If you've been looking for some more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives, chances are, you might have stumbled across this thing called beeswax wrap. It can be used to wrap sandwiches and salad, that half-eaten avocado, even leftovers from wine and cheese night! Maybe the cute patterns first caught your eye, or maybe you saw it on Instagram. Whatever the reason, we're going to share everything you need to know about this reusable alternative to plastic wrap.

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Food

What’s in Wood Cutting Boards?

And how to pick the healthiest ones

With plenty of time at home in the last 12 months, we've all visited the kitchen more frequently – and gladly. This, of course, means that we're basically certifiable chefs. (And how could we not be after streaming all of the known tele-verse? There's now time and much inspiration to mince fresh garlic into culinary fairy dust.) While you've been chopping away, have you ever wondered what goes into those beautiful wooden or bamboo cutting boards? Especially the ones with blocks of wood artfully stuck together? We wondered too, so we looked into it. Read on to learn more!

Wood: the Good

Prepping food on wood or bamboo cutting boards has a number of known benefits. Unlike plastic, wood doesn't contribute microplastics into our food (or the environment!), and bamboo is a quickly regenerated sustainable resource. Wood materials also have antimicrobial properties, in part because they can absorb and trap bacteria deep in the wood fibers! (3) Studies have shown that properly cleaned and dried wood cutting boards harbor very few live bacteria on the cutting board surfaces (1-5).

What About the Other Stuff?

Some wood cutting boards are crafted out of single blocks of wood, but more commonly they contain pieces that are glued together. Cutting board materials fall under the FDA's "food contact substances" and "indirect food additives" regulations since any part of a cutting board could potentially touch our food (6). When FDA-approved food contact substances like glue resins/polymers are completely cured (totally dried), they are considered food safe (7). Even so, some approved substances like melamine-formaldehyde resins can release harmful gases and cause other issues for human and environmental health (8). Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and chronic low-level melamine exposure is associated with early kidney disease, among other problematic health outcomes (9). (See our article on melamine dishware to learn more about why it's not great for health). Petroleum-derived wood preservatives like paraffin wax and petroleum hydrocarbon resin are also not great for the environment.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while the FDA requires imported products to comply with the same US safety regulations, unfortunately sometimes these products are non-compliant (10). Look for products that specifically state that they meet FDA food contact regulations, or ask the manufacturer if you're not sure! Imported wood also might require fumigation with methyl bromide prior to shipping to the US, depending on what type it is and where it's coming from (11, 12). While pest management is an important step to prevent the introduction of disease or invasive species from abroad, methyl bromide contributes to ozone layer depletion and can cause system-wide bodily harm to those spraying it (13). (Bamboo timber is generally allowable without any treatment if it meets certain conditions(14).) The bottom line is that some glues, products, and practices are definitely better than others, so it's a good idea to look for wood cutting boards that minimize these health and environmental risks.

5 Recommendations for Choosing a Healthy Wood Cutting Board

We know it can be overwhelming to research the healthiest options out there, so here are 5 recommendations to help your browsing:

  1. Choose wood or bamboo over plastic – even with the possible concerns listed above, wood is still a better choice for decreasing your microplastic and toxin exposure!
  2. Look for cutting boards made from a single piece of wood (to get you started, here are non-toxic cypress, Vermont maple, and teak options). You can also find Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified boards that minimize environmental harm by using sustainably harvested woods.
  3. If you choose a cutting board made from multiple glued pieces (which are frankly beautiful and more widely available), make sure the glue used is free from formaldehyde and melamine. Some bamboo cutting boards like this one have a pressure/heat treated process that allow for a glue-free surface.
  4. Pick cutting boards with mild non-toxic coatings like beeswax (or look for an unfinished one that you can finish yourself with our DIY cutting board oil recipe below!)
  5. If you're not sure what types of glue or coatings a manufacturer uses (or if you want to make sure it's FDA-approved), feel free to contact them and ask what types of ingredients and regulations they use and follow. You would definitely not be the first person to ask! For reference, Titebond III and Gorilla Wood Glue are both considered safer for food contact.

