Phasing Out Plastics in Your Kitchen
While going green in the kitchen can save money on energy costs, eco-friendly products have a reputation for being expensive and either less available or a little on the “gimmicky” side. Our clients have all shopped for earth-friendly, biodegradable cleaners and quite honestly, they can be subject to impulse buys just and any other consumables out there.
The good news: Earth-friendly products are available in a wider range of styles and costs than ever before, letting our clients go as green as they want. Some clients, simply lack awareness of the new terms flooding the literature/internet/media these days. What is off-gassing? What are VOCs? What about the design of our kitchens? Shouldn’t we be mindful of special design considerations that help our clients go green? It’s not an impossible assignment but like all coaching opportunities, we can inform our clients without preaching – especially if they either do not have the proper level of awareness of green kitchen life or they may lack information about what choices to make due to all of the hyper-green marketing pushed their way.
Choosing Healthy Cookware
It is a simple fact that not all cookware is created equal: there are differences in quality as well as the capabilities of the cooking tools to take into account. We also want to understand how our cookware is made so that we can be informed of any potential health risks. It’s probably no surprise that one of the biggest offenders is the old staple in most kitchens – non-stick Teflon pans. Many believe that the risks of using Teflon far outweigh the benefits or convenience. cookware is I like. But here are a few of my favorites.
I like to cook with stainless steel pans that have an aluminum or copper core – they offer great heat conduction. Over time these pans develop their own non-stick surface (so you don’t have to buy non-stick surface pots and pans, which I don’t recommend).
Cast iron and enameled cast iron make good choices, as is glass for baking. Experts in green kitchen products highly recommend cooking only with glass, stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans only – and we feel that this is a best practice.
If your client can be persuaded to make a change, here are the facts on cookware types to guide them:
Copper cookware: Copper is an excellent type of cookware. When heated at high temps, some copper can leach into food, but since most copper comes lined with steel or tin, that problem is ruled out.
Glass Cookware: Copper is an excellent type of cookware. When heated at high temps, some copper can leach into food, but since most copper comes lined with steel or tin, that problem is ruled out.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is a blend of materials including steel, chromium and (usually) nickel. Stainless is generally non-reactive, durable, and safe.
Cast iron: Cast iron is safe, sturdy material for cookware. In fact, it can even add significant amounts of dietary iron to food, especially to acidic foods!
Aluminum: On one hand, Prescription for Nutritional Health strongly recommends against aluminum cookware or utensils. It notes that foods cooked or stored in aluminum produce a substance that neutralizes the digestive juices, leading to acidosis and ulcers; worse, “the aluminum in the cookware can leach from the pot into the food,” resulting in aluminum having been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, The Center for Environmental Health notes that aluminum is relatively safe, citing studies from the UK’s Alzheimer’s Institute that do not link aluminum and the disease.
Non-stick ‘coated’ pots and pans, includes Teflon: Metals and other substances in the finish of nonstick coated pots flakes or leaches into the food…which ultimately wind up in your body according to PNH . Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and/or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are found in Teflon, a brand made by DuPont. These chemicals have been linked to the production of hazardous fumes at high temps (over 464 according to the Environmental Working Group). Opt for something else.
Silicone is a synthetic rubber containing bonded silicon and oxygen. It is also a natural element found in sand and rock, if you think back to those periodic tables you may have seen in high school it was there – listed as Si. It is an inert material, so nothing in its manufacture should leach into foods – but it is always a good idea to buy tools that have been rigorously tested.
If your client decides to use silicone kitchen products, make sure that they look for the FDA stamp of approval indicated on the packaging. This guarantees the item is pure silicone and guarantees that the items don’t contain any filler or other substances.
BPA or Bisphenol A
One study done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found BPA at measurable levels in the blood of 95% of adults tested. Some countries have already confirmed BPA as a toxin and have moved to ban it from baby bottles, infant formulas and other children’s products. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to fully ban BPA but many states in the USA have required warnings for any consumables with BPA present. In 2012, the FDA banned its use in the production of products market for infants, including baby bottles and drinking cups. Some studies on BPA exposure may be biased, as decisions used to evaluate BPA have been funded by companies that produce chemicals used in its manufacture. Yet studies on the effects of BPA have nonetheless uncovered serious reproductive, developmental and immune effects from low-level exposure to BPA.
We also have to consider canned foods, as these items also contain a plastic lining that usually contains BPA and can leach in to your food. Remember BPA has been shown to disrupt endocrine function by mimicking estrogen. The best advice for your client is to buy foods sold in glass jars, and preferably, organic.
Plastics By the Numbers
So many people have noticed the numbers in the middle of the recycle arrows on plastics used for packaging and never asked what they’re for… so while we all seen the numbers, how many actually pay attention to what they mean? There are 7 in total. Generally speaking, plastics stamped with a #1 and #2 are the best choices. But for the rest, here is how the numbers are used:
#1 – PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in fibers for clothing, containers for liquids and foods, thermoforming for manufacturing, and in combination with glass fiber for engineering resins
#2 – HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): is a polyethylene thermoplastic made from petroleum. It is sometimes called “alkathene” or “polythene” when used for pipes. With a high strength-to-density ratio, HDPE is used in the production of plastic bottles, corrosion-resistant piping, geomembranes, and plastic lumber. HDPE is commonly recycled, and has the number “2” as its code. Beverage, food, shampoo bottles, and containers; dish and laundry detergent bottles; grocery, trash, and retail bags. It is another commonly recyclable plastic that is widely accepted.
Most recycle centers happily accept #1 – PET and #2 – HDPE. Therefore, if you have to buy plastic, these numbers matter! The other five types of plastic may not be as common or accepted as recyclable but it is important to know what their significance is, since we buy and consume products containing them.
#3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): PVC may be one of the most problematic offenders; it has been called the “poison plastic” because of the health risks it poses to humans and the environment. It is rarely recyclable and is a known human carcinogen. PVC contains toxic hormone-disrupting phthalates that are off-gas. PVC pipe is widely used in the construction industry and is commonly used in plastic food wrap, children’s and pet toys, shower curtains, and some detergent and spray bottles. Some other problems related to the exposure or use of PVC include:
- Elevated risk of cancer
- The release of dioxins, a known human carcinogen, during the manufacturing process.
- Low-level exposure to dioxins is associated with reduced birth weights, learning and behavior disorders in children, and suppressed immune function.
#4 LDPE ( Low-Density Polyethylene): Used to make most plastic shopping bags, some reusable food and drink containers/bottles and baby bottles contain LDPE. Is not as easily recycled as #1 and 2.
#5 PP (Polypropylene): PP is not recommended for recycling, despite being considered “safe”. Another plastic that is not commonly recycled. Many would consider PP safe because it doesn’t leach but others cite studies finding that some #5 containers do leach bisphenol A when microwaved.
#6 PS – (Polystyrene): This plastic is commonly found in food containers and is used to make Styrofoam. Because it contains styrene a known neurotoxin and suspected human carcinogen, cities like Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco have banned it. It is not as easily recycled as #1 and 2.
#7 Other Plastics: This is a catch-all category for all plastics that don’t fit into any of the above categories. It includes polycarbonate, bio-based plastics, co-polyester, acrylic, polyamide, and plastic mixtures like styrene-acrylonitrile resin (SAN).
For health reasons and general health safety, encourage clients to avoid anything that is made of polycarbonate because it leaches bisphenol A. Products that are commonly labeled with #7 include baby bottles, “sippy” cups, baby food jars, sport water bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, plastic cutlery and dinnerware. As you can imagine the “other” category is not readily recyclable.
In summary, when purchasing items stored in plastic, we have to remember the numbers:
- Safest Plastics: #1, #2, #4, #5
- Use with Caution: #7
- Avoid: #3, #6, #7
Simple Tips for Phasing Out Plastics in The Kitchen:
If you have plastic storage containers, begin swapping them out with glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel storage containers.
Do not store fatty or oily foods in plastic containers.
Do not store foods for long periods in plastic containers.
If you choose to use a microwave oven, don’t heat food items in plastic containers (even if it says “microwave safe”).
Avoid storing foods in cling plastic wrap that’s made with PVC (or even low-PVC wrap). Glass, stainless steel, and aluminum foil is safe alternative and can be used for fatty foods, grain products and vegetables. Don’t, however, store acidic foods like cooked fruit in aluminum foil.
If you’ve recently purchased a brand-new set of plastic storage containers and don’t want to swap them out, wash them in warm, soapy water, and avoid putting them in the dishwasher. Since we all need a practical way to store food, suggest clients replace any dry, brittle or cracked plastic containers with glass or stainless steel storage containers.
How You Can Help
Become a Certified Holistic Health Coach or a Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach. Holistic health and well-being are essential to overall life success. Now you can earn a credential and gain the skills to help your clients achieve this success.
Becoming a Certified Wellness Coach is the perfect addition for the fitness professional who wants to offer more all-inclusive wellness services to clients. The time is now for you to enjoy this exciting and rewarding career, which offers you personal fulfillment while improving the lives of others.
Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.
NESTA coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.