Current research shows it’s more important than ever to choose foods wisely for your family to reduce exposure to pesticides, chemicals found in food processing, and industrial pollutants that end up in the food chain. Follow these tips for dishing up healthy, delicious food at your table.
1. Eat certified organic when possible
To make sure to buy organic where it counts the most, always choose organic when purchasing apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherries, tomatoes, hot peppers, kale, and collard greens. These crops have been found to have the most pesticide residues.
2. Choose safer fish
Use your state’s fish consumption advisories so you gain the benefits of eating healthy fish while reducing exposure to industrial pollutants such as mercury, PBDEs, and PCBs that accumulate in the food chain. Eat a variety of fish. In general, wild caught and smaller fish that are lower on the food chain are good choices, like wild salmon, Pacific sardines, Pacific cod, clams, and mussels.
3. Cook at home
When you prepare a meal at home you have the most control over what goes into your food. Start with fresh whole foods and simple recipes and you’ll be on your way to enjoying fast, delicious, and affordable meals.
4. Choose whole foods as the basis of your diet
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds. Reduce your exposure to contaminants in food processing and packaging by eating more fresh whole foods. To encourage serving a variety of colorful fresh foods throughout the day, remember to “eat the rainbow.” In addition to the produce aisle, shop the bulk bins, which typically contain whole food staples with less packaging.
5. Limit processed food
The more a food is processed industrially, whether by making multiple ingredients into a chicken nugget or just turning apples into applesauce, the more opportunity there is for contamination with toxic chemicals. Typically, processed foods contain a long list of ingredients, are engineered by food manufacturers, and are heavily advertised. Don’t be fooled by labeling – “natural” products can contain high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
6. Avoid canned food
Choose fresh, frozen, dried or glass-jarred fruits and vegetables over canned, as most food cans are lined with BPA or other chemicals of concern.
7. Reduce plastics in the kitchen
Choose alternatives to plastic for food storage: glass, ceramic, or stainless steel. When you do use plastics, look for resin codes #2, #4, and #5, which are considered safer. Avoid microwaving any plastic food containers or plastic wrap. For more info on choosing safer plastics look here.
8. Buy local, seasonal produce
Buying seasonal produce from local farms may also reduce your pesticide exposure. Crops intended for distant markets may be more likely to have post-harvest chemicals than those from your food shed. Find local community supported agriculture (CSAs) and farmers’ markets at www.localharvest.org. If you’re in the Puget Sound area, check out www.pugetsoundfresh.org.
9. Eat low-fat, grass-fed meat and dairy
To reduce exposure to industrial chemicals that build up in fatty tissue, choose lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products. Grass-fed beef in particular is lower in overall fat and the healthiest choice. Cut off visible fats before cooking, and use low-fat cooking methods like broiling, grilling, and roasting.
10. Engage your kids: garden together, take a family outing to a farm, or shop a farmers’ market
Teach your kids to recognize the look, smell and taste of whole foods and you will help them build a foundation for healthy eating. A child is much more likely to try rainbow chard or parsley when it’s from the backyard garden. Take an opportunity to talk with a farmer, or help harvest, and you’ll make the growing process tangible and exciting for kids.