This blog post is a long time in the making! I have slowly and steadily been working my way towards a more non-toxic lifestyle for quite a while now. It took me a while to figure out that nutrition was only one piece of the equation to a healthier lifestyle.
What started as a journey towards better athletic performance through improved nutrition turned into a lifelong quest to become healthier in all aspects! The knowledge I have gained from the past couple years (especially from my holistic health coaching course) has been hugely beneficial in bringing forth the importance of non-toxic living.
One of the biggest things I want to point out before I get started with this post is the fact that I made all of these changes over time. I am certainly nowhere near “perfect” nor do I think that perfection is even attainable with our modern day lifestyles. I do, however, think that we can all make small changes to offset or mitigate certain effects that environmental toxins can have on us and our bodies.
I do not want to create any shame or judgment around this topic, I merely want to provide information for you to make an educated and informed decision for your (and your families!) health. While I have made quite a few shifts towards more environmentally friendly and less toxic products I believe I still have a long way to go and am seriously enjoying this journey!
While this post will include my top ten tips and how (or why) I switched over to certain products, I think it is really important to remember that every little thing you can do is helpful in the long run. Reducing your daily toxin load will hopefully increase energy, mood and overall happiness! It also just feels really, really good to know you are taking care of your body and treating it with kindness and care. Take care of your body and it will continue to take care of you!
Let’s chat for a sec on why you may want to reduce toxins and toxic chemicals. You hear the word toxin and immediately you go “ew, I don’t want those!” but let’s actually break down why they are so harmful.
Another way we can be exposed to toxins is through ingestion. Chemicals and toxins can be used as preservatives, stabilizers or leach into food through food containers and packaging. Not cool. Europe has banned over 1300 ingredients, chemicals and toxins that the U.S. still allows use of. That, to me, is just sad. It makes me angry to know that the U.S. government isn’t prioritizing our health and that it is essentially a “non-issue.” I also feel hopeful though that spreading the word about how dangerous these chemicals can be will make a positive impact on the world.
I hope to change just one person’s life with this post and if that’s you then MY WORK HERE IS DONE. Not really, but dang that makes this work worth it.
One of the main problem with the toxins that are in our products and food is that they cause disease and inflammation within the body. Working as endocrine disruptors (ED for short), these toxins confuse the body and act as fake additional hormones. These false hormones interfere with hormone signaling in the body and create problems. Having too much or too little estrogen is an increased risk factor for cancers, can affect fertility, create metabolic problems and more.
Basically, the endocrine disrupting toxins increase the production of some hormones and decrease the production of others and stops the body from doing what it does best, which is protecting you! While you likely wouldn’t notice this damage right away, the effects build up over time.
#1 Pots and Pans
This is one of the first items I switched to less toxic versions. I had been cooking with nonstick pans and had noticed that some of the coating had been flaking off, I started to wonder where the coating was ending up and realized it must be in the food I was eating! Likely not very good for me…
Little did I know at the time I was very right. That non-stick coating really isn’t good for human consumption, and it does leach into food that we consume when we use it. Non-stick pots and pans are typically coated with Teflon also known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that release perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is a carcinogenic chemical when heated at high temperatures and these types of coating can also contain heavy metals that can flake off into food.
Not yummy. My fiance and I felt instantly better after switching our cookware and I’ll never turn back! Other problematic cookware can include those that are coated with aluminum and aluminum foil. Aluminum can chip and wear very easily and can accumulate in the bones, tissues, brain and lungs (more on that here).
Okay, so what can you use instead?! I have a lot of favorites in this category since I am obsessed with cooking! For cookware my top must-haves include a good cast iron skillet. I have one similar to this in the enameled version, meaning that it comes without preseasoning. While it is a bit of a process to season the skillet for cooking, I feel really confident knowing that I was able to choose the quality of oil used to coat the skillet. I personally like knowing that there is no canola or seed oils used in my skillet!
For those of you wondering, here is an excellent article explaining how to season a cast iron skillet. If you are like nah, girl, I’d rather get a preseasoned skillet, this is my favorite brand! Another really cool thing about cast iron skillets is they actually allow significant amounts of iron back into the food, which is a benefits since most Americans are iron deficient.
If you find cast iron to be too “sticky” (the break in period can be a few weeks for a cast iron to get it truly seasoned), then ceramic cookware can be an excellent option! Instead of being coated with teflon or PFOA, ceramic is glazed in a kiln! It’s really a great more non-stick option for cooking eggs or more acidic foods.
