One of my favorite things about the Holidays is spending time with my family — in the kitchen or around the table. If you’re looking for great new recipes to enliven your cooking, or as a gift for your friends and family, check out Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Holiday Gift Bag. It includes Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic Cookbook, a To-Go Ware Snack Stack and other great items to green your holiday kitchen.
As Senior Vice President for Research at EWG, I want to make it easy for you to prepare your holiday feasts with your family’s environmental health in mind. Just follow these simple tips as you shop, cook and eat together:
- Choose food low in added chemicals and pollutants
- Use non-toxic cookware
- Store and reheat leftovers safely
- CHOOSE FOOD LOW IN ADDED CHEMICALS AND POLLUTANTS
Food can contain ingredients we don’t want to eat — from pesticides to hormones to artificial additives to food packaging chemicals. Some simple tips to cut the chemicals:
- Buy organic when you can. I make sure fresh fruits and vegetables are on the menu, and I go organic when I can. Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides (I prefer my dinner without, thanks!). Organic meat and dairy products also limit your family’s exposure to growth hormones and antibiotics.
- It’s OK to choose non-organic from our “Clean 15” list of less-contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables, too. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce ranks popular fruits and vegetables based on the amount of pesticide residues found on them.
- Cook with fresh foods, rather than packaged and canned, whenever you can. Food containers can leach packaging chemicals into food, including the synthetic estrogen bisphenol A that’s used to make the linings of food cans. Go for fresh food or prepared foods stored in glass containers. Pick recipes that call for fresh, not canned, foods.
When I’m planning a grocery trip, I like to check in with EWG’s Healthy Home Tip: Go organic and eat fresh foods.
- USE NON-TOXIC COOKWARE
Using a great pan makes a huge difference when I cook. I skip the non-stick so that my kids (and our dog) don’t have to breathe toxic fumes that can off-gas from non-stick pans over high heat.
Non-stick cookware is in most American kitchens. Is it in yours?
- For safer cooking, we suggest cast iron, stainless steel and oven-safe glass. Yes, there are many new products on the market, but most companies won’t tell you exactly what’s in them. Even if they’re advertised as “green” or “not non-stick,” manufacturers do not have to release their safety data to the public.
- If you’re ‘stuck’ with non-stick, cook safer with it. You can reduce the possibility of toxic fumes by cooking smart with any non-stick cookware you happen to own: Never heat an empty pan, don’t put it in an oven hotter than 500 degrees F and use an exhaust fan over the stove.
Learn more about cooking safely in our Healthy Home Tip: Skip the non-stick.
- STORE AND REHEAT LEFTOVERS SAFELY
Leftovers can extend the joy of a holiday — by giving you a break from the kitchen! But be sure to avoid plastic when storing and (especially) when heating them. Here’s why — and how:
- Skip plastic food storage containers if you can. The chemical additives in plastic can migrate into food and liquids. Ceramic or glass food containers (such as Pyrex) are safer. Click here to get a 10-piece Pyrex set on Amazon (and a portion of your purchase will go towards helping EWG!).
- Don’t microwave food or drinks in plastic containers, even if they claim to be “microwave safe.” Heat can release chemicals into your food and drink. Microwave ovens heat unevenly, creating hot spots where the plastic is more likely to break down.
- If you do use a plastic container, handle it carefully. Use it for cool liquids only; wash plastics by hand or on the top rack of the dishwasher, farther from the heating element; use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap to cover food in the microwave. Also, avoid single-use plastic as much as possible — reusing it isn’t safe (it can harbor bacteria) and tossing it out fills up landfills (and pollutes the environment).
Read more about heating and storing food safely in our Healthy Home Tip: Pick plastics carefully.
I hope these tips make having a green holiday easier. Happy Holidays!