9 Easy ways to transition to a healthier, non-toxic home: kitchen edition

Let’s face facts: with the current state-mandated COVID-19 precautions under way, shit is getting pretty scary. And if you’re anything like me, you’re curled up in a big ball of anxiety, wondering how to move forward with your life.

I don’t have the answer for that. But what I can tell you is that it’s important to take control in the places where you’re able.

For me, cleaning and organizing helps ease my anxiety (weird, I know). Somehow, it makes me feel powerful, purposeful and in control.

And since starting our pregnancy journey a few years ago, I’ve become increasingly focused on the toxins in everyday products – from everything like toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, pots and pans, drinking cups, clothing, furniture, you name it, to our environment (pollution) and food (pesticides, growth hormones, etc.). Pretty much everything we use, touch and breathe exposes us to something that is horrible for our bodies – we’re talking major effects like cancer, Alzheimer’s, hormonal issues, infertility and mental health issues, just to name a few.

And while any expert will tell you it’s impossible to live completely toxin-free, there are definitely ways to mitigate your exposure and ingestion, in turn, helping you to live a healthier lifestyle. This is where my cleaning out/organization skills come in handy!

There’s a lot of research out there that explores the harmful effects of chemicals and toxins on the human body, with results showing a change in the age girls enter puberty and an uptick in breast cancer risk, to certain chemicals being labeled as “endocrine disrupters” – a chemical compound that interferes with the normal functioning of the endocrine system and the reproductive and other biological processes regulated by it – due to how damaging they can be to the human body.

And that research can not only be terrifying, but it can also feel really overwhelming when you start to take a look around your house at everything that could be considered toxic.

I know that’s how I felt when I first started this journey two years ago. I immediately looked around the house and was like, “OH MY GOD THERE IS SO MUCH BAD STUFF IN HERE!”

Remember that small steps are the key here – there’s no pressure to get everything thrown away and replaced in one day. Take it one by one, and replace things as you find necessary and as works within your budget. 

And while you’re quarantined at home for who knows how long, you might as well put your time to good use and clean out some toxic stuff.

This particular guide will tackle your kitchen, suggesting really easy ways to help you make small changes to the items you’re using everyday in your kitchen, which will eventually add up to big changes in your health.

My advice is to go through this list, check off the items that you feel are worth changing, and order them online using the links provided – I do realize a lot of these items aren’t shipping right away, but that’s OK…we’re not in a huge rush. Just making the commitment to change by ordering non-toxic products is action enough right now.

Also, I do realize this can be a big financial commitment that a lot of us aren’t capable of making right now. THAT’S OK TOO! Even making one or two changes on this list will be beneficial.

PSA: We’ll tackle other rooms in future posts. For now, let’s just focus on the kitchen.

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT because of the current COVID-19 precautions, I will NOT be tackling food and cleaning supplies in this guide (I will do a separate post at a very later date, once this has subsided) in the interest of acknowledging that food shortages are affecting some people, and that cleaning supplies are in high demand/not available to everyone.

1. Cookware

Look, we all have to eat. That’s a given.

But a big source of toxins are the pots and pans we’re using.

Are You Using Aluminum-Coated Cookware?

We want to eventually eliminate anything in our kitchens that is aluminum coated as the top layer. If there is an aluminum layer in it somewhere else, that’s OK, as long as the top layer is a non-toxic material like ceramic, carbon steel, lava rock, and/or porcelain enamel – these are the best choices.

Aluminum consumption has been linked to Alzheimer’s, although more research is needed.

Are You Using Teflon or Non-Stick Pots and Pans?

Another major concern is non-stick coatings. Remember like 10-15 years ago when everyone was jazzed about a little thing called “Teflon”? It was touted as an amazing cook surface because of its nonstick qualities, and everyone ran out to buy new frying pans and shit because, who the hell wants to clean egg off a pan?

Welp, we fucked up because “Teflon,” – the brand name used for a group of man-made chemicals – is full of garbage that some studies have shown increase our risk of cancer. The most common of which is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, is another man-made chemical in Teflon. Both are pretty toxic, so if you’re looking for nonstick cookware, you’ll want to look for a label that says “PFOA and PTSE free.”

