Chemicals in Sunscreen and Safer Options

I know many people that use sunscreen daily, particularly on their kids, and a new study by JAMA showed that blood levels of toxic chemicals from sunscreen increases after one day of use. You can only imagine how high the levels get after continued use!

What’s the harm? According to an article on, “The four chemicals studied -- avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene -- are part of a dozen that the FDA recently said needed to be researched by manufacturers before they could be considered "generally regarded as safe and effective." In addition, a recent FDA study showed the oxybenzone was absorbed 50 to 100 times higher than the other chemicals. Studies have shown that oxybenzone is potentially linked to lower testosterone levels in boys, hormone changes in men, shorter pregnancies and disrupted birth weights. Oxybenzone has been banned by European Union but it’s still allowed here in the United States. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that a majority of the sunscreens sold in the US has oxybenzone.

What to do? Use sunscreen only when and where needed, and choose a safer product. The best reference for safer skincare products is the EWG website. The Skin Deep site reviews most personal care products and they also have a special guide on sunscreens because of the importance. The guide has helpful tips on alternatives to sunscreen, as well as rates the various products based on levels of questionable chemicals.

The stick is great for kids and applies easily to the face.

The stick is great for kids and applies easily to the face.

What do I use? I use the Beautycounter line, which is EWG verified to be one of the safest options. In addition, the FDA recently proposed a rule to declare mineral sunscreens as safe. I prefer the stick or the lotion (voted best of beauty by Allure!), but they also offer a mist and recently added a tinted mist. Please contact me if you would like more information but click here to use a safer option for sun protection this summer!

Does your canned tuna or salmon have arsenic or mercury without much DHA and EPA?

Kirkland Salmon.jpg

Consumer Lab just released a recent review of canned salmon and tuna with some pretty shocking results. Many of the canned products have higher amounts of contaminants and much less of the beneficial omega 3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than expected. 

The products with the highest levels of mercury contamination are listed below (in order from highest level to lower, but still significant level). Note that most are tuna, because tuna is higher on the food chain and lives longer. They eat other fish that have taken in contaminants and have more time to accumulate contaminants.

  • Bumble Bee Solid White Albacaore Canned Tuna In Water

  • Vital Choice Solid White Albacore Tuna

  • Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna

  • Chicken Of The Sea White Albacore Tuna In Water

  • Kirkland Signature Albacore White Tuna In Water

  • Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna

The products with the highest levels of arsenic contamination are listed below (in order from highest level to lower, but still significant level) Note that some products appear on both lists so definitely avoid those!

  • Starfish Selects Solid Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Bumble Bee Solid White Albacaore Canned Tuna In Water

  • Chicken Of The Sea White Albacore Tuna In Water

  • Kirkland Signature Albacore White Tuna In Water

The products with lower levels of DHA and EPA reported are listed below, with the actual DHA/EPA levels.

  • Safe Catch Elite Solid White Tuna Steak (45 mg/0 mg)

  • Bumble Bee Solid White Albacaore Canned Tuna In Water (67 mg/0 mg)

  • Starfish Selects Solid Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (107 mg/0 mg)

  • Trader Joes Chunk Light Skipjack Tuna In Water With Sea Salt (112 mg/17 mg)

  • Chicken Of The Sea White Albacore Tuna In Water (118 mg/22 mg)

  • Genova Yellow Fin Tuna In Extra Virgin Olive Oil With Sea Salt (146 mg/22 mg)

  • Kirkland Signature Albacore White Tuna In Water (190 mg/28 mg)

  • Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna (230 mg/50 mg)

  • Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon (286 mg/101 mg)

So what should you choose? First, wild salmon will always be a better choice than tuna because the contaminants are lower. The omega fat content is usually higher, as well. If you do choose tuna, limit consumption to no more than once per week and the best option is the Vital Choice Albacore Solid White Tuna. The next best option, albeit not great, is Trader Joe's Chunk Light Skipjack Tuna With Sea Salt. Your best choice is to eat salmon instead of tuna and choose one of these:

  • Deming's Red Sockeye Wild Alaska Salmon

  • Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon

Healthy Snacks for Kids

It's that time of the year where parents start to ask me for healthy snack ideas. It seems there are ice cream trucks, candy stands, donuts and other things to tempt our kids all throughout the summer. It can be difficult to get them to eat healthy all the time but don't stress too much about situations you can't control. We don't want to raise our kids to have an unhealthy relationship or feel the need to hide or sneak unhealthy food. 


I always start with a breakfast that has a balance of healthy fat and protein. I give my son two eggs cooked in pasture butter. This may get paired with gluten-free waffles or toast, topped with nut butter or protein/fat based pancakes. I try to avoid including fruit at breakfast to reduce the sugar impact and save fruit for snacks. Although fruit is fun to use as decorations.


For lunches I encourage kids to come inside to get a break from the sun and eat something healthy. Again, make sure there is protein and healthy fat. Hard-boiled eggs are fun, particularly with an egg slicer. Jerky, sausages, pepperoni, nitrate-free lunch meat and cheese are also easy.  I like to add fresh vegetables, such as sweet peppers, cucumbers, carrots, celery, jicama. These are all refreshing on a hot day. You can pair with hummus, guacamole or a dip made from healthy ingredients. Kids are more tempted to eat vegetables when they are sliced and arranged in a fun way.

When it's hot out, kids will naturally gravitate towards fruit. Have refreshing fruit on hand, like peaches, apples, oranges and melons. Grapes and cherries are also easy things to snack on and can satisfy the hand to mouth desire. A good rule of thumb is to try to pair the fruit with some fat, such as nuts or nut butters. Cheese is another pairing option but that can be difficult to keep chilled on a hot day. 

Water is very important, particularly on a hot day, and many people mistake hunger for thirst. Stay away from fruit juices but you can make some fruit infused water. You can also add some electrolytes to water if it's really hot. I like Nuun tablets. I also like some of the sparkling kefir drinks for kids. They are good for the gut microbiome and are a great replacement for soda. My son loves Doctor D's apple.


Smoothies or homemade "ice cream" are popular. Use full-fat dairy or dairy alternative as your base (full-fat Greek yogurt, full-fat coconut milk, whole milk...), add some fruit and fat (coconut oil, nut butter...), a handful of greens and part of an avocado. Avocado is key to making it rich and creamy. If you have a Vitamix you can use some of the same ingredients to make it into a thicker mixture like ice cream or sorbet.

Homemade popsicles are easy to make, but just be sure to add a little fat to reduce the sugar rush. You can also simply freeze fruit, such as grapes. Kids love them!

An alternative to chips is homemade popcorn. Pop organic corn in coconut oil and top with more coconut oil, pasture butter or ghee and sea salt. I typically make an extra batch on movie night and have that available for snacks. If you do serve chips, the best options are those with the smallest ingredient lists and fried in healthy oils, such as coconut or avocado oil. Some good brands are Boulder, Jackson's Honest and Kettle.

Other snack options:

Smoothie recipe (for one child):
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp nut butter
1/2 banana
1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder
1/2 avocado
Handful of greens
Blend until smooth