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by LC Arisman, Certified Health Navigator & Personal Trainer

What we eat is incredibly important to our health, and even more so for developing children. A recent article in The New York Times discusses phthalates—chemicals that have been banned from children’s toys but exist in foods like boxed macaroni and cheese. These chemicals migrate from the food processing equipment into the foods themselves and can also seep in from plastic materials or printed labels. In 2014 in a report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FDA concluded that food, drugs, and beverages were the primary source of exposure to phthalates. Yet it was the toys and teething rings that have been regulated. Huh.

I’m not here to shame anyone for using boxed macaroni and cheese. It’s easy and kids love it. I’m not here to take on the food industry, they’re big and rich and powerful. I’m here to plant the seed that perhaps our modern, manufactured diet needs a make-over.

We are blessed to live in an area with abundant fresh foods, and we owe it to our bodies and to our children to use the best possible foods for the best possible health. This doesn’t mean we need to always be perfect. Goodness knows we are only human. But as humans, let’s honor our heritage by eating the foods of our predecessors, not the processors. This is the season of berries and tomatoes, and summer gardens are ripe with tasty treats. If your food comes in a box or a bag, take notice.

Every change starts with a change of awareness. I challenge you to notice how much processing (and how much plastic) is involved with your food, because there is strong evidence these phthalates block the production of hormones, which can cause a whole litany of health issues, including neurodevelopment.

There are petitions to remove all phthalates from food (and the processing and packaging that can leech into the food), but in the meantime, reach for something fresh and local and avoid boxed foods. Food should expire. Food should rot. If it doesn’t, what’s inside?