Remember when gathering around the dinner table was the anchor of every family's day?

I think we can safely say that ship has long since sailed. In fact, the number of Americans who regularly whip up supper at their own stoves declines year after year.

And with everything from drive-thrus to apps that let you have food delivered to your door with just a swipe or two, who could blame you for spending a little more time enjoying your meal than preparing it?

So much for “Sunday Supper.”

Now, restaurant meals can be convenient and easy for everyone to agree on. But according to a new study, whether you hit a fast-food joint or linger at a fine restaurant, eating a lot of meals out can mean that you’re also eating something that you’ll never see listed on the menu.

It turns out that restaurant meals can be loaded with high levels of toxic chemicals from plastic, called "phthalates"!

In the study, University of California researchers found that those who’d consumed the MOST meals out over the prior 24 hours had 35-percent HIGHER levels of phthalates in their urine than those who consumed the LEAST. (And note that some amount of phthalates showed up in pretty much everybody’s urine samples.)

Now, we've known for a while that fast food is loaded with phthalates -- because those chemicals can leach right out of plastic wrappers and takeout boxes and right into your “value meal.”

And sure enough, the study shows that certain food items (like cheeseburgers and other sandwiches) only boosted phthalate levels if they were purchased from a fast-food outlet.

But the surprising finding from this study is that ANY restaurant meal -- even meals from "wholesome" dining establishments like cafeterias and sit-down eateries -- boosted the participants’ phthalate levels.

The theory is that foods prepared in restaurant kitchens are exposed to multiple sources of phthalates that are rare in home kitchens -- including food-processing equipment and latex sanitary gloves.
The authors of the study say that the problem with their findings is that two-thirds of Americans eat at least some outside food.

But if you ask me, the really big problem -- besides the “ick factor” of eating chemicals from plastic (which just isn’t appetizing) – is that phthalates are known to disrupt your hormones by mimicking estrogen.

And that can create big problems for both ladies AND gents.

Now, the best way to keep these plastic poisons out of your system is to roll up your sleeves and channel your inner Julia Child!

If you're pressed for time, try chopping veggies and marinating meats on a Sunday so it's easy to throw together meals throughout the week.
Use only glass containers instead of plastic to store food... and never "nuke" anything plastic in the microwave, which releases more of the chemicals.