Spring is upon us and with new season comes the idea of sparkling freshness. Out with the old, in with the bright, shiny and new. So what better area to spring clean this year than your kitchen? Now, I could go on and on about the kinds of foods you should be stocking your cupboards with or how to prepare healthy meals to get you ready for swimsuit season. However, did you know that what you are cooking and storing with is just as important? You might be surprised to know that many of the items we use on a daily basis can be causing us harm. You may be eating the purest, most organic foods but if you are cooking with or storing foods in any of these items, you might be rendering your healthy foods useless. I’ve compiled my top 5 items that should be added to your toss pile this spring cleaning season in order to keep you and yours as healthy as can be!
· Non-Stick Pots & Pans – The most important health factor that should be considered is the transfer, or leaching, of the cooking surface material to the foods being cooked. Heat changes the composition of materials so what may be safe at room temperature can be extremely toxic when heated. Non-stick surfaces like Teflon, are the biggest offenders when it comes to leaching. In fact, it has been admitted by Dupont, that when a non-stick surface is heated beyond a certain level, the fumes can kill birds and create a sickness in humans they call Polymer Fume Fever, producing symptoms resembling a cold. Most recipes call for the cooking surface to be heated to a medium to high temperature so cooking with a non-stick pot or pan will almost always be dangerous. So don’t wait until the bottoms of your pans are chipping to trash them, start replacing your most used pieces as soon as possible. REPLACE WITH: Ceramic, stainless steel, cast iron, and/or glass. Be sure there are no toxic paints or coatings.
· Plastic Containers – As I mentioned above, leaching is hugely important factor to consider. Whether it is food or beverage, plastic should never be the vessel. One must even be cautious of BPA-free containers as there are other contaminants that can be leached from low-grade items. Be a discerning consumer and buy the best! When you add hot foods to plastic storage containers, it draws toxins from the container and mixes with your food. This is why you should never leave plastic water bottles in the car. Ever taste “plasticy” water? It’s been sitting in the heat, leaching toxins into your otherwise healthy beverage. This happens when you store food as well and even more so when you microwave them. Don’t let chemicals be the secret ingredient in your dishes. REPLACE WITH: Ceramic, stainless steel and/or glass
· Dish Towels & Sponges – Bacteria breeds mainly in cool, damp places like sponges and dish towels. We use these every day to clean up our counters and plates but if not taken care of properly, we are doing more harm than good. A sure fire way to keep your cleaning aids at their best is to: wring them out to release excess water after every use, store them properly so that they can air out and dry quickly, wash regularly and throw them away every 2 weeks to a month. If you have old towels and sponges, it’s time to go shopping!
· Overcrowded Refrigerators/freezers – Clutter is never a good thing and that goes for refrigerators and freezers too. When these are overstuffed, there isn’t enough room for the air to circulate properly and decomposition begins. In addition, many foods will pick up the odors of others which will most likely cause you to gag, throw a way your food and waste quite a bit of cash. This can also cause bacteria and mold to grow in between containers, on walls and in drawers. In freezers, overcrowding can cause freezer burn as well as forgetfulness! Ever forget what’s in the back of the freezer but it’s to frozen over to get to it? From now on, toss foods as soon as they expire, don’t keep items that you “think” you will use someday like fast food sauce packets, properly pack and label your foods with the date and consolidate items when possible. Your food will last longer, will taste a whole lot better and save you a considerable amount of green.
· Microwaves – I know that there is quite a controversy when it comes to microwaves. But I’m here to tell you, anything that heats your food that fast and is otherwise cool to the touch, can’t be good for you. These microwaves that are heating your quick lunch are actually transforming the chemical makeup of your foods on a cellular level. Ever notice that many things are less crispy and more rubbery when nuked? That’s because while those little waves are heating up, they have mutated your food. And mutated food not only loses it texture and taste, it loses all its nutrients too. REPLACE WITH: Convection oven and/or toaster oven
While a full kitchen overhaul may be costly, be sure to at least make a dent by getting rid of and replacing your most used items. You can always add from there and have fun doing it. We should all make an investment in our health and the kitchen is a great place to start. I wish you all a very happy Spring as well as super healthy cooking spaces ; )