Food

Everything You Need to Know about Take Out Containers

and tips for healthier alternatives

Let's start by acknowledging that take out is a wonderful invention. It's super convenient, delicious, and means no clean up - what more could you ask for? While we praise take out as much as the next person, we have a few suggestions for ways to make your next lunch on the go or Chinese and a movie night a little healthier, without saying you have to order the steamed veggies and white rice.


Our focus is on what the food comes in, more so than what you are ordering - no judgement here if you get the pizza and cheesy bread (they're different!). We are more concerned about the styrofoam container your piping hot pad thai is coming in or that molded fiber bowl your fancy grain bowl is served in.

Well, here's the deal, all that packaging can affect the food, and in turn, your health down the road. And not like heart disease from a greasy indulgence now and again or a bout of food poisoning, but things like infertility, suppressed immune functions, and even neurological disorders. These issues, and others that result from a disrupted endocrine system, are associated with the highly fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) and various types of plastic present in most take out and food packaging materials.

But to be completely frank, figuring out what exactly is in the specific container your favorite restaurant uses isn't all that easy. There are so many different options when it comes to to-go containers that it can be migraine-inducing trying to figure out what is what. So, rather than listing out every possible take out container you might see and saying this one is safe, but this one isn't, we are just going to share some info that's easy to remember and can make a general improvement. Because hey, every little change adds up and makes a difference down the line.

So, here's the deal. We went through this report from Center for Environmental Health and a recent study on grocery takeout containers, and pulled out some of the main facts. We compared those with other info researchers have found, and came up with this list of facts and tips for creating an even better takeout experience.

4 Facts about Take Out Containers

  1. The "best" options (meaning the ones that contains the fewest chemicals that are likely to leach into your food or the environment after you throw it away) are ones that are compostable and fluorine free. That means those brown paper boxes marked with a green seal saying they are made from 100% recycled paperboard or the white paper soup containers that have a green stripe and similar compostable markings. Another option is plastic-like containers that are actually made of something called bioplastic or PLA (polylactic acid) that are completely compostable. These are often used for things like salads or compostable cold drink cups. Foil containers also seem to be safe because foil is less likely to change due to heat.
  2. If you can't find compostable, or foil containers, the next best options are plastic containers that are recyclable and marked with the number 2 or the number 5. These are "safer" plastics when it comes to transporting hot food, and they can be easily recycled in most communities.
  3. Styrofoam is bad. We all instinctively know it. What even is that material? (answer: it's polystyrene, which is a form of plastic). Anyway, if you can avoid it you should. It easily releases chemicals into hot foods and drinks and takes forever to break down in the world once you toss it and is not really recyclable.
  4. Molded fibers, so things like those brown cardboard-y bowls that look natural like they should be better for you, often aren't. To make the paper water and oil resistant, they often use a highly fluorinated chemical, which isn't something we want a lot extra of in our bodies.

And, if even that sounds like a lot to remember, here are some tips that can help reduce the impact takeout containers have on your life.

4 Tips for Healthier Take Out

  1. If you have the time, treat yourself and eat at the restaurant. Not only will it eliminate the take out containers for that visit, but sometimes it's good to just slow down. Take a beat, breathe, step away from your phone or computer or tv for half an hour, and talk to someone or read a book. If you were getting it to go because you are eating alone, try sitting at the bar. You might meet someone, or it's just a great place to people watch. Bonus, the food tastes better when it's fresh and not sitting for half an hour while it waits to be delivered.
  2. Try to notice what your food comes in when your food arrives, then order from places that already use better options. It doesn't have to be every time (maybe you are just really craving that chicken from the place on the corner that only uses styrofoam clamshells - that's okay), but if you are between two, let the packaging factor in.
  3. Ask the server, the hostess, or the manager about the to go containers before you ask for one for your leftovers. If you are really outgoing or go to the same place regularly, consider talking to them about switching to something better like compostable options.
  4. For small things like a muffin at the coffee shop or a quick sandwich from someplace like Panera at lunch, order it "for here" and bring your own storage container or just use a napkin. Once you get your order on a plate, move it to your own container and drop the plate in the wash bin. It might take an extra 30 seconds, but it is better for you and the environment because you don't have to worry about the packaging. Or, if you are up for it, talk to the restaurant and ask them if you can bring or provide your own container for take out. Some places are happy to package your food in your own container.
Roundups

