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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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.

Artificial food colorings are everywhere in our daily lives. They show up in lots of foods that we eat daily, like cereals, and in lots of treats like candy and baked goods. You can even find them in places you wouldn't think to look, like tomato sauce, farmed salmon, and even pickles! They are found in so many of our foods, yet we do not think much about them. So what makes up these colors that stay bright even when heated and stored for long periods of time? Keep reading if you want to know more about what artificial food colorings (also known as artificial dyes) are made of and how they affect your health!

What are artificial food colorings and what are they made of?

First off, if we're not making a rainbow cake, why do we even need food coloring in the first place? Well, consumers prefer that the color of their food match its flavor. Sadly, a lot (up to 70%!!) of the foods Americans consume are highly processed and end up a different color than we'd expect them to be. A gray hotdog or khaki colored candy would throw us off and probably wouldn't be as appetizing, right?

While there are many natural food coloring options, many companies choose to go with artificial food colorings because they're cheaper. The FDA has approved seven artificial food colorings for consumption in the United States, but these colors can be mixed and matched to create many different shades. Here's the bad news: the majority of them are made out of petroleum and crude oil (1). Even though the final product is highly refined and is tested to not have any traces of petroleum, we really don't like the idea of consuming something made from crude oil!

Are artificial food colorings bad for my health?

The jury is still out. In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban artificial food colorings because of recent studies that found a small, but significant, negative effect of these substances on children's behavior (2). These substances were also found to be carcinogenic, cause hypersensitivity reactions, and instigate behavioral problems (3). These findings were largely controversial, and the FDA ruled that artificial food colorings could still be used in food products without the use of a warning label. But earlier this year, OEHHA published a study on the potential health effects of synthetic dyes in children and found that there is evidence that "indicates that synthetic food dyes are associated with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children" (4). This information is not new to the European Union though. Six years ago, studies conducted by British government also found a link between adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children and artificial dyes. This prompted the British government to urge food companies to stop using artificial food dyes in their products, and for the European Union to pass a new law "requiring that any food that contained [artificial] dyes ... would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity" (5). This law effectively made artificial food coloring impossible to find in foods made and sold in the EU.

Should you avoid artificial food colorings?

Even though more research needs to be done to reach conclusive findings, the current evidence is not looking good for artificial food coloring. While we wait for the results of these studies, we can take proactive steps in protecting our health. It's been established that the food we consume plays a large role in our health and unhealthy, highly processed foods are some of the biggest sources of artificial food colorings. By removing these products from your diet, you can improve your overall health and reduce the amount of artificial food colorings you consume.

What to use intsead

However, if you find yourself baking two dozen cupcakes the night before a big bake sale or you toddler has requested a rainbow cake for their birthday and you have to use food coloring, make sure to use natural food coloring. Common natural food coloring can come from beets, carrots, saffron, turmeric, spinach, blueberries, and blackberries and do not have any negative health consequences. Plus, natural food coloring is becoming increasingly popular and they're really easy to find in stores! Here are some of our favorites:


Plant-Based Food Color Variety Pack by Supernatural

India Tree Nature's Colors Decorating Set

Suncore Foods – Premium Pink Pitaya Supercolor Powder

Suncore Foods – Premium Blue Butterfly Pea Supercolor Powder

References

  1. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/past-issues/2015-2016/october-2015/food-colorings.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441937/
  3. https://cspinet.org/resource/food-dyes-rainbow-risks
  4. https://oehha.ca.gov/risk-assessment/report/health...
  5. https://www.nhpr.org/2014-03-28/why-m-ms-are-made-...
popular

Is Your Tea Bag Made with Plastic?

Silky pyramids, plastic sealed bags, and what brands are actually fully compostable

Whether you like to pretend you are British all the time, or just have a cold, chances are you are making that cup of tea with a conveniently packaged tea bag. While tea bags are great (and basically everywhere) there's something you should know about that innocent tea bag. Many of them use plastic to keep them sealed shut. Nope, not just on the wrapper the tea bag actually comes in, but the bag itself. The idea of a plastic soaking in boiling hot water just does not sound cozy to us. But thankfully, there are some easy changes you can make if you feel the same way we do.