What to buy: We use this brand of pots and pans, and we started by swapping them one by one. Here’s where you can find the frying pans, here’s the sauce pans, and here’s the stock pot.

If you’re feeling ambitious, here’s the whole set.

Here’s an article to read about how to care for non-stick cookware. Storing it properly, and using the right cooking utensils, is really important to preserve the integrity of the material.

Alternatives: Cast Iron and Stainless Steel

Cast iron and stainless steel are great, but only under certain circumstances. Both leach metals (iron and nickel) into your food when you’re cooking for a long time, over high heat, or with acidic foods like tomatoes. 

We personally do not use any stainless steel cookware, simply because it’s not as good (quality-wise) as other options. However, it’s very affordable.

We prefer to use cast iron, in addition to the non-toxic nonstick options we use, listed above.

It’s OK to use cast iron on medium and low heats, for short bursts of cooking (no long simmering). Unless your cast iron has built up a good “seasoning” – here’s what that means – you’ll want to avoid cooking acidic foods.

What to buy: I’m not going to recommend any stainless steel, simply because we don’t use it. We do, however, have three different types of cast-iron cookware, and we absolutely love them. Here’s the skillet, here’s the grill pan, and here’s the dutch oven.

One final note on cooking: cooking odors are also no bueno for your lungs. If you’re able, use a vent and open windows. bonus points if you have air-filtering plants and an air purifier.

2. Cooking Utensils

Are You Using Stainless Steel Cooking Utensils?

Above, we talked about the bad qualities of stainless steel in cookware. The same applies here.

Our goal is to eliminate any stainless steel cooking utensils.

Are You Using Plastic Cooking Utensils?

If you don’t know by now, plastic is no bueno for our bodies.

Cheap and convenient? Sure.

Non-toxic? BIG NO.

Plastic, especially when heated, leeched chemicals into the air and food, which are then ingested and inhaled. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, and are also considered endocrine disruptors – they mess with our body’s natural hormones.

Our goal is to eliminate any plastic cooking utensils, especially if they are already showing signs of melting.

What to buy: Replace stainless steel and plastic cooking utensils with safer materials like silicone or hard wood.

You want to look for food- or medical-grade silicone. Nothing less. Anything less than that uses fillers and chemicals, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid. Here’s the spatula we use – great for flipping things like eggs, burgers and pancakes; and here’s an awesome all-inclusive set for everything else.

3. Bakeware

Are You Using Aluminum Bakeware?

Probably. Most bakeware is made entirely of aluminum – read: baking sheets, muffin tins, cake pans. And if you made it through the first discussion of cookware, then you already know that aluminum is not ideal.

Our goal is to eliminate aluminum bakeware,

What to buy: Let’s replace aluminum bakeware with safer options like silicone and glass. Again, the quality silicone matters, and so does the heat resistance. Look for food- or medical-grade silicone, and depending on what you’re baking, you’ll likely want heat-resistance up to 400 degrees. Some silicone, when super heated, releases chemicals into the air and food. We want to avoid that, so that’s why the heat resistance matters here.

Here’s the mini muffin pan I use, and here’s the regular-sized muffin pan.

For all other baking needs, I typically use glass, with the exception of a spring-form pan (used for making cheesecake). Here’s a basic set that will get the job done, and here’s an all-inclusive set for those us who are constantly cooking – I personally love this one because it comes with lids for easy transporting and storage.

Ceramic is also a good option for bakeware, although I do not use it personally – I just prefer glass. Here’s where you can find a great ceramic set, if you’re interested.

4. Aluminum Foil

Are You Lining Your Baking Sheets With Aluminum Foil?

Our goal is to stop using aluminum foil in all cooking. Same reasons as not using aluminum cookware, cited above.

What to buy: If you must line your bakeware with something (read: easy cleanup), opt for a safer option like unbleached parchment paper. This specific kind is non toxic, unlike the regular bleached kind found at your local grocery store.

Are You Storing Food in Aluminum Foil?

Although not as dangerous as cooking with it, storing isn’t great either.

Our goal is to avoid using aluminum foil whenever possible, as it relates to food.

What to buy: See below, where I discuss food storage.

