Whole food choices and healthy eating options are popping up everywhere, making it easier than ever to make positive lifestyle choices when it comes to food. We have access to healthy, natural and fresh foods more than ever before, and most health-conscious families are taking full advantage of that. The shift is bringing us back to natural and away from modified, chemical-laden options that recently graced our past.
Home environment options are beginning to swing in that same way as we see people ditch harsh chemicals and unnatural synthetic products for natural and safe options. Because, let’s face it, what good is healthy eating if the products we are cooking in and on are adding chemicals and toxins into our food. In order to have a truly healthy lifestyle, we must look at what goes into our body (food), what goes on our body (products & clothes) and what surrounds our body (our home environment).
The same idea of whole and natural food choices also applies to the environment of our kitchens, where we cook and eat. The more natural and pure the products in our kitchens are, the healthier we will be overall. And the same increasing options in natural food is beginning to make its way into the products we use to build, maintain and clean our homes. The options are increasing and there’s never been a better time to start changing your home environment to be healthier and toxin-free.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
When it comes to a healthy kitchen, it’s important to think beyond just our daily habits and think about what is being used in the kitchen.
Glass & Steel: Whenever and wherever you can opt for glass or stainless steel for cookware, dishes and cutlery. These are the healthiest options with no toxins in them.
Water Filters: Whether you have public water or you have a private well, a water filtration system (such as a Reverse Osmosis system) can filter out 99% of water contaminants such as chlorine and added disinfectants. While these additives prevent bacteria growth, they are also known endocrine disruptors and should be avoided.
Air Fresheners & Candles: These are the EASIEST things to switch out within your home, yet so many of us continue to use them. Air fresheners are made with and contain chemicals in order to create the desired scent. Often times these added chemicals are not disclosed due to Trade Secret regulations. Companies like EWG have delved deeper and found that the chemicals are known carcinogens and can disrupt the endocrine system and reproductive system. As for scented candles? Kate the Wellness Mama lays it all out in her post about the dangers of those innocent looking scented candles. Basically the ingredients include paraffin (a petroleum product) that when burned is worse than breathing in secondhand smoke.
You can easily replace these with natural, essential oils (which have added health benefits!) and a diffuser. But do your research, not all essential oils are created equal. You can read here about why I choose Rocky Mountain Essential Oils.
Those things that we really should NOT be using ANYWHERE in our homes, let alone in our kitchen. The ones that are a little tougher to replace, but the quality of our air and the health of our bodies depends on it.
Plastic: All those plastic dishes and tupperware may say they are BPA-Free, so they’re safe, right? Wrong. Other plasticizers are used in place of this dangerous byproduct and have been proven to be JUST as dangerous. Plastic should be avoided for eating and should definitely not be warmed or heated. This allows more of the toxins to be released into the air and into the food you’re eating.
Opt for glass wherever you can. And if you have kids, stainless steel is another great option. I love Life Without Plastic to find exactly what I need.
If you’re switching over from plastic, this is a great time to SIMPLIFY and only keep what you truly need.
Disinfecting Cleaners: We’re hearing more and more about the dangers of using things like ammonia or chemical based cleaners. They are harming our skin, airways, endocrine and nervous systems, not to mention exposing us to possible carcinogens. And what’s even worse is that companies who make these products don’t have to tell you, me or anyone else what is in the cleaners. That Trade Secret policy I shared earlier, it applies here too. This is why I check EWG’s Cleaning Database or make my own cleaner EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.
My favorite replacement for an all purpose and disinfecting cleaner is AvaSheild by Rocky Mountain Essential Oils. It’s concentrated, so it lasts forever and I know my family will be safe.
Non-Stick: The chemical compounds that make up the non-stick surface are EXTREMELY toxic to your health. They are known carcinogens and the disposal of these chemicals by manufacturing companies have created problems with contaminated drinking water across the country. If it can contaminate drinking water, why would we cook with it? The good old fashioned pan your Grandparents cooked with is the way to go.
Daily and lifestyle habits can either improve or hinder our indoor environments. And they can be one of the simplest things we can change about our indoor environment. The kitchen in most homes is the central hub where everyone gathers at the beginning and end of each day. Not only are we cooking our food in this room, but we spend a lot of time in this indoor environment. This is why creating a healthy space in the kitchen is a great place to start.
Cooking with Lids
Have you ever noticed how much moisture is around your stove after boiling a pot of water? Many people are surprised at just how much water vapor is produced from this simple task. But it’s a fact that just by boiling a pot of water for 10 - 15 minutes the humidity level within your kitchen can rise a dramatic 25%. You may be wondering what this has to do with the health of your kitchen. Kitchens that are high in humidity are breeding grounds for dustmites (who like a humid climate in order to reproduce) as well as a great place for mold to grow. Mold can be especially problematic in kitchens where perishable food is on countertops or cabinets.
Routine Sink & Drain Cleaning
Many of us miss cleaning our sinks on a regular basis. Sinks are a place that bacteria can be harbored and spread as food particles are left from dishes. The drain in a kitchen sink can be even more unhealthy as usually it’s a warmer area, dark and wet from water. This is a recipe for mold, mildew and bacteria. A simple solution of baking soda and vinegar (and sometimes a drop or two of Essential Lemon Oil for a fresh scent) will help keep drains clean without adding chemicals to the air.
Utilizing Vents and Windows
As mentioned above, high humidity is one of the worst offenders of an unhealthy house. There are many reasons high humidity is to be avoided at all costs. First, humidity is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. But humid environments also encourage toxins to off-gas at a faster rate as opposed to drier environments. This means the toxins present in your flooring, paint, walls and furniture. Formaldehyde and flame retardants have been known to off-gas at a much higher rate in warm and humid environments. By keeping windows open and vented fans on while cooking, you can prevent the indoor humidity from sky-rocketing around dinner time.
Frequent Replacement of Dish Towels and Rags
When’s the last time your replaced your dish towel or rags? Can’t remember? This is another area for bacteria to grow. But it is also a spot that chemicals from cleaning products can manifest. Once bacteria or chemical toxins are on the rag, it can be easily spread around your countertop surfaces and tables. Replacing the towels and rags even once a day is a great habit to start. Make sure to wash them in hot water with a chemical free detergent.
Clean That Fridge
Most of us don’t think too much about cleaning our fridge. In fact, most of us just use it for food storage and pay little attention to the remnants left behind by spills, improperly stored food and produce. While a refrigerated space can deter the growth of mold and bacteria, it doesn’t completely eliminate it. It’s important to do a routine clean with a disinfecting cleaner to remove spills, bacteria and germs from the shelves in the fridge.
I am a Certified Professional Home Inspector and Certified Building Biologist through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and International Institute for Building Biology. I have trained with Internachi as well as the Water Quality Standards Academy and the EPA.