Kids these days are exposed to huge numbers of environmental toxins everyday. If you’re a concerned parent, relative, or caretaker who wants to take steps to reduce risk, it can be very overwhelming and hard to know where to start.
Below are five ways you can help to create a safer, healthier food environment for our children. Even putting just one of these into practice can make a big difference.
1. Buy organic. Yes, it can be more expensive, but the “cost” of eating pesticide-laden produce is much higher when you consider all the long-term ramifications for you, your family, and the earth. If you’re new to organic buying, start with The Dirty Dozen and remember that choosing what’s in season helps to keep costs low.
2. Clean your kitchen with soap and water. Many commercial cleaners do not actually clean your kitchen – they just coat your kitchen in toxic chemicals which then spread to your food. Reduce the risk of adding pesticides, formaldehyde, and other harmful toxins to your family’s food by switching to eco-friendly cleaning supplies or simple soap + warm water (which if you scrub, is all you need!).
3. Reduce your use of plastics. Many plastics are toxic to produce, toxic to use, and toxic to dispose of, so it’s a good idea to swap plastics for other materials whenever possible. Making more food from scratch will help (reduced packaging), as will switching to stainless steel (water bottles, snack containers), glass or ceramic (food containers, cookware, etc), bamboo (cutting boards, portable flatware/ plates), and cloth (grocery & produce bags, portable food storage bags).
4. Serve wholesome snacks. Processed, packaged “kid snacks” are often full of synthetic and less-than-healthy additives (even the organic and natural snacks are not exactly “healthy”). Save these items for special occasions or times when you don’t have much choice. The rest of the time, offer fruits and vegetables. If you choose ripe seasonal produce, involve your kids in the selection or preparation, and cut it in a way that’s easy for them to eat, you’ll have an easier time getting them to eat what you serve. Here are some great ways to get kids involved in food prep.
5. Wash your hands, and theirs. Hand-washing is the single best way to stop the spread of viruses and bacterial contamination. Have them wash their hands with soap and water before meals, and make sure to keep your own hands – and cutting boards, utensils, etc – clean while you’re preparing food. This simple practice can greatly reduce food borne illness in children.