When I was in grade school my mom packed my lunch in a brown paper bag and off I went. Ahhh, life was simpler then. There were no rules about peanut butter being banned from school lunches or worries about food allergