/Food

Plastic free jars, boxes, and wraps!

Healthier Food Storage Containers

Roundups

Updated for 2022!

We scoured the internet finding an assortment of safer and healthier ways to keep your leftovers and meal prep ingredients fresh. All of these options are sustainable, have many glowing reviews, and are easily available. We also have a roundup more specifically for packing lunch you might also want to check out too!

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Roundups

Plastic-Free (and Melamine-Free!) Outdoor Tableware

They won't break, look great, and are sure to be perfect for you outdoor gatherings

Updated for Summer 2022!

Getting ready for some outdoor parties and dining this summer? We sure are! If you're looking to spruce up your outdoor dining scene, you'll quickly see that most options are made of melamine. Even though melamine dishware doesn't look like plastic, melamine can leach into food after dishes are repeatedly microwaved or used to hold both hot and acidic foods (read this to learn why you might want to skip the melamine). So if melamine is out, and easy to break options like ceramic just don't work for you (children being children, slippery surfaces, clumsy grownups!), check out these stainless steel, enamelware, wood, and tempered glass options. Although we always recommend reusable, we included one disposable option too (without PFAS chemicals). These are our top picks for plastic-free outdoor dishware, serving bowls and platters, tumblers, and more. They are all light weight, hard to break, and will make your outdoor entertaining photos look on point. So pick up some of these plastic-free and melamine-free outdoor dishes and enjoy dining al fresco!

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As the weather warms up, we want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. This means picnics, pool parties, and of course BBQs! We love a good barbecue because they're super fun, delicious, and a great way to cook and socialize at the same time. Plus there is less mess in the kitchen to clean up. But before you dust off your grill, check out our tips for a healthier BBQ that aren't just about what recipes to use. There are other aspects of health that go beyond just what ingredients you use.

1) Trim Fat and Clean the Grill

To start, let's think about the actual grill. Because of the open flame, grills create some smoke. And while that's sometimes the point (hello smoked salmon), directly breathing in smoke usually isn't the best idea, especially for children and people with asthma. There are some things you can do to make your grilling a little less smokey, though. If you're in the market for a new grill or if you're looking to upgrade your current one, look for a gas grill. While they're not perfect, they produce less smoke than charcoal grills.

If you have a charcoal grill (or prefer that), cut off excess fat to lower the amount of dripping and risk for flare-ups (1). Also, cleaning your grill to remove the charred, stuck-on bits before you cook is good for reducing smoke. And in general, a clean grill is better for you. You should brush or scrape your grill every time you use it, and then do a deep cleaning a few times a year, depending on how often you use it.

2) Marinate, Marinate, Marinate

Now let's get to the actual food and BBQing. Overcooking (or burning) the food raises the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) on the food (2). These chemicals are what people talk about when they say that grilling food can make it more likely to cause cancer. But we have good news- you can dramatically lower the amount of PAHs and HCAs by marinating your meat before grilling it. It doesn't have to be marinated for a very long time (even 5 minutes of marination reduces PAHs and HCAs by as much as 92%), but the longer you marinate, the more flavorful the meat will be. Some research has shown that marinades with acid or oil are better than ones high in sugar (3). Additionally, tossing in some basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, or marjoram helps to reduce HCA levels because of their antioxidant properties (4). Easy peasy, and delicious!

3) Use Real Plates or Napkins

After you are done wonderfully cooking your food, you don't want to taint it by putting the piping hot food on plates that could leach chemicals onto the food. Usually BBQs or cookouts are known for using plastic or paper plates for easy cleaning up. But, plastic plates can transfer some harmful chemicals to the food, and so can paper plates if they are made with oil- or water-resistant Teflon-like chemicals. Those water- and oil-proof property in PFAS chemicals (Teflon-like, also called 'forever chemicals'), can easily get into the food items that it touches and takes years to break down, both in your body and in the environment. The best option would be to use real ceramic plates or some of these safe outdoor dishes that you can wash after the party, or unlined paper or bamboo plates that are completely compostable without PFAS chemicals. Hey, if you are really going all out, why not just ditch the plate altogether and create less trash over all. Who really needs a plates for a hotdog and cupcakes anyway?

4) Use Mineral Sunscreen and Safer Inspect Repellent

While this is less to do with the food, sunscreen and insect repellant are often popular for outdoor summertime events. While both have some pretty good benefits, like keeping you from getting burnt or covered in bites that can lead to various illnesses, some sunscreens and insect repellents contain pretty nasty chemicals. A good option is to wear long sleeve, lightweight shirts and pants that would protect you from both insects and sun. If that's just not seeming like an option for you, check out our roundup of safer sunscreen products. When it comes to bug repellant, that is more difficult and using a product with DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535 might still be your best bet. Some do find that oil of lemon eucalyptus (which is a particular active ingredient, different from lemon eucalyptus oil), can also be effective. You can read more about that in our insect repellant article.