The 13 Best Non-Toxic Baby Sunscreens

Well reviewed, easy to find, and super safe for your little one

It's finally here! We've rounded up the best 13 non-toxic sunscreens baby sunscreens just in time for all your outdoor adventures. We took into account ingredient safety, as well as reviews from parents, and availability at major retailers. Trust us that these options will not result in a goopy disappointment. All 13 of these non-toxic baby sunscreens are safe for baby, toddlers, kids (and you!) and are free from harmful chemicals. They are all reef safe too! Many of these brands also make a stick that can be a lot easier for face application if your baby is extra squirmy, so make sure to check those out too. Hope this makes your summer to-do list just a bit easier!

a) Adorable Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen, b) All Good Kid's Sunscreen SPF 30, c) Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 d) Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, e) Badger Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 30, f) Bare Republic Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, g) California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, h) Coola Baby Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, i) Made Of Baby Sunscreen SPF 30, j) Sunblocz Baby and Kids Sunscreen SPF 50, k) Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50, l) Tom's of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, m) Totlogic Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30


Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

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Food

Endless Ideas for Healthy Homemade Popsicles (No Recipe Needed!)

A refreshing family friendly treat, without added food colorings, cane sugar, or plastic packaging.

Popsicles are such a fun treat for adults and kids whenever it gets hot outside! We put together a fun graphic where you can make your own recipe for a healthy homemade popsicle, using whatever you have on hand. We make all sorts of popsicles from leftover fruit, veggies, juices that we have laying around. It's a great way to use up that half of a banana or browning avocado that your kid didn't eat. And instead of becoming food waste (which is a huge contributor to climate change), it gets new life as an amazing treat. We like these silicone or stainless steel popsicle molds, cause they are super durable and we generally try to avoid plastics and food. Making your own popsicles is a great way to have fun, while being non-toxic. Many store bought popsicles contain load of cane sugar, food colorings, other additives, and plastic packaging. So pick one up a popsicle mold, choose a combination of tasty ingredients, blend, freeze, and enjoy!

In case you need some ideas to get started, here are some of our favorites:

Chocolate Fudge: Cocoa powder, avocado (or banana), coconut milk, and honey/maple syrup

Watermelon Strawberry Mint: Watermelon, Strawberries, Coconut water, and Mint

Spinach Blueberry Yogurt: Spinach, Blueberry, Banana, and Yogurt

Creamy Zucchini Pineapple: Zucchini, Pineapple, and Coconut milk

*A special tip on mixing colors. Mixing leafy greens with red or orange fruits/veggies (like carrot juice or strawberries) makes for a pretty brown popsicle. It will still taste good, but might not look as appetizing!


Roundups

Non-Toxic Aftershaves

Cause who wants questionable chemicals on a freshly shaven face?

Whether aftershave is part of your shaving routine for the manly (and fabulous!) scents or to help your skin recover, you probably don't want an aftershave with questionable ingredients or preservatives. This is especially true because the main purpose of aftershave is to calm down any skin irritation and disinfect any small nicks (oops!) you accidentally gave yourself. We also included two options for witch hazel toners that are an all natural, affordable option that calms inflammation and disinfects. We found 7 non-toxic aftershaves and witch hazel toners that have good ingredients, good reviews, and are easy to buy at major retailers. So pick up one up and incorporate it into your morning routine and your skin will thank you!

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Family

5 Easy Changes to Protect Your Sperm from Harmful Chemicals

Keep your swimmers safe with these science-based tips

Hey, guys, yeah all you sperm producing humans out there. Hate to break it to you, but when it comes to different chemicals in our world, your little swimmers might not be as safe as you think. While it's true that you continually are creating new sperm, if you are exposed to some of these nasty things on a regular basis, chances are high that they are affecting both the quality and quantity of your sperm. Even if you aren't planning to have a kid right now, these things could make it harder for you to conceive a kid in the future and research has linked sperm health to overall health. But, hang tight. We have some super simple suggestions for ways to change up your routine that can protect your sperm for years to come.

