This is a guest post by Kristen Conn, the co-founder of MightyNest.com, a unique website that provides you the ability to research, get advice and buy natural, organic and non-toxic products all in one place.
Plastic is bad news when it comes to food storage and cooking, but luckily there are lots of ways to go plastic-free in the kitchen.
Meal planning and preparation are big jobs! When you take the time to choose organic, natural and sustainable foods you’re doing so because you care about your family’s health and want to avoid the potentially harmful effects of pesticides and artificial ingredients.
Take a look around your kitchen. Many common items we use every day to prepare, cook and store food may actually put our families’ health at risk. Toxic synthetic chemicals such as BPA, PVC and Melamine are commonly found in plastic kitchenware products yet have been tied to disturbing health issues. As an example, scientists have linked low dose exposure of BPA, a hormone disruptor, to several types of cancer, early onset puberty, diabetes, obesity and infertility.
When you use plastics in your kitchen there is potential for these chemicals to leach into your food – the same food you have taken considerable care to ensure is the healthiest option for your family. Our recommendation is to keep plastics out of the kitchen, and the great news is there are many safe non-plastic alternatives and ways to have a plastic-free kitchen.
Many hard plastic dishes are made by combining the chemical melamine with formaldehyde – a known human carcinogen. The safest alternatives to plastic dishware are glass and ceramic with alead-free glaze. If you have young children and are concerned about potential breaking, 304 grade stainless steel and food grade silicone are wonderful alternatives.
Plastic utensils for cooking and baking are dangerous because, when exposed to heat, they can melt or break down and leach into your food. The safest cooking utensils are made from wood, bamboo, stainless steel and silicone.
Avoiding plastic for food storage and heating is important because the leaching of chemicals is accelerated by heat. If you are going to microwave food, the safe alternative to plastic containers is glass. Don’t be fooled by plastics that say “microwave safe,” this simply means that the material won’t melt.
You can avoid plastic and be environmentally friendly when you substitute a reusable snack/sandwich bag for plastic snack bags or plastic wrap. Used for school lunches, one reusable bag has the potential to eliminate over 1000 plastic sandwich bags!
What to do when you can’t avoid plastic
There may be times when no matter how hard you try, you are unable to avoid using plastic in the kitchen. In those instances, here are some ways by which you can reduce your exposure:
- Choose wisely. #1 plastic is most likely to leach antimony, #3 plastics are most likely to leach phthalates, and #7 plastics are most likely to leach bisphenol-A (BPA). #6 plastics leach “numerous chemicals” into food and drink. The safest plastics for storing food seem to be #5 plastics, many of which are marked “Microwave safe”, which leads to…
- Do NOT heat plastic in the microwave. There is little to no regulation around what “microwave safe” claims are, so what they actually mean is that the plastic itself will not melt in the microwave. It DOES NOT mean that the plastic won’t leach chemicals into food as it is being microwaved.
- Avoid using plastics that are heavily scratched or cloudy.
- To avoid wear and tear, wash your plastic by hand and avoid exposing it to the heat and harsh detergents from the dishwasher.
By avoiding plastic in the kitchen and using alternative materials such as stainless steel, wood and glass, you can feel confident that the food you prepare won’t absorb any dangerous toxins – your food will be healthy from start to finish.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by kennymatic