5) Limit Plastic Decorations and Toys

The last tip relates to the decorations and activities at your BBQ. We recommend avoiding plastic and opting for reusable decorations when you can. Read more about ideas for throwing a party with less plastic. For items that are more common at a BBQ party near water, try games like corn hole or sharks and minnows. If you are more the type that likes to float around in the water, consider pool noodles instead of rafts and things. While slightly less instagramable or T-Swift inspired, foam noodles are safer than the plastic floats which are almost always made of PVC (which contains phthalates). Get creative for fun ways to play that don't require plastic toys.


References

1) Hall, McKenzie. Reduce your exposure to toxins from grilled meats. Chicago Tribune. July 2, 2014.

2) Chung SY, Yettella RR et al. Effects of grilling and roasting on the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in beef and pork. Food Chemistry. Volume 129, Issue 4, 15 December 2011, Pages 1420-1426.

3) Farhadian A, Abas F et al. Effects of marinating on the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene and fluoranthene) in grilled beef meat. Food Control. 28(2):420–425, December 2012.

          4) Riches, Derrick. Healthy Grilling. The Spruce. April 4, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018.
          Food

          Is Canned Food Safe from BPA Now?

          BPA is not being used anymore, but what do we know about the new liners?

          When it’s 7pm and you haven’t thought about dinner yet, heating up a can of chunky stew or throwing a can of beans into a cheesy burrito sounds like the best idea ever. By now, you’ve probably heard about BPA in canned foods, but many cans now say “BPA-free” on them. Hurray for that, right?! Every can still needs a thin liner inside so that the food doesn’t corrode the metal from the inside out. So if they are not made with BPA, what are these new liners made of? And does it mean that canned foods are safer to eat now?

          What is BPA?

          BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical that is often used in plastics to make them clear and strong. It is also in epoxy resins that can line water pipes and food cans, and is used in receipt paper (1). Although BPA is the most well-known bisphenol, there are dozens of other bisphenols (often called BPA replacements) out there that are chemically similar to BPA.

          BPA is one of the better known endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals look like and act like hormones in the body, which confuse the endocrine system and cause disruption of its normal functions. Since the endocrine system is responsible for metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, and so much more, scientists are finding out more every day about the harmful health effects of EDCs.

          BPA in Canned food

          Canned food has been around for a long time and since the 1960’s, a thin epoxy lining made with the chemical BPA has been used to protect the inside of the can from corroding. Corroding metal is not good, so a liner is definitely needed in order for canned food to have a good shelf life.

          There were two problems though. First, more and more studies piled up showing the harmful endocrine disrupting effects of BPA (2). Secondly, many studies showed that BPA moves from the can lining into the food that is eaten, and that things like acidity, heat, and fat affected how much BPA ended up being in the food (3,4). As a result, there was more and more pressure to remove BPA from can linings.

          In fact, reports have shown that there has been a decline in can linings with BPA. The Center for Environmental Health found a huge decline from 2017 to 2019 in canned foods that had BPA linings. In 2019, their tests showed that about 95% of cans tested free of BPA. In fact, the Can Manufactuer’s Institute reports that their industry statistics indicate that more than 95% of all U.S. food can production has transitioned out of BPA to alternative liners (5).

          New Canned Food Linings

          It’s clear that canned food has largely moved away from BPA, but what are they using in new can linings? That part is less clear. The new linings are made from either acrylic, polyester, non-BPA epoxies, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers, or olefin polymers. Which one depends on the manufacturer. A 2016 report by several nonprofit groups Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes in the linings of canned food notes that many of these new linings are not great alternatives. PVC is not a great substitute because it’s made from vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. And many of the acrylic linings include polystyrene (hello styrofoam!), which is also a possible human carcinogen. Adequate testing to ensure that these new linings are safe for food have not been done. And it’s probably no surprise that neither PVC or polystyrene are great for the environment!

          Even some of the newest liners, like olefin polymers, which are partially derived from plants, have not been completely studied for safety, many times because their formulation is not publicly available.

          Moreover, there are only a couple of companies that specify exactly which BPA free liner they have moved to. So, if you see a can with a BPA free symbol on it, you won’t know what they are using instead.