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Food

DIY Microwave Popcorn with a Bowl and a Plate

Super easy, without any unnecessary chemicals

Popcorn is such an awesome snack! It's easy, fast, and great as a last minute snack idea when you have unexpected guests over. But store bought microwave popcorn can contain unnecessary chemicals like PFAS. While PFAS helps grease-proof the popcorn bags, it also can cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function. Store bought microwave popcorn can also contain synthetic flavoring and use trans fats. Yuck!

To make matters worse, store bought microwave popcorn can actually be pretty expensive. Per serving, it's much more cost effective to buy some popcorn kernels and butter. And with this microwave method, it's just as fast and as easy! We like the bowl method over using a lunch paper bag, because this is safer and there is no waste created. Plus everyone has a glass or ceramic bowl and a ceramic plate. You can also control how much butter (if any) is used on your popcorn and get creative with new flavor toppings! Try it out today!



Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • Salt
  • Toppings, like butter, parmesan, herbs, nutritional yeast, furikake

Materials needed

  • Microwave safe bowl (about 3 quarts)
  • Microwave safe plate that is slightly larger than the bowl

Instructions

  1. Pour in ⅓ cup popcorn kernels into the bowl and add a large pinch of salt. You can go up to ½ cup of kernels if you want to make a larger serving.
  2. Place the plate upside down on the bowl. Make sure there is a tight seal with minimal gaps to keep the steam from escaping.
  3. Place the bowl in the microwave for 3-5 minutes. This timing will depend on the strength of your microwave. When the popping slows down, stop the microwave. The bowl and plate will be very hot, so use potholders or a rag to remove the bowl from the microwave.
  4. Toss with melted butter or other toppings of your choice.
Science

Why Does My Food or Beverage Have a Prop 65 Warning?

You've seen the label. But what does it actually mean?

Have you ever been at the grocery store, flipped around a product and saw a Prop 65 warning, and thought to yourself "Hmmmm… I remember reading about this, but what does it actually mean? Do I have to pay attention to it? Why is it on everything I like?!"

The Prop 65 warning label has gained national attention since it was signed into law in the 1980s because of its unique ability to educate consumers on risk and exposure. But since it appears on a ton of seemingly unrelated products like chocolate, appliances, and protein powder, it can often be dismissed as a scare tactic. Does the Prop 65 label need to be taken seriously when it comes to your food and beverages? We have everything you need to know.

What is Prop 65

In 1986, Californians voted in favor of the The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, aka Prop 65. This act requires businesses "to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm… prohibits California businesses from knowingly discharging significant amounts of listed chemicals into sources of drinking water… and requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm" (1).

This list of chemicals, which has to be updated once a year, has grown to approximately 900 chemicals (1) and features a wide arrange of chemicals and substances, from the well-known benzene and asbestos, to some you might have never even heard of, like cyclophosphamide and dichloromethane. Warnings about significant exposures come in the form of labels on products and a sign posted at a workplace, business, or rental housing.

In order to determine whether or not a product needs a warning label, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment determined safe harbor levels for many chemicals on the Prop 65 list. If a chemical exceeds a predetermined level in a product, then it needs a warning level and each chemical has a different level. There are two safe harbor levels: "No Significant Risk Levels" for cancer-causing chemicals and "Maximum Allowable Dose Levels" for chemicals that cause birth defects or other reproductive harm (2).

Prop 65 warnings on Food, Beverages, and Supplements

If you're familiar with Prop 65 warnings, you're probably not surprised to see it on products in a hardware store. But what about products in a grocery store on something you're about to eat? It can feel pretty weird to see a serious warning label on that hot chocolate you were about to throw into your cart. But the reason certain chemicals appear in products can be a little more complicated, and makes more sense, than you might think. Take acrylamide for instance: it's on the Prop 65 list as a cancer-causing chemical but it can form naturally on the surface of certain plant-based foods after it's been browned during cooking at high temperatures (34). Products containing ingredients like roasted coffee or nuts, toast, or breakfast cereals might warrant a Prop 65 warning if acrylamide levels are high enough, even though the chemical wasn't intentionally added.