DIY Cutting Board Conditioner Oil

To help you maintain a lustrous, resilient and non-toxic cutting surface, here's our simple cutting board conditioner recipe:

  • 3/4 cup MCT oil (or walnut oil)
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • Directions: Melt the oil and beeswax together in the microwave or on the stovetop, then brush the mixture onto your cutting board and let it soak in for 3 hours. You can seal your boar as often as once a month, but we find that sealing it just a few times a year works well too!

If you're looking for a refresher on wood cutting board cleaning recommendations, we've got you covered here. Enjoy your culinary endeavors!


References

  1. Moore, Ginny, Ian S. Blair, and DAVID A. McDOWELL. "Recovery and transfer of Salmonella typhimurium from four different domestic food contact surfaces." Journal of food protection, vol. 70, no. 10, 2007, pp. 2273-2280. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-70.10.2273
  2. Lücke, Friedrich-Karl, and Agnieszka Skowyrska. "Hygienic aspects of using wooden and plastic cutting boards, assessed in laboratory and small gastronomy units." Journal für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, vol. 10, no. 4, 2015, pp. 317-322. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00003-015-0949-5
  3. Boursillon, Dominique, and Volker Riethmüller. "The safety of wooden cutting boards." British Food Journal vol. 109, no. 4, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1108/00070700710736561
  4. Ak, Nese O., Dean O. Cliver, and Charles W. Kaspar. "Cutting boards of plastic and wood contaminated experimentally with bacteria." Journal of Food Protection, vol. 57, no. 1, 1994, pp. 16-22. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-57.1.16
  5. Cliver, Dean O. "Cutting boards in Salmonella cross-contamination." Journal of AOAC International, vol. 89, no. 2, 2006, pp. 538-542. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaoac/89.2.538
  6. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/food-ingredient-packaging-terms
  7. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=23a3c29a77c934f528ed12988c803c24&mc=true&node=sp21.3.175.c&rgn=div6
  8. https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/sites/default/files/classic//toxics/compwood/consumer_faq.pdf
  9. Liu, Chia-Chu, et al. "Interrelationship of Environmental Melamine Exposure, Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress and Early Kidney Injury." Journal of hazardous materials, vol. 396. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122726
  10. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/02/66-of-products-tested-from-online-marketplaces-amazon-marketplace-aliexpress-ebay-and-wish-failed-safety-tests/
  11. https://www.compliancegate.com/wooden-bamboo-kitchen-products-regulations-united-states/
  12. https://helpspanish.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-897?language=en_US
  13. https://www.epa.gov/ods-phaseout/methyl-bromide
  14. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=8765cd13ef440b0571f9f5298dcc757b&mc=true&node=sp7.5.319.i&rgn=div6
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Food

Mix 'N Match Snack Ideas

Run out of tasty snacks? We've got you

It can be hard to find healthy snacks you can give to your kids (or even for yourself). That's why we put together a bunch of snack combos that will help your kids get their daily intake of fruits, veggies, proteins, and fats without artificial flavorings and refined sugars. All of the combos are super easy to put together and require little to no cooking. Plus mixing the different colors and textures of the different foods is sure to make snack time more exciting for little kids and even the pickiest of eaters! These snacks are a great way to avoid packaged snacks which means less waste and chemicals getting into our kids food. If you are struggling to find nutritious snacks for your kids or even a way to change up your own diet, check out this graphic of awesome snack combos!

popular

Our Non-Toxic Household Item Picks at Target

Everything you need for a healthy home!

Who can resist Target? It's our one stop shop for all things home, beauty, baby, snacks... basically everything! But Target is a huge store that carries thousands of different items; how do you know what are the best non-toxic picks? That's where we come in! We did the research and found the best non-toxic household items. All these items have been vetted by us and are readily available both online and in stores.



Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Dishwasher Detergent Packs
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Instant Pot Duo 6qt 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker
Bon Ami Powdered cleanser
Seventh Generation Fresh Citrus Laundry Packs
Puracy Green Tea and Lime Natural Multi Surface Cleaner
Everspring wool dryer balls
Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Odor Absorber
Honest Company Antibacterial Disinfecting Spray
Pyrex 10pc Freshlock Glass Storage Set Freshlock Glass Storage Set
Stasher Bag
Organic Cotton Solid Sheet Set

It's the most wonderful time of the year... to do some baking! We love getting creative in the kitchen during the holiday season, but a lot of baking essentials can be made from harmful materials like plastic or contain artificial colors or flavors. That's why we created a non toxic baking holiday baking roundup! Each item is made from safe materials like ceramic, wood, and steel so you can create some sweet treats without worry!



a) Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons and Cups
b) Supernatural Into the Woods Sprinkles
c) India Tree All Natural Nature's Colors Decorating Sugar Variety Set
d) Ann Clark Cookie Cutters 11-Piece Winter Christmas Cookie Cutter Set
e) Farberware Classic Wood Rolling Pin, 17.75-Inch, Natural
f) STAUB Olivewood Spatula, 12", Wood Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish
g) AmazonBasics Silicone, Non-Stick, Food Safe Baking Mat - Pack of 2
h) TeamFar Baking Sheet Cookie Sheet Set of 2
i) Food Colors Variety Pack by Supernatural
j) Nordic Ware Starry Night Cookie Stamps
k) If You Care Unbleached Paper Snack Bags
l) India Tree Food Coloring

Roundups

Non-Toxic Kitchen Items Roundup

Bye bye plastic, hello reusable!

Looking for a way to be more sustainable but don't know where to start? Try the kitchen! Kitchen utensils are usually made from plastic and other harmful chemicals. Some items, like sponges, are also meant to be periodically thrown away, which just creates more trash. That's why we rounded up our favorite non-toxic kitchen items! These items are made from natural or reusable materials like wood, natural sponge, and copper. They're all durable and can stand up to the toughest kitchen messes!


Non-Toxic Kitchen Items


a) REDECKER Horsehair and Beechwood Bottle Brush

b) If You Care 100% Natural Sponge Cloths

c) Küchenprofi Classic Dish Washing Brush

d) Miw Piw Natural Dish Sponge

e) REDECKER Copper Cleaning Cloth

f) REDECKER Natural Fiber Bristle Pot Brush


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.

Food

Thinking of Eating More Plant-Based Meals?

Here are our top tips for healthy plant-based eating

here's been a lot of talk these days about eating more plant-based foods. What's good for the environment is good for you, right? Well, the answer lies in the ingredients list. Not all plant-based foods are equal and some are definitely more unhealthy for you than others. This is especially the case for plant-based processed foods. These include things like frozen veggie burgers (yes, the Impossible Burger included), or chicken-less chicken nuggets, or vegan pizza. So what's the key to healthy plant-based eating? There isn't one golden rule to follow, but we've rounded up some good tips to help you avoid plant-based processed foods below!

Here's what you can do…


So you can steer clear unhealthy ingredients like these...

  • High salt content: Just like most processed foods, plant-based frozen meals are also very high in salt.
  • Tertiary butylhydroquinone (a.k.a. TBHQ). TBHQ is a lab-made preservative that helps processed foods retain its flavor (1). For instance, making sure your smoky-fire roasted veggie burger tastes smoky. Unfortunately, animal studies have shown that TBHQ can cause cancer in animals, which is why the FDA limits the amount of TBHQ allowed in products (1). A safer and naturally occurring preservative alternative used by some food manufacturers is vitamin E (2).
  • Artificial food coloring. Artificial food colorings are ones like Red #3 and Yellow #6. High doses of artificial food coloring have been linked to a higher risk of cancer (3).
  • Emulsifiers. If you've ever looked on an ingredients list and saw ingredients like soy lecithin or mono and di-glycerides, these are emulsifiers. They help keep ingredients in a product mixed together and not separate, particularly if a product is made up of solids and liquids (3). However, animal studies have shown that emulsifiers can alter the microbiome of mice, cause inflammation and also increase the risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders (4).

