My toddler likes “Blue Cookies” (they’re fluorescent blue and likely have nothing remotely natural in them). And she prefers them over my homemade peanut butter cookies. (Seriously. Does she realize I used the blender for the first time, like, ever?)
Sometimes getting your kids to eat healthy food seems like an epic battle, especially when you’re bombarded daily with new lists of 1,000 “harmful” ingredients to children. Listen — letting your child eat Blue Cookies (or their equivalent) here and there won’t cause her to grow an extra ear or make you #World’sWorstMom. Plus, you can literally drive yourself crazy trying to avoid EVERYTHING that you read is harmful. However, some ingredients are worse than others. So, here are three that I as a mom and doctor think it’s worth minimizing in your child’s diet — as well as your own.
1. Trans Fats and Partially Hydrogenated Oils
According to the FDA, trans fats are “no longer generally recognized as safe.” (Yes, that creeped me out too.) Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) are the main source of trans fats and increase the likelihood of diabetes, obesity and even plaque in arteries as early as the teenage years. There’s even some suggestion that trans fats may affect immunity, increasing the risk of allergies and asthma. With that, the FDA decided that PHOs should be removed from foods altogether — but not until 2018, and with a labeling loophole. You may THINK that you’re avoiding this additive by only buying foods that say “Trans Fat Free” — but the loophole means products can still bear that label if they have up to 0.5g of trans fats per serving.
What to do: The FDA ban on trans fats isn’t effective until 2018. Until then, check the labels. If it says trans fats or “partially hydrogenated oils” don’t bite (and don’t let your kids). Look for trans fats in baked goods, snack foods, stick margarine, coffee creamer and frostings.
2. Added Sugar — in any form. (High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), corn sugar, anything ending in “-ose”)
Even though HFCS gets all the attention, our bodies metabolize all sugars similarly, causing blood sugar swings, obesity, diabetes and even fatty liver disease. Unfortunately, sugar is all over processed foods — from breakfast cereals (some of which have three types of sugar in the top five ingredients and can be as high as 50 percent sugar by weight), to applesauce and yogurt, so you can inadvertently serve a whopping serving of sugar when you think you’re providing a nourishing snack.
What to do: If HFCS, corn sugar, corn extract or anything ending in -ose (such as fructose or sucrose) are in the top five ingredients, then the food is a dessert/treat, rather than a healthy meal.
While BPA isn’t actually a food ingredient, it’s used in many food containers, meaning it leaches into the food inside. The FDA’s National Toxicology Program expressed “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.” (Yes. Their actual words.) In addition, BPA exposure in children may be linked to cancer, as well as obesity and metabolic diseases through a phenomenon known as “metabolic programming.” BPA exposure in utero has been linked to possible increased risks of asthma and behavioral problems. These health concerns have been ongoing — but this chemical compound continues to be used in a wide variety of food storage containers.
What to do:
• Don’t microwave food in plastic food containers — stick to glass when possible. You can purchase BPA-free containers, but research suggests that these plastics may have similar effects to BPA.
• Don’t store food in “to-go” or takeout containers. Transfer leftovers to glass, porcelain or stainless steel.
• Opt for fresh or frozen foods over canned goods when possible, since BPA is still present in the lining of cans.
(Extra note — keep receipts out of your child’s hands, and wash your own before handling food — receipts have 1000x more BPA than even BPA-lined cans, which you transfer to your food after touching them).
Being a mom is tough — so much to track when you just want to keep your family safe. If you can minimize these three items, you’ll be doing just that.
But no matter what, your child will probably still want that blue cookie (which is totally cool every once in a while. As long as she shares with Mommy).
How do you keep your child’s diet healthy? Tweet me @DrDarria or Facebook Dr. Darria Long Gillespie.
This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.
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