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Home

What to Know Before Your Next Big DIY Project

Protect your health without sacrificing creativity!

Whether you're inspired by a recent Etsy binge or are a Weekend Warrior who practically lives at Home Depot, DIY projects can be super fun and fulfilling. Before you get started on your next project, we have some tips on what chemicals to avoid, the safety hazards they pose, and ways to keep yourself safe.




Avoid Methylene chloride

It's always fun to spruce up furniture with a new coat of paint but methylene chloride, a seriously dangerous chemical, is found in paint stripping products. In the body methylene chloride turns into carbon monoxide (1), and too much carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, confusion, and asphyxia. Methylene chloride fumes quickly accumulate and are heavier than air, which means workers bending down over projects in poorly ventilated areas are easily susceptible to the dangers of this chemical (2). There have been many accidental deaths from Methylene chloride, so you should completely avoid paint strippers that use it. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families has created a great reference on safer alternative for paint strippers.

Paint

Before you pick up your paint brush to tackle that dresser revamp, make sure the paint you're using is low VOCs. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are emitted as gasses from products like paint and can cause headaches, eye irritation, and nausea (3). VOCs are part of the reason paint can be so smelly when it's drying! Look for a paint that says low or no VOCs on the packaging and make sure to keep the windows open while the paint is drying!

Wood Stains

Updating your wood table or decking? Reach for a water-based wood stain or finish! Traditional wood stains can contain harsh chemicals and emit a ton of VOCs. Luckily a lot of brands have a VOC rating on their label, which makes choosing a product a lot easier. We recommend choosing a stain with low VOCs (under 250 g/l) that is also Green Seal 11 (GS-11) certified (4).

Always Have Proper Ventilation

This is key for any DIY project. Chances are, you'll probably use some chemicals that are not great for you during your project. The best place to work on your project is outside but if you have to work indoor, make sure to open windows and doors, and use a fan to ventilate the area.

Wear a Protective Mask

DIY projects can expose you to a TON of dust, which is why it's a good idea to always wear a protective mask. Dust is bad for you in general, and can also contain particles containing toxic chemicals, which is why we recommend using an N95 mask while working. Normal masks can help protect you, but they don't protect you from all dust. N95 masks filter even the tiniest particles (0.3 microns) (5), which can keep you safe during those extremely messy projects.




  1. https://saferchemicals.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/methylene-chloride/
  2. https://prheucsf.blog/2017/11/14/risky-paint-stripper-will-continue-to-kill-while-epa-delays/
  3. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality#Levels
  4. https://www.ewg.org/healthyhomeguide/wood-stains-a...
  5. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/masks-and-n95-respirators

Now that you've invested in some glass and stainless steel food storage containers, maybe you're wondering if you should Marie Kondo all the plastic ones you used to use? Instead adding them to the landfill, what if we told you that all those plastic containers can help you achieve a new level of organization zen? While we don't recommend storing food in them anymore (for those of you who haven't heard: these plastic food storage containers often have BPA or phthalates in them, which can leach into your food over time and cause all sorts of health problems), we also don't think you have to throw them away.

So, what can you do? We have 6 great suggestions for you to repurpose those containers throughout your home.



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Roundups

6 Non-Toxic and Plastic-Free Shampoos

We found 5 shampoo bars and 1 refillable option

We've had a lot of asks for products with sustainable packaging. We heard you! Sustainable, non-toxic, well-reviewed products are actually harder to find than you think. Who knew? But we did a ton of research and found some great options! We searched high and wide and found these 5 non-toxic shampoo bars and one refillable shampoo that comes in an aluminum bottle. These shampoo products are a great way to reduce your plastic consumption without compromising on safe ingredients. A win-win in our book for the planet and your health!

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