These recommendations from CR food safety experts and nutritionists will help you minimize your child’s heavy metal intake, while maintaining an overall healthy diet.
Limit your child’s consumption of the riskiest baby foods. These include rice, sweet potatoes, apple juice, and grape juice. “These often have worrying levels of arsenic, in particular,” says Dickerson. Rice cereal was once considered the best first food for babies, but the FDA, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other organizations say it’s not the only option. Other whole grains, like oatmeal, are good choices. In the 2018 CR tests, eating less than 2.5 servings per day (one serving is ½ cup) of the oatmeal baby cereal we reviewed was safe.
Rest on the fruit juice. CR 2019 fruit juice testing revealed high levels of lead and arsenic in several products. The subcommittee report also noted excessive levels of heavy metals in fruit juices. Plus, fruit juices aren’t as nutritious as parents might think. “Even 100% fruit juices offer no nutritional benefit over whole fruit,” says Amy Keating, RD, nutritionist at Consumer Reports. “It can add extra calories to a child’s diet, and drinking a lot of it has been linked to tooth decay (cavities) and can lead to weight gain and obesity.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the amount of fruit juice children drink and not giving juice to babies under one year of age. For infants, formula or breast milk should be the only drink they drink. For older children, water and milk are the best choices.
Consider creating your own. There is no reason why a child or infant cannot eat the same foods as the rest of the family. It will not completely reduce the amount of heavy metals in the diet – depending on the food, it can have naturally higher levels. But this eliminates the risk of heavy metals from additives used in food.
Of course, food should be age appropriate and prepared in such a way that it is easy for the child to eat. “At the beginning, it is best if the food has a very smooth texture. For example, you can cook broccoli and mash it or mash avocado for your baby, ”says Keating. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to make sure your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals, as many baby foods are fortified or fortified with certain nutrients.
Making your own also means that you can potentially reduce heavy metals in rice. In CR 2014 tests, white basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan and sushi rice from the United States on average contained half the inorganic arsenic than most other types. Additionally, cooking the rice as you would with pasta – in plenty of water, then draining it – decreases the arsenic content of the rice.
Minimize baby food snacks. Puffs, teething cookies, and crackers are among the products most likely to be high in heavy metals. Plus, says Keating, these are highly processed foods. “They tend to have a lot more of the things you don’t want in your diet – additives, added sugars, sodium, and refined flours – and more and more research shows that highly processed foods are harmful to overall health,” possibly increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity, ”she said.
Vary the foods you give your child. When you eat a range of different types of whole foods, you get a range of nutrients. So alternate the vegetables that you give to your child, for example. Plus, rotating foods can help you avoid overconsumption of heavy metals and provide nutrients (like vitamin C and zinc) that can help offset some of the damage heavy metals do to the body.