If my daughter could have her way, she would be a mac-and-cheeseatarian. Of course, I’ve always known that it’s not the healthiest meal around, but a new study that found phthalates in 29 different cheese products — from natural string cheese to processed cheese powder — has me concerned.

Four different agencies worked together to fund the study, which tested cheese products bought in the United States. Of everything they tested, the chemicals in boxed mac and cheese products, especially the ones with powdered cheese, were the worst, with every single one showing high levels of phthalates.

Even organic products.


Top: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s 3-Ingredient Mac and Cheese | Serious Eats

Related: 6 decadent mac and cheese recipes for comfort food perfection.


Phthalates are typically used to make plastics more flexible, but they can — and often do — seep into products packaged in plastics including many self-care products like shampoo or body wash and, now apparently, food. Finding them at these levels in our food is problematic since some studies have found that they can cause disruptions to testosterone production in boys and are linked to learning and behavior problems in older kids.

And here I’ve been worried about sugar causing wild behavior all this time.

Related: 5 kid-friendly dinners you can cook straight from the freezer.


Phthalates in our boxed mac and cheese? No thank you! We'll make this DIY Microwave Mac and Cheese from The Kitchn instead.

How to make mac and cheese in the microwave | The Kitchn

So…what do we do?

To start, quit buying boxed mac and cheese. The groups who funded this study say they don’t believe any store-bought version is safe. Then, let the FDA know that you’re not okay with our kids’ food containing even trace amounts of phthalates.

And at meal times? We love every single one of these decadent mac and cheese recipes, though admittedly, some are a bit too much work for busy weeknights. Check them out for weekend cooking and don’t miss directions from our friends at The Kitchn on how to make DIY microwave mac and cheese (pictured above).

For every day mac and cheese eats, whip up J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s 3-ingredient mac and cheese recipe at Serious Eats (pictured top). It is so much tastier than boxed and incredibly easy to make. I like to make a big batch and store in individual containers in the refrigerator for the week. Then, the kids can microwave them for 30 seconds or so for a quick lunch or easy dinner.

Once school is back in session, I’ll warm individual portions of this easy mac and cheese recipe in the morning to pack in a thermos or in my new favorite lunchbox, the OmieBox, which has a built-in thermos that really does keep my kids’ lunches warm all day long. Warm, cheesy goodness without the preservatives…or phthalates. Sounds good to me.

[h/t The New York Times]