Some other common substances of concern include arsenic in rice or seaweed, BPA in plastic or can linings, cadmium in fish or vegetables, lead in supplements or vitamins, and mercury in fish.

While lead, cadmium, and arsenic are naturally occurring in soils and groundwater, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, untreated wastewater, and residues from air pollution are responsible for higher concentrations, where they are absorbed by crops. Contamination can also occur during processing of the food.

Products like supplements and vitamins are at a higher risk of containing harmful chemicals because their manufacturing is not regulated by the FDA. In 2018, the Clean Label Project looked into protein powder and found 75% of the plant-based products tested contained lead. One protein powder tested even contained "25 times the allowed limit of BPA in one serving" (5). In 2016, two deaths were linked to using supplements tainted with lead (6). If you see a Prop 65 warning on a vitamin or supplement, you might want to steer clear of it out of an abundance of caution.

How Prop 65 Helps to Keep you Safe

It's always alarming to see a Prop 65 warning on a food or beverage you want to consume. And if these warning labels are basically everywhere, does it even matter? Is Prop 65 just a nuisance or is it actually beneficial? Let's discuss.

One of the ways Prop 65 protects us is by enforcement via lawsuits. If a product is shown to have chemical levels above the safe harbor level, or if Prop 65 chemicals are present in a product that does not have a warning label, a lawsuit can be filed against the company. There have been over than 5,800 notices of violation and the lawsuits have been "widely documented to reduce human exposure to listed chemicals by forcing reformulation of consumer products, process changes that reduce the presence of Prop 65 chemicals in food, adoption of air emissions controls at industrial facilities, and, to a lesser extent, reduction of toxic discharges to drinking water" (7). In order to comply with these notice of violations, companies must be able to innovate. In fact, Prop 65 litigation has "spurred the development of new technology, materials, or practices, inducing companies to reduce exposure to below levels of significance" (7).

Most importantly, Prop 65 gives consumers the power of knowledge and choice. You're able to know exactly what chemicals you're being exposed to and any associated negative health impacts. The best way to think of Prop 65 is as a suggestion rather than a scary list to avoid at all costs. A Prop 65 warning doesn't mean something shouldn't ever be eaten, but it lets the consumer decide how much and how often they want to expose themselves to these chemicals (3).

What You Should Do

Much like sugar and saturated fats, products with a Prop 65 label should be consumed once in a while as a treat, instead of an everyday staple. Limiting how many Prop 65 chemicals you consume will reduce your exposure and hopefully reduce your risk of harmful health impacts. However, individuals that are more susceptible to health risks, like children or pregnant women, may want to completely avoid consuming products with a Prop 65 label since some of the chemicals on the list (like lead) have no known safe level of exposure.

But above all: knowledge is power! Prop 65 is a great tool to help you stay informed and make decisions about your health.


References

  1. https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/
  2. https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/faq/businesses/what-are-safe-harbor-numbers
  3. https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/fact-sheets/foods
  4. https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/fact-sheets/acrylamide
  5. https://cleanlabelproject.org/protein-powder-white-paper/
  6. https://www.consumerreports.org/vitamins-supplements/lead-poisoning-from-dietary-supplements/
  7. https://www.ecologylawquarterly.org/print/the-hidden-success-of-a-conspicuous-law-proposition-65-and-the-reduction-of-toxic-chemical-exposures/
Food

Treat Yourself (and the Earth) to a Meat Besides Beef!

This little change can make a surprisingly big impact on climate change

For many, meat is not just a centerpiece at meals, but also integrated in cultural practices and dishes. As much as we love meat, we also know that it can have a huge impact on the environment and climate change.If you're looking to help the environment out, and are not quite ready to give up meat entirely, try making the switch from beef to any other meat! While beef, chicken, and pork are all meats, their environmental impacts are surprisingly different. Check it out as we break down how the meats stack up when it comes to helping fight climate change.

What's climate change got to do with meat?

If you're wondering about why scientists are bringing meat into the conversation about climate change, we've got you covered. Climate change is, well, exactly what it sounds like- the climate on Earth is changing. Climate is the long-term weather trend that we see on Earth (7). For instance, scientists can take a look at the five or 10 year temperature trend of a location and can see if the temperature is slowly rising or falling over time (7). For most places on earth, these long-term trends show that the temperature on Earth is rising slowly, which is not good (7)! .

Many things contribute to climate change, but the main contributor is what we call the greenhouse effect from different greenhouse gases (7). If you've ever stood in a greenhouse or a glass building when the sun was shining and noticed that it was way hotter inside the greenhouse than outside, you already understand how greenhouse gases work! Greenhouse gases act just like the glass in a greenhouse and trap heat on Earth, when normally it would go back into space (7). Of all the greenhouse gases produced from food, 56% is from our meat-producing systems because of the energy lost transforming plant energy (think animal feed) to animal energy (the actual chicken, pig or cattle) (2, 5). Some of the greenhouse gases produced from livestock like pig, chicken and cattle include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (5).

Let's cut to the chase, why focus on beef?

Maybe you're wondering just how much of an environmental impact beef has compared to other meats. In a recent study, researchers found that for dairy, chicken, pork and eggs the environmental costs are pretty similar, but much lower than the environmental impacts of beef (3). Cattle systems actually produce many different greenhouse gases, including a lot of the strongest greenhouse gas, methane, which they belch out (5). Cattle produce a large amount of methane when they digest their food because they have four stomachs (4,5). On the other hand, pigs and chickens with just a simple digestive system produce very little methane (8). Scientists found that from beginning to end, making beef takes 28 times the amount of land, 11 times the amount of water, 5 times the amount of greenhouse gases, and 6 times the amount of nitrogen than any other meat because of how much energy they must consume to grow to a decent size (3). And even though beef is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and the least efficient type of meat to produce, it's the most popular meat in America (3, 6). Over the last 50 years, with the rise of the popularity of beef, we've seen greenhouse gas emissions from cattle rise by 59% (6).

What's the difference if I make the switch from beef to other meat?

The answer is - actually a big difference! If we compare the numbers, cattle make up 54% of total livestock greenhouse gas emissions, while pork only makes up 5% and chickens only make up 1% of greenhouse gas emissions (6). Just eating a little over 2 pounds of beef (or the equivalent of about 3 steaks), is the same as using a car to drive 100 miles (1). And if you swap out beef for pork in a meal, your carbon footprint is cut by a third (1). And if you swap out beef for chicken, your carbon footprint for that meal is 7 times smaller!

So, if you're looking to make a big impact on the environment with a smaller change than going entirely vegetarian or vegan, give eating a little less beef a go. You can add in more vegetables if you're making a stir-fry, or make pork, chicken, or sustainable fish the star of the show instead of beef. The culinary possibilities are endless! In fact, we've put together a starter list to help you get a jump start on eating less beef below.

Try out these tasty ways to eat less beef!

  • Think outside the box for burgers: Next time your hamburger hankering strikes, why not try out a tasty alternative like a chicken teriyaki or Hawaiian pork burger? Check out our article on beef burger alternatives that aren't plant based!
  • Keep beef for a special treat: Try not to cook beef at home or order it from your normal take-out spots. Instead, treat yourself to beef on special occasions like a birthday or when you go to a fancy restaurant.
  • Mix and match the meats: Instead of making spaghetti bolognese or meatloaf with just beef, substitute half for turkey or pork. You still get the flavor of beef, but it's better for the environment. Chopped vegetables or lentils also make for an awesome substitution for recipes that call for ground beef.
  • Make beef a side dish: Look to other meats or even vegetables to be the centerpiece of your meal. Our personal favorite is loading up on the vegetables, which make for surprisingly delicious centerpieces when grilled.
  • Don't forget the marinade: Worried that your meat might get dry? Marinating chicken and pork is the key to juicy, tender meat. So, amp up that flavor and your creative juices with some marinades. Plus, marinating is a top tip for a non-toxic BBQ!


References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/5/1704S/4596965?login=true
  2. http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet
  3. https://www.pnas.org/content/111/33/11996
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02409-7
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00005/full?source=post_page---------------------------
  6. https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/266680/
  7. https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/
https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201382_4.PDF
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