Challenge #40 ~ Healthy Kitchens

Read the blog post on the December Theme – HEALTHY HOMES

Photo by Brandless on Unsplash

In July we discussed healthy food and challenged everyone to eat cancer fighting superfoods and brain-healthy diets. Are you keeping up with these challenges? Good! Next step is to make sure we retain all the goodness in the food. Did you know that how and where we prepare our food matters as much to our health as the food itself? What does that mean? Cookware, utensils, cleaners – everything our food comes in contact with matters. 

In December’s monthly blog Healthy Homes we introduce the concept of a healthy home to create a toxin free environment at home to be safe from nasty chemicals.

Our kitchens are particularly critical. A lot of things happen in the kitchen, not just food preparation. Life happens in there! Cooking. Eating. Social life. Therefore, it is that much more important to keep the kitchen healthy and clean of hidden toxins. When news breaks about BPAs in baby bottles, water bottles, and food containers everyone becomes aware and buys BPA-free products. Few ever ask whether the replacement chemicals of Bisphenol A, or BPA – an industrial chemical that is a common building block in many types of plastic and resins, are any safer. Often, they are not and are just as bad for our health with detrimental impacts on reproduction and hormone balance. 

Where do we need to check and how can we act to avoid exposure to toxins in our kitchens? We selected the most common places where toxins can leach into our food, unexpectedly. 

Get started with these tips:

  • Rethink Cookware
    • Stainless steel pots and pans, including baking forms and sheets, are toxin-free and great for making all kinds of food. 
    • Cast iron pans are toxin-free, cheap, and last forever. Extra bonus, get some arm muscles out of working with it. 
    • Enamel cookware is cast iron with an enamel coating which makes cooking in it a breeze and toxin-free in addition to many more benefits. The drawback is that it’s heavy and the most expensive cookware option; however once used and mastered, you’ll never look back.
    • Replace Teflon coated cookware, especially scratched ones, with stainless steel, cast iron, or enamel cookware. It will take some practice to work with them but it will be worth it. 
  • Replace plastic utensils with wooden or Bamboo utensils.
  • Use nontoxic cleaning products – the easiest way to cut toxins and cost is to use the old-fashioned white vinegar, baking soda, citric acid, and pure lemon concentrate for cleaning, laundry, and drainpipe opening. Find bonus recipes for All Purpose Floor, Carpet and Glass cleaner and below.
  • Store food in glass containers. The extra bonus is that oven-proof glass containers can double as cooking/baking dishes as well. 
  • Use filtered water for cooking – install an active carbon filter on your kitchen faucet or use water from a water filter pitcher/jar to remove impurities and to cut costs and the additional carbon impact of transporting bottled water.
  • Ditch the toxic food – revisiting the July theme, remember to eliminate processed food with food additives and artificial ingredients like preservatives, food coloring, and sweeteners.
  • The best pest control is prevention! Be proactive and keep the kitchen clean from food scraps. Use a sieve or strainer over the drain of the sink to prevent food from washing down the drain. 
  • For pest control – if ants or cockroaches have moved in, there are a number of natural tricks including cinnamon powder to interrupt ant streets and catnip or peppermint oil to keep roaches at bay.
  • For clogged pipes use baking soda and vinegar and boiling water to open drains quickly and effectively. May need to repeat the process a few times depending on the severity. Again, prevention and keeping food out of the drain is easiest. 

While this list is by no means comprehensive or all inclusive, it covers the big ticket items. It has to work and the price must be right. And it’s not more expensive. High quality pots and pans will last a lifetime (or several lifetimes) and DIY cleaners are much cheaper than the commercial versions. Adopting these suggestions contribute to a healthy home, healthy planet, and healthy pocketbook.

A non-toxic kitchen is a work in progress, not perfection. What matters is to get started, to ask questions. “What’s more expensive – a new pot or my health in the long run?” Much like sustainable fashion, healthy cookware is a long-term investment into our health, made to last, and more cost-effective with repeated use. 

To be practical and cost conscious, break things down into doable tasks, start with the most common high-risk places and move forward step by step. 

Yes, you, too, can make a difference in the world, one person at a time.

Bonus Recipes

Homemade Glass Cleaner

2 cups water
2 tsp cornstarch (yes, cornstarch)
1/4 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
1/4 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice (option, but helps cut some of the strong vinegar/alcohol smell)

Mix everything in a spray bottle and shake before use. Simple. The end.

Natural All-Purpose Floor Cleaner

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. For really tough stains, pre-treat with 2 tablespoons of washing soda dissolved in 16 ounces of water. Mop well. Damp mop with pure water to rinse.

Natural Carpet Stain Removal

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Spray on stains, let sit for 5 minutes, and scrub with a soft brush. Add 1-2 drops of dishwashing liquid for tough stains.

For tough grease stains, pour cornstarch liberally on the stain and let sit until dry. Vacuum up and then use the method above.

For heavy-duty stains that won’t come out, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax, and vinegar. Rub into the stain. Let sit until dry and vacuum up. Use methods above if any part of the stain remains.