The Beginners Guide To A Non-Toxic Kitchen

How To Create A Non-Toxic Healthy Kitchen

Hello All & Happy New Year! Sorry I've been away so long! Keep reading for an explanation of my absence and some great non-toxic kitchen tips (I promise they're related).

Why This Article & Why Such A Long Absence?
In the Fall of 2019 we found out we were expecting our second child and my second pregnancy has been very difficult from the start. This forced me to take a break from almost everything except my family, faith, and symptom management. So naturally, my New Years' resolution for 2020 was to focus on my health. Ironically, on the second day of the new year, my health sank to a new low. I found out that I had a high-risk pregnancy, a condition called POTS, & fluid around my heart. My heart was under so much burden it was starting to not function well either. All of these things explained why I seemed to be getting worse and why this pregnancy has been so much harder on me physically. By February of this year, I was in a wheelchair and on serious bed rest, unable to take basic care of our family. Thankfully through the grace of God, the generosity and prayers of others, and my amazing medical team, I've been able to seriously reduce my symptoms and return to doing just about all things mom. Every day is a struggle at times but I'm doing well now and I only have a few weeks left to go! The extra heart fluid should go away shortly after delivery and hopefully, my POTS will go back into remission shortly after delivery as well. But this momma is praying most of all for a healthy baby girl & a complication-free delivery!

This very scary experience left me questioning how an otherwise healthy 26-year-old active mom, could experience such a phenomenon. I mean don't get me wrong, pregnancy is hard and pretty crazy in general, but this seemed a bit extreme. I decided to take my New Years' resolution to a whole new level and really look deeply into the chemicals/pesticides I was allowing into our home. I already started using non-toxic cleaning/healthcare products last year, buying all-natural organic latex pillows & mattresses, growing our own food as much as possible, & buying locally/organic whenever possible. But I never thought that the tools I used every day in my kitchen could be making my family sick. I was shocked when I realized how toxic almost everything I had was. I had no idea that my dishes, cookware, utensils, bottles, and more could leach so many harsh chemicals (especially when heated). And most of what I had was stainless, glass, ceramic ware and your basic cookie sheet or two. Sure I had some plastic but I had already started to transition away from plastic Tupperware because let's face it, it's gross. My husband and I have been married for 3 years now and for the last few months, it seems like the quality of our kitchen tools was really starting to suffer and items were breaking left and right. After a dish and a mug broke in my hand cutting me twice in one week, we decided it was the perfect time to purge our kitchen of these toxic low-quality tools.

Chemical Free Kitchen Guide

If you're reading this, then there is a good chance that you are interested in learning more about what could be toxic in your kitchen. You're probably already trying to live a cleaner/healthier lifestyle, you or someone you know is sick, &/or you're trying to prevent your family from becoming sick. These are all admirable things and I wish you well on your journey to a cleaner & healthier lifestyle. I hope you find this blog post useful in your quest!

This guide is broken down into three main sections, the Pros/Cons of Common Kitchen Materials, Buying Tips, & Recommended Brands. All three sections are great resources that you can use when researching the current products in your kitchen and for discovering new products. Please note, I am by no means an expert. I'm just a concerned mom sharing what I've learned with others.

Pros/Cons of Common Kitchen Materials

1.) Ceramic (Can Be Safe)
Pros: Generally safe & heat-friendly. It can be made with non-toxic materials.
Cons: Glazes/paints on many ceramics leach heavy metals like lead & cadmium into your food & drink. This is especially apparent when items are heated &/or combined with acidic items like coffee, juice, & tea. Many mugs, especially those made in China, are not safe. Go with clear glass or lead/cadmium free mugs whenever you can for items like coffee & tea. Stick with made in the USA. Some people have actually been diagnosed with lead poisoning from drinking coffee out of the same mug everyday.

Good news, most crockpots are safe but double-check to be sure. Test kits are available online.

2.) Glass (Can Be Safe)
Pros: One of the safest options on the market when purchased responsibly. Usually dishwasher, sterilizer, oven, and microwave safe. This is a great alternative for baby bottles, food storage containers, mugs, & more!
Cons: Many types can leach lead and cadmium into your food. In fact, most drinkware on the market today contains very dangerous levels. This is can lead to lead poisoning and more. Make sure it's made in the USA and is lead & cadmium free. Clear glass is usually safest, lead and cadmium are found more commonly found in items that are painted, have images, or intricate designs on them. This is not a failsafe though, check all your glass items. Be wary of crystal glasses! Remember to check your bakeware, bottles, mason jars, Tupperware, & drinkware!

3.) Stainless (Can Be Safe)
Pros: A more durable, long-lasting, & visually appealing option. Usually safer than other options and a great alternative to plastic. Dishwasher safe.
Cons: Heavy & does leach small amounts of nickel and other metals into your food but usually only high amounts if it's scratched or rusted. Make sure it's made in the USA. Discard if you see rust or start to see the core. Acidic foods cause stainless steel to leach more. Avoid stainless steel if you have a nickel allergy.

4.) Plastic (Toxic)
Pros: Long-lasting, cheap, convenient, & colorful.
Cons: Hazardous to health and leaches even if its BPA free. Watch out for BPS and other alternatives like phthalates that are just as bad. Plastic items can leach cancer-causing carcinogens, interfere with hormonal & reproductive development, contribute to obesity, diabetes, & more. The more you're exposed to, the greater the effect. Use Medical-grade silicone, stainless-steel, or bamboo as an alternative whenever you can.

