The Way We Feed Our Family Matters: Safe Dishware Alternatives

By Manasa Mantravadi



Time to Read: 8 min

Safe Dishware Alternatives for Kids

Our food system is broken. The consequences of this are significant to human health and the planet. It really is an inconvenient truth that I have learned as a pediatrician, mom and most in depth as a founder of a company in the food space. I have seen a lot of things and have had countless “aha” moments that connect my experience in manufacturing with my experience in doctoring. The two are definitely related. I had no idea prior to starting Ahimsa how related they were. 

For example, a generation ago pediatricians did not routinely encounter children with Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, even in my own medical school education we referred to Type 1 as childhood diabetes and type 2 as adulthood diabetes. We did not see morbid obesity in 8 year olds a generation ago. The average age of puberty is getting younger and younger. More children now enter precocious (premature) puberty than the generation before them. Thyroid issues are more common in children than they were before. How do all of these sudden changes in children’s health occur? Well - it’s not genetics alone.

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

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A change in our genetics doesn’t happen that quickly.  

Scientists have long known that food and nutrition can influence the reproductive system, including timing of puberty. But over the past few decades, increasing scientific evidence has shown that chemicals in plastics, food and personal care products mimic our body’s natural hormones like estrogen and interrupt our normal chemical pathway to puberty and fertility. Something else is occurring - our environmental influences are clearly playing a role in the background at such a large scale but so silently that we didn’t know until now.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, The World Health Organization and The Endocrine Society are among the many medical communities that are sounding the alarm. Synthetic (made by humans) endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in everyday products - particularly in our food system. These chemicals look like our everyday hormones that allow us to grow, develop, reproduce, balance our body’s salt and water level and many more significant functions that keep us healthy. The chemicals in products look like our natural hormones and interrupt these normal signaling pathways. This is particularly important in children as they are still growing and developing rapidly - many organ systems are not even fully developed in that first decade of life.  

So then why are more than 10,000 food additives found in our food system? Well - we have become very accustomed to convenience, speed and cost. Let’s face it. I’m a busy mom. We are all just trying to get through our busy days and the convenient, fast and cheap option often wins. It’s helpful to us at that moment. The food industry supports that with products that make life easier. 

Today, there are more than 10,000 additives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to preserve, package, or modify the taste, look, texture, or nutrients in foods. But increasing evidence suggests some chemicals used as food additives should be avoided―especially for children. A recent review of nearly 4,000 food additives showed that 64% of them had had no research showing they were safe for people to eat or drink. I’m serious. Our food system operates in an “innocent until proven guilty” model for chemicals in consumer goods. The European Union food system, by contrast, is much more stringent in its oversight of chemicals and does not follow the same mentality of “it’s not a problem until we find out it’s a problem.” 

I’m here to tell you that the system is broken but to empower you to fix it. Not all hope is lost. In fact, when we decrease our exposure to these chemicals, the circulating levels found in our body (by the way - you shouldn’t find these normally in our body remember - they are man made) can decrease in as fast as 3-5 days. That should give everyone reading this a sense of power. You CAN help fix the system and protect your family. 

If I know anything from years of practicing as a pediatrician, it's the power of parents. Our love for our children and instinctual drive to keep them safe is undeniable.

The best part? You can make small simple changes NOW. 

  • Switch from plastic to glass or stainless steel to serve and store food to minimize bisphenol and phthalate exposures
  • Switch from teflon pans to cast iron or stainless steel to cook food to avoid  Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is a forever chemical - yup, just doesn’t go away.
  • Eat organic food to avoid pesticide exposure 
  • Eat fresh produce instead of canned food as all cans have detectable levels of BPA (bisphenols) and other preservative chemicals
  • Incorporate more plant based meals instead of heavily processed meats tha contain a slew of chemicals (plus meat processing has a HUGE carbon footprint)
  • Politely say no to printing the paper receipt at the grocery store check out (it’s lined in BPA so you decrease your exposure and you save the landfill from plastic lined paper that can’t be recycled)

The way we feed our families matters. The little things we do every day matter. Ahimsa is not a business to me - it is a solution to the problem with plastic in the children’s feeding space that could actually help children. It’s not just a product to me - it’s a chance to change our thinking and to take simple actionable steps to change our broken system. If I know anything from years of practicing as a Pediatrician - it’s the power of parents. Our love for our children and instinctual drive to keep them safe is undeniable. So, I hope you will join our mission because the small things we do together can lead to great BIG things for the future. You matter to us and #ItMatters for our families.

Safe Mealtime Essentials

PS - There are legislators fighting for better regulations by the FDA.  Recently dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals were found in nearly every leading baby food on the market. The Baby Food Safety Act was introduced and has support.

Want to act now? 

Call Rep.Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) at 202-225-3711. Voice your opinion as a parent on endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastic found in children’s feeding products (bottles, plates, cutlery, bowls, cups). While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding plastic to serve and store food - more than 80% of children’s feeding products in the USA are made of plastic. He is an advocate and needs to hear from parents that the way we feed our families matters. 

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

More Mealtime Essentials

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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