          The Bottom Line on BPA in Canned Food

          So the bottom line is that yes, canned foods are largely safe from BPA now thanks to the voices of countless consumers and health advocates. But there is more work to be done to ensure that canned foods linings that are used today are safe. Here’s what you can do to best protect your health:

          1. Write to companies and ask them what linings they use on their canned food products and ask them to show you safety data.
          2. Buy frozen produce and fruits. Food is frozen before it is packaged and frozen food packaging is generally made of safer plastics.
          3. Explore canned food alternatives such as glass jars and Tetra-paks.
          4. Shop the bulk and dry goods bins and make staples like beans from scratch. Freeze small portions in the freezer for easy accessibility in the future.


          References

          1. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa/index.cfm
          2. Rubin, Beverly S. "Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects." The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 127.1-2 (2011): 27-34.
          3. Sungur, Şana, Muaz Köroğlu, and Abdo Özkan. "Determinatıon of bisphenol a migrating from canned food and beverages in markets." Food chemistry 142 (2014): 87-91.
          4. Hartle, Jennifer C., Ana Navas-Acien, and Robert S. Lawrence. "The consumption of canned food and beverages and urinary Bisphenol A concentrations in NHANES 2003–2008." Environmental research 150 (2016): 375-382.
          5. https://www.cancentral.com/content/innovations-foo...
          Healthy eating should be about more than just healthy ingredients! While there are many different specific diets, most definitions of healthy eating involve choosing fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods that provide maximal nutritional benefits. Refined grains, sugar, vegetable oils, and other unhealthy ingredients are left off the plate. But if healthy ingredients become contaminated with harmful chemicals, are they really healthy? It is time for healthy eating to incorporate more than just ingredients. Healthy eating should also include how the food is packaged and what materials the food comes into contact with while it is being processed, cooked, and stored.
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          Roundups

          The Best Non-Toxic Dish Soaps

          Healthy, safe, and effective grease-cutting dish soap power

          Updated for 2021!

          Get your dishes clean without worrying about the chemicals in your dish soap. We rounded up the top 6 dish soaps without toxic chemicals or preservatives that are well-reviewed and easily available. You're welcome! We've had some questions about whether parents need a separate soap specifically for bottles and dishes. With these 6 picks, you can be rest assured that they will work well on your dinner plates but are also safe enough for baby bottles and toddler dishes. Also, for all the dishes you choose not to hand wash, take a peek at our dishwasher detergent roundup.

          a) Attitude Dishwashing Liquid

          b) Aunt Fannie's Microcosmic Probiotic Power Dish Soap

          c) Better Life Dish Soap

          d) ECOS Dishmate Dish Liquid

          e) Common Good dish soap

          f) Cleancult liquid dish soap

          g) Trader Joe's Dish Soap Lavender Tea Tree


          We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

          *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.

          Roundups

          Non-Toxic Baking Essentials

          For everything from cupcakes, to pie, to cornbread we've got you covered

          Updated for 2021!

          Whether you are a full on baker or just someone who struggles with the directions on the back of a box of cake mix, having the right pans is always a necessity. While nonstick may seem like an amazing invention to help with this, you should shy away from it (read this to learn why) and check out these great alternatives. Same goes for cooking, so check out our non-toxic alternatives to non-stick pans roundup.

          Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids
          Farberware Professional Stainless Steel Whisk
          OXO Good Grips Silicone Spatula
          Wilton Aluminum Springform Pan
          GreenLife Ceramic Nonstick Muffin Pan
          Nordic Ware Aluminum Square Cake Pan
          GreenLife Ceramic Nonstick Loaf Pan
          Pyrex 3 Quart Glass Baking Dish 9" x 13"
          TeamFar Stainless Steel Baking Sheet with Rack Set
          If You Care Parchment Baking Paper
          Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish
          Silicone Bundt Cake Pan 9 inch
          Amazon Basics Reusable Silicone Baking Cups, Muffin Liners


          *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.

          Roundups

          Non-Toxic Alternatives to Non-Stick Pans

          No need for Teflon to get a clean releasing pan

          Updated for 2021!

          By now, you've probably heard that Teflon and other chemicals used to make pans nonstick aren't great for your health. But, maybe that left you asking how you were supposed to get the perfectly cooked fried egg without it sticking to the pan. Look no further, we have a found a collection of pans that aren't covered in toxic chemicals that still get the perfect sear without the best parts being left stuck on the bottom of the pan. These pans are durable and will last a lifetime. If you're looking to make some delicious baked goods, check out our alternatives for non-stick baking.

          non stick pan alternative with no teflon

          a) Debuyer Elemental Iron and Carbon Steel

          b) Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Wok


          c) Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan

          d) Lodge Cast Iron

          e) Staub Perfect Pan
          f) Victoria Cast Iron

          g) Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Skillet


          h) All-Clad D3 Stainless Cookware Fry Pan
          i) The Ringer (perfect for cleaning both cast iron and carbon steel)


          *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.

          Want an easy way to live healthier?
          Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
          By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
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