There are 7 plastic grades to be mindful of. To check the plastic grade, look for a recycling symbol on the bottom of any plastic item. If you must buy it, make sure it isn't graded a 1, 3, 6, & especially not a 7 (2, 4, & 5 are best). I recommend hand washing all plastic in warm soapy water, not letting it come into contact with your food, and not putting it in the microwave, dishwasher, or really any heating appliance like a bottle sterilizer. The more you heat plastic, the more it leaches. Water bottles and Baby Bottles are typically graded a 7. This is the absolute worst grade and should be avoided at all costs. Do not allow these items in your home. If it doesn't have a grade, assume it's a 7.

It's a good idea to be mindful of what food products your buying at the grocery store that are stored in plastic as well. Stick with glass as much as you can. Watch out for cooking oil containers and anything that isn't graded a 2, 4, or 5.

Side note, never use plastic wrap in your kitchen (graded a 3), especially not in the microwave. This wrap is made of PVC (think plumbing pipes & shower curtains) and leaches phthalates into your food that can interfere with hormonal development. Easy cleanup & makeshift lid conveniences come with leaching risks. Ziplock bags are typically a 2 or 4.

5.) Aluminum (Questionable)
Pros: Isn't considered to be super toxic by any means but the jury is out.
Cons: Leaches Aluminum into your food, aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's and many other health issues and is best avoided whenever possible. Don't cook acidic foods on it as it makes more aluminum leach out.

Side note, avoid using aluminum foil in your kitchen. If you must use it, don't let it come into contact with your food. I especially don't recommend wrapping your food in foil and throwing it on the grill or cooking on it. Again, easy cleanup conveniences come with leaching risks.

6.) Non-Stick (Toxic)
Pros: Non-stick & cheap.
Cons: Leaches very toxic fumes and chemicals into your food and air when cooking. Avoid at all costs.

7.) Cast-Iron (Can Be Safe)
Pros: Non-stick when used properly, heats evenly, adds flavor, a great alternative to non-stick frying pans/cookie sheets, and can be used as a weapon if necessary. Haha.
Cons: Heavy and needs to be carefully washed. Cast-Iron also leaches iron into your food which can be a good thing if you have a deficiency but I wouldn't use it every day as too much iron can cause problems. Use responsibly as an occasional alternative to stainless steel and don't use it with anything acidic as this may cause the product to leach extra iron (which again can be both a good and bad thing). If you're concerned about your levels just pick up a test kit from your doctor to see if you're using it too much.

8.) Bamboo/Hardwood (Can Be Safe)
Pros: Bamboo is naturally antibacterial and hardwoods have similar properties. It also looks great in any kitchen and can make a real statement when put on display. Pinterest it, I dare you. But it's best to go with 100% organic bamboo or Hardwoods from the USA whenever possible.
Cons: The glue used to assemble these products can be toxic. Be sure to research the glue & stain used. Also, if purchasing cutting boards it's best to have one for meat and one for produce. Products using these materials do require some monthly maintenance so be sure to go with a sealing product that you would eat like walnut oil, coconut oil, and other things along those lines as opposed to mineral oil.

9.) Silicone (Can Be Safe)
Pros: It's a better alternative to plastic and is great for preventing product breakage.
Cons: Some research suggests that chemicals can still leach out of the product when heated. This is why it is important to only buy Medical-Grade Platinum Cured Silicone whenever possible and to avoid heating it even if it says microwave, oven, or dishwasher safe. Better safe than sorry! Use sparingly. Medical-grade is better than food-grade.

Buying Tips

1.) Buy in the USA whenever possible. American companies seem to produce higher quality products with better materials than products made in China. This is however not a failsafe, you still need to research the brands/materials. Also, don't assume everything a brand produces will be of the same quality, research each individual product.

2.) Focus on brands/products that advertise what is actually IN their products and not what ISN'T in them whenever possible. Just because it says BPA Free doesn't mean its a good choice.

Bad Example: BPA Free
Good Example: Made With 100% Organic Bamboo

3.) The best material choices are Lead & Cadmium Free Clear Glass, Lead & Cadmium Free Ceramic, USA Cast Iron, 18/10 USA Stainless Steel, 100% Organic Bamboo/USA Hardwoods, & Medical-Grade Platinum Cured Silicone. It's best to avoid anything else.

4.) Don't forget to recycle or donate anything you replace!

Recommended Brands

Anchor Hocking (Drinking Glasses, Mugs, Glass Tupperware, Mixing Bowls, Baking Dishes & More) ***Buy on Amazon or in-store for better pricing & selection.***
Correll (Plates & Bowls) ***Do not use old Correll dishes! The company has recently stated they contain high levels of lead. Also, don't use their ceramic mugs (made in China & not under warranty) and avoid anything that isn't plain white.***
Pyrex (Baking Dishes & Glass Tupperware)
Liberty Tabletop (Flatware)
Bobo & Boo (Dinnerware For Kids) 
Lodge (Cast Iron Pans)
Pura (Stainless Water Bottles/Sippy Cups/Bottles for the whole family)
Tavva Kitchen (Stainless Snack Cups, Meal Prep Containers, Lunch Boxes & More)

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