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Reducing Plastic at Mealtimes

Are you researching products for baby feeding? The best baby spoons? Just the right bowl? Plastic is almost always an option when choosing baby products. Today, we have even more choices, and plastic may not always be the best option. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations that may help reduce plastic use, especially at mealtimes.

Here we’ll discuss the recommendations, what they mean, and practical ways to apply them to your family. 

Why Avoid Plastic? 

Some plastics can release some toxins, especially when heated. BPA (bisphenol A) is one well-known example. In fact, it is no longer allowed in products made specifically for babies.

Why does it matter? We’ve learned that these chemicals can harm humans, especially babies and children. The list of potential harms is long and merits its own post.

Many products are now labeled “BPA-free.” But it’s important to remember that “BPA free” does not mean that a product is free of any questionable chemical. For example, BPA free does not mean free of bisphenol S. This is a chemical that is used as an alternative to BPA. And, it may pose similar problems to our kids’ health. 

It’s a newer area of research (relatively speaking) so we, as a society, are still learning a lot. 

There are things we do know.

  • Heating plastic releases more toxins. 
  • There are alternatives. Glass, silicone, wood, and stainless steel can be used with less harm. 
  • Of the plastics, the ones with these recycling numbers are known to be more concerning: 3, 6, and 7. Recycling code 7, for example, indicates the product contains bisphenols unless labeled otherwise. 

What can we do as we learn more? 

My approach, as a mom, has been to avoid plastic when possible. And if it’s not possible, I try to at least avoid microwaving food in plastic dishes. I’ll often heat food in a glass container, then transfer to one of the kids’ dishes. It should reduce the risk somewhat. 

Photo by Phong Duong on Unsplash

Baby Dishes and Cutlery

When it was time for new baby spoons, I opted for a compromise. I chose stainless steel spoon heads (the part that goes in my baby’s mouth) and plastic handles to help with grip. Yes, my baby chews on the handle sometimes. Again, it’s not perfect. I also value a handle that is easy to hold. The soft plastic grip helps. The part in her mouth most of the time is stainless steel. 

These are ones I’ve purchased and have been very happy with:

Nuk Cutlery Spoon (affiliate link)

Stainless Head Spoon

For bowls and plates, a stainless steel set is one great option. I’ll link the plates we use below. Since they cannot go in the microwave, we often reheat leftovers in containers similar to these from Snapware.

Stainless steel plates (affiliate link)

Silicone plates are a great option as well. Silicone is heat tolerant. It goes in the microwave. It doesn’t release known toxins. And, it doesn’t break or clatter if dropped.

I’ve noticed two downsides to silicone dishes. First, they don’t usually have firm sides, so are a bit unstable when held with one hand. This is fine for my toddler who usually carries things carefully with two hands anyway. The second downside is cost. They cost more than their plastic counterparts. 

I have something similar to these plates and have used them for a few years: Silicone Plates.

And, we use these bowls from Target which have been perfect for soups and oatmeal: Silicone Suction Bowls. Depending on your kid, the suction base is either awesome or infuriating. Fair warning. 

Less expensive plastic bowls work for dry snacks and cold cereal. Again, I’m trying to balance practicality with limiting the bigger risks. It’s hard to beat the ease and low cost of plastic.

Drinking Cups For Kids

Stainless steel is an obvious choice here too, and we’ve been happy with these stainless steel cups (see below). It feels like a splurge when comparing prices.

Stainless steel cups (affiliate link)

But after heavy use? And a lot of dropping on tile floors and concrete? And being run through the dishwasher daily? They’re still in the same condition as when we bought them. I think about my kids’ mouths directly touching the cup and have been pleased with the purchase. 

Other ways to reduce plastic exposure in our kids 

I’ve already mentioned some products that are more “universal” for young kids. Here are a few other things that may apply to your family.

  • For babies we can choose glass over plastic bottles for formula or pumped breast milk.
  • We can wash plastic by hand instead of dishwasher. Dishwashers traditionally use a lot more heat, increasing the risk of toxin release. 
  • We can use alternatives to plastic wrap, especially when reheating. 
  • We can choose frozen or fresh produce. The lining of many cans of food contains BPA. 

Overall, strictly following all recommendations is not practical or affordable for many families. Hopefully after reading this, you can see a few ways to make minor changes that could have a lasting effect. Let’s not let perfect be the enemy of better! 

So much of parenting (and medicine) is compromising and choosing which priorities to focus on. It’s a challenge to follow all the recommendations all the time. For my family, the spoons we chose are an example of a compromise that works for us. I choose to have my baby practice her grip with something soft (plastic handle) and have her mouth come in contact with the less toxic part (stainless steel). 

By choosing different dishes, limiting heat exposure, and choosing food as wisely as possible, we can also limit toxin exposure in our babies. 

I’ll update this post as more research comes out. I would love to hear thoughts and the ways your family has reduced plastic exposure. 

Note: Some of the above links are paid links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.


Trasande, L. (2018, August). Food Additives and Child Health. Pediatrics, 142(2)

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