Stocking a Safe and Healthy Kitchen

A dear friend recently asked me:

"I've been wondering what the safest cookware is for preparing food, we can go to all the lengths in the world to eat yummy local organic products but am I picking up nasty things from my cheap frying pan or plastic bottle?"

This week I'll cover How to Stock a Safe and Healthy Kitchen: Equipment & Tools!

Storage Containers and Packaging

One of my least favourite materials is plastic. Most plastics are petroleum-based and contain various toxic additives to give them their shape and consistency. Bad for our bodies and the planet. Tiny, little bits of plastic find their way into our bodies through a process called, 'leaching' or 'migrating'. This ability of plastics to leach into our bodies means that we are becoming contaminated with a slew of different toxins-from carcinogens to hormone disruptors. One of these is BPA (bisphenyl A) found in plastic water bottles and the lining of cans, this hormone-disrupting toxin has been found to interfere with our reproductive health and over 90% of Canadians have BPA in their bloodstream! To avoid plastic leaching, aim to choose foods that have minimal contact with plastic in their production and packaging. Leaching also seems to increase when plastics are heated or contain acidic, salty or fatty foods.

At the minimum:

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  1. Don't reuse plastic water bottles, they are not built for repeat use and old and scratched bottles will leach.
  2. Don't microwave or heat plastic containers, this includes your tupperware lunch container. If you must take your lunch to work in plastic, at least toss it in a glass or ceramic bowl at work when you heat it up.
  3. Try not to use plastic cling wrap and if you must, make sure it doesn't touch your food and remove it before heating.
  4. Leaching increases when plastics are heated or contain acidic, salty or fatty foods. So, avoid buying these kinds of foods in plastic containers.
  5. Limit canned foods. When you are buying them, choose brands that are BPA free, such as Eden Organics.

Best option:

  1. I love using glass. I have an overflowing cupboard of glass jars of various sizes. I store my dried goods in the cupboard in glass; my nuts and seeds in the fridge in glass, leftovers in the freezer in glass and I often pack my lunch in a glass jar.
  2. Stainless steel is another material to store food in or use for lunches. I have stainless steel containers to hold snacks, a stainless steel thermos for warm soups and teas, as well as a stainless steel water bottle.
  3. I use waxed parchment paper and a rubber band to avoid cling wrap.
  4. Buy food from the bulk section of your health food store to avoid plastic bags and packaging. Bring canvas bags to hold bulk items and produce and reusable shopping bags.

Cooking and Baking Equipment

The big baddie on the cooking scene is non-stick coating. These coatings are usually produced with chemicals to make them repel water and oil. Unfortunately, these chemicals break down and end up in our food and in our ecosystems. From humans to polar bears, the toxins from non-stick coatings are bioaccumulating in all our cells.

At the minimum:

  1. Avoid heating non-stick pans to high heat. The Environmental Working Group found that  in under 5 minutes of high heat, non-stick cookware breaks apart and toxic gases are released into the air.
  2. Avoid microwave popcorn, that non-stick coating is also on the inside of the bag.

Best option:

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  1. Cast iron is a great option. You can often find these at second-hand stores and garage sales. Heavy-duty and super-durable, these can be 'cured' in oil to create a natural non-stick surface. We have cast iron skillets and a dutch oven.
  2. Glass is great for bakeware. Many of my bread and pie pans are Pyrex glass. Check your glass to make sure it is heat-resistant.
  3. Ceramic cookware and stoneware are also nice. Stoneware creates an even heat, is naturally non-stick and easy to clean.
  4. Stainless steel. Most of my pots are stainless steel. I also have a stainless steel baking sheet for roasting veggies. A cheap and durable option.
Stoneware for baking
Stoneware for baking

We all want to reduce our toxic load- the amount of chemicals we are exposed to daily. An easy way to do this is to eat clean food and cook on clean materials. By choosing whole, organic foods, you eat the nutrients that help your body cleanse and eliminate toxins out of your body. Amazing!
To be light on the planet as you get rid of the plastics in your kitchen, consider reusing old tupperware containers for storage. I wouldn’t eat off plastic, but I’d use it to organize my junk drawer and my tool shed!