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The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese

If you needed one more reason to give up processed foods in all forms, The New York Times’ Well section reports that the powdered cheese in processed macaroni and cheese may contain harmful chemicals known as phthalates. Even though phthalates were banned from children’s teething rings and toys a decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t done the same with foods, despite the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report that foods, drugs and beverages are a primary source of phthalates.

Would you like some food with your plastics?” is the first thing that comes to mind when I read this. Phthalates are pervasive chemicals, found in everything from your cosmetics and shower curtain, to household cleaners and, yes, foods like macaroni and cheese. You even ingest them when you eat at fast food restaurants, including pizza and sandwich shops. And since the FDA doesn’t appear to be moving on this, the solution is up to you to do what you can to remove these harmful chemicals from your life.

I admit that packaged, processed foods are quick and easy to prepare. But they’re loaded with sugars, artificial colorings and chemicals. And once you realize that an astonishing 60 percent of the food Americans eat is ULTRA-processed, and these foods account for 90 percent of the added sugar consumption in the U.S., you can’t help but want to rethink putting this stuff on your or your children’s plate.

Ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces, and artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and other additives "used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods" — in other words, that entire box of mac and cheese.

The answer, then, is to change your eating habits by eliminating processed foods and choosing whole, fresh, organic fruits, vegetables and meats. Granted, this will involve cooking some things at home or seeking a quality, sit-down restaurant that does this for you. But in the long run, you and your family will benefit.
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