5. Food Storage/Microwaving

Are You Storing Your Food in Plastic Containers and Then Microwaving it?

We talked about this above, but to quickly recap: plastic and food, bad. Plastic and hot food, super bad.

Our goal is to eliminate plastic food storage containers.

Regardless of the care instructions on the container, if you must use plastic to store food, NEVER microwave the food IN the container, and don’t put it through the dishwasher. We want to avoid heating the plastic.

What to buy: Replace plastic containers with a safer option, like glass. Here’s a great set. And for smaller portions for kids, we use this set – this is great for homemade baby food too!

Are You Using Plastic Zip-Top Bags to Store Food?

If you’re anything like me, you’re using single-use, plastic zip-top bags for marinating and freezer storage. It’s not ideal, as long-term use of plastic does cause some chemicals to leech into the food. And remember, don’t reuse them and don’t heat them/put hot food in them.

What to buy: a better option, which is also more environment-conscious, is a reusable silicone set like this.

6. Ice-Cube Trays

Are You Using Plastic Ice-Cube Trays?

Every notice how your ice kinda tastes like plastic? Ya. Plastic is no bueno for food or beverages. Why? Same discussion as above.

Our goal is to eliminate plastic.

What to buy: silicone is a much better option, For small cubes that mimic crushed ice (I love it for cocktails), here’s the option we use. For regular cubes, here’s an option. And for large, slow-melting cubes (for use in bourbon) here’s what we use.

7. Dishes and Glasswares

Are You Using Plastic Dishes or Glassware?

I doubt you need me to reiterate the discussions above on food and plastic – just scroll up to read, if need be.

Again, our goal is to eliminate as much plastic as possible, as it relates to food.

What to buy: Replace plastic dishes and glasses with safer options. We use this brand of ceramic dishes, and these as drinking glasses – I love that they come with a metal lid and straw, which is highly convenient for making iced coffee.

For on-the-go water drinking, I highly recommend this.

8. Drinking Water

Are You Drinking Tap Water?

I won’t even get into a discussion on tap water, because this post is already long enough. But if you’re curious, do a little digging on the Internet and find out about the harmful chemicals put into our drinking-water supply.

It’s best to avoid drinking tap water without a filter.

What to buy: see below.

Are You Constantly Drinking Bottled Water?

It’s best to avoid water bottled in plastic. And NEVER reuse water bottles made of plastic and designated for single use (like if you get a 24-pack of bottled water, these are meant as single use). Why? The plastic is designed for single use, and reusing or long-term storage actually breaks down some of the plastic (it’s true, Google it) and it leeches into the water. Then you drink it. Not cool.

Besides, you’ll save a ton of money if you stop buying plastic-bottled water.

What to buy: We have a kitchen faucet that prevents the use of a filtration system, so instead, we rely on a manual system that we refill ourselves – like this. Unfortunately, it’s made of plastic, so instead of storing water in it, we opted for this – it stores much more water than the in-fridge system, and is easily dispensed. Bonus use: when the quarantine is finally over and you have a party at your house, it makes for an AWESOME sangria pitcher.

9. Cooking Spray

Are You Using Aerosol Cooking Sprays?

Google “dangers of aerosol cooking sprays.” Or actually, don’t, because it’s SCARY AF. From recent lawsuits citing the “extreme flammability and explosive nature,” to the breakdown of added chemicals, it’s pretty clear that aerosol cooking sprays are not good. Not only do you eat trace amounts, but the act of spraying causes inhalation – not only for the cook, but anyone in the kitchen.

Our goal is to altogether eliminate aerosol cooking sprays.

What to buy: I recommend cooking with butter, tallow, olive oil and/or coconut oil.

I hope that you guys find this guide informative and helpful!

Remember, little steps add up over time.

And of course, I wish you all health, safety and comfort during this highly uncertain time.

Hey kids! Just a heads up that this post may contain affiliate links to products I love and use. If you take action after clicking one of these links (i.e. subscribe, make a purchase, etc.) I’ll earn a bit of a commission, which helps me keep this blog up and running – so you can keep finding dope recipes like this one to recreate yourself! Thanks in advance for supporting The Northeast Ginger – xoxo Gossip Girl

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