Another great option is food-grade stainless steel. Since stainless steel is highly durable, hard to scratch and resistant to chipping, it is an awesome alternative to the typical teflon-coated pots and pans. Speaking of stainless steel… you know what has a stainless steel insert?! THE INSTANT POT! If any of you know me by now, you know I am 100% obsessed and over the moon about the Instant Pot. Read more about my love for it here.
You simply must get an Instant Pot, for no other reason that it can cook a whole chicken to tender perfection in a mere 18 minutes. Or maybe because it cooks bone broth in only 2 hours, or perhaps the fact that you can get perfect hard boiled eggs in 5 minutes. Ahh, there are too many reasons to list. The Instant Pot has truly changed my kitchen game and has improved it tenfold. It is an invaluable tool and I’m not sure how I ever managed without one!
My last favorite in the cookware category is glass. Glassware is one of the most classic options and is awesome for use in the oven and for baking. I love to use this bread loaf pan for my Paleo Harvest Bread or Apple Spice Bread. I also always use a glass casserole pan when I make my Wonton Casserole! I love knowing that there aren’t chemicals being added to my food while it’s cooking. Ahhh. Peace of mind. One thing to keep in mind is to thoroughly grease glass (coconut oil, ghee or butter are my favorites) because food tends to stick rather easily.
To recap, the products I love to use for non-toxic cookware are:
- cast iron
- stainless steel
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, please be especially careful of these toxin-containing cookware products:
- teflon-coated cookware
- aluminum foil and aluminum cookware
#2 Cooking Utensils and Accessories
This category ranges from spatulas and ladles to accessories like candy or ice molds. My biggest pain point in this category is surrounding plastics. Cheap plastics contain toxins that can leach into your food, especially if they are heated up too much or (gasp!) melt. This includes plastic spatulas, ladles, mixing spoons are more. While it might not seem like a big deal to use these plastic utensils, the usage really adds up.
Plastics tend to break down over time and are especially prone to transferring chemicals when heated. The only plastics that I still use are food-grade silicone. Since the food-grade silicone has been especially designed for use at high heat and is highly resistant to damage over time. I have just recently switched to using only food-grade silicone for things like spatulas, ice cube molds, muffin pan and other baking dishes.
My other favorite material is bamboo or wood! I love this bamboo utensil set for sauteing, stirring and more. While bamboo and wood both can’t go in the dishwasher, washing them by hand is well worth the effort as they hold up extremely well and don’t hold a scent like plastics can.
Finally I love using stainless steel knives and gadgets like my spiralizer. I use my knives daily and like knowing that they aren’t transferring chemicals into my food and that they will also last me a long time!
#3 Food Storage
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite areas to work on and continually improve. This is also one of the last things to change in my kitchen areas, feeling slightly less urgent than pots and pans that have heat applied to them. Food storage containers are typically stored in the fridge or at room temperature and therefore would take longer to leach chemicals into the food stored inside them.
As talked about in the above sections, most plastics contain BPA which is no bueno. Storage options such as plastic sandwich and gallon bags are incredibly harmful to the environment since they tend to stay in landfills for long periods of time – up to 500 years. Since most plastics are also petroleum based and are a non-renewable resource, it is worrisome to think about just how many plastic bags are wasted each day.
Along the same lines are storage containers like Tupperware and other reusable plastic containers. While these don’t get tossed in the trash quite as frequently, they still can be harmful to our health.
Reducing my use of single-use plastics has been slightly more difficult than either changing cookware or swapping out utensils. It requires more thoughtfulness and planning – both at the grocery store and at home! Since I want to reduce the amount of plastic that I use and store my food in, I have had to be more conscious of what I buy at the grocery store. For example, pre-cut vegetables are an awesome shortcut in the kitchen but also are typically stored in plastic that is discarded after use.
With this thought in mind, I am now much more prone to buy vegetables in their whole states and take the extra time to cut and chop them myself. And I love using these produce bags to take with me to the store instead of the plastic ones provided.
In terms of home storage options, I love to use either glass containers or these adorable little silicone reusable bags for smaller items. Finally, in attempts to reduce my usage of plastic and saran wrap I have been trying out beeswax reusable food wraps to cover foods and store leftovers. Trader Joe’s also sells an affordable version of the beeswax wraps that have been surprisingly effective and easy to use!