones and antibiotics
Serve grass-fed meats: Avoid hormones and antibiotics
Remove Artificial Sweeteners
Limit sugar and avoid high fructose corn syrup
Besides additives, which are put directly into foods, indirect additives may include chemicals from plastic and different types of coatings in containers and packaging. (2) To limit exposure to these harmful chemicals in food:
Cut back on canned foods unless you see cans are clearly labeled BPA free. Most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin. (3)
Never reheat plastic containers. “Microwave safe” is really only safe for the plastic, meaning it will not melt. Danger arises when plastics break down and allow chemicals to leach into your food.
The safest materials for food storage and transportation include: glass, stainless steel, and silicone. Although glass may be a good option at home, there are more durable alternatives for lunchboxes that can be used for hot or cold foods and liquids. High quality, food-grade silicone is another option that is safer than plastic and will not break. The alternatives to plastic containers may be more expensive initially, but you will be able to reuse them for a longer time. Glass and stainless steel are also more environmentally friendly.
If you must choose plastic products, always look for its recycling code on the bottom. Choose BPA-Free, PVC-free plastic #2, #4, or #5. Stay away from containers with recycling code #3 (contain phthalates), #6 (contain styrene, which can damage your nervous system and is linked to cancer).
Being proactive about how you and your family eat now can save you all from a lot of health problems and big expenses later on. Making all these changes at once may be difficult. To make things easier, implement one or two of these at a time.
By Tara Marie Kotliar