When it comes to plant-based foods, the bottom line is that they are not perfect. Even if a product is plant-based, it doesn't automatically mean that it's healthy or safe, or even as nutritious as its meat counterpart. The best thing to do is use your best judgement (and this handy dandy article) when your plant-based craving strikes.

References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814609003148
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsfa.7835
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/processed-foods/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25731162

One thing everyone is doing during the pandemic is cooking a lot more at home. In uncertain times, we have to make our money go further than ever before, especially when it comes to food and cooking.That's why we've been eating more canned and frozen food recently, all while trying to use up as many pantry staples as possible.

But how do you maintain good health practices while saving money? It seems like a lot of ways to improve your health through your food and diet involve purchasing an expensive appliance or spending more on fancy groceries. That's why we're highlighting three things you can do in the kitchen that are good for your health but that are totally and completely free! Each tip is easy to implement, will benefit your health now, and helps prevent future diseases. Try one out this week!



Tip 1: Save pasta jars. Store bought pasta sauce can save a lot of prep time before dinner. The next time you're craving pasta, make sure to save the glass jar the sauce comes in! Glass pasta sauce jars are big and sturdy, which makes it great for storing pantry items like nuts and beans, leftovers, or soups and broths. These glass jars make it easy to switch from plastic food storage containers because you don't even have to buy anything extra. Plastic additives like BPA and phthalates can cause some serious negative health impacts like breast cancer, reduced sperm production, infertility, heart disease, early onset of puberty in girls, diabetes, and obesity (1), so we really don't want it anywhere near our food. A glass pasta sauce jar is a great free food storage container that is better for your health.

Tip 2: Use the back burner on your stove, especially for high heat cooking. Stoves with gas burners have a tendency to release ultrafine particles and nitrogen dioxide into the air (2,3). Even electric ranges can release ultrafine particles, although at much smaller amounts. A typical range hood can suck up smoke and other particulate matter much easier from the back burners vs the front ones, meaning that your indoor air quality won't take such a big hit every time you cook (2). If you have younger kids, using the back burners whenever possible is also the best choice when it comes to preventing accidents. That's why we recommend always using the back burner and turning on the range hood when you cook! A range hood can decrease the amount of particulate matter and NO2 by up to 90%, but if you don't have one, just opening a window or turning on a fan is the best for healthy indoor air quality.

Tip 3: Heat frozen food out of plastic packaging. Frozen food is awesome for those nights when you simply can't be bothered to cook. We've all been there! But most frozen food comes in plastic packaging, with instructions that tell you to heat the food in the plastic trays and sometimes even with the plastic cover. We know that microwaving plastic can cause harmful chemicals to leach into food (4). And even relatively safer plastics (including BPA-free plastics) have been shown to release hormone disrupting chemicals when heated (5). Plus, a lot of frozen food seems to come in black plastic, which is extra harmful. So an easy solution is to transfer the food into an oven or microwave-safe bowl or plate and then heat it up! For the microwave, glass or ceramic are the best options and for the oven you can use stainless steel, glass, or ceramic. A parchment paper lined aluminum baking tray is also a great option.

Along with these tips, don't forget to store vegetables and fruits properly. Keeping fruit and veg fresh for as long as possible is one way to save money and have a healthy diet during these times.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2967230/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S036013231730255X
  3. https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2018/03/06/use-your-range-hood-for-a-healthier-home-advises-indoor-air-quality-researcher/
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12028
  5. Yang, Chun Z., et al. "Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved." Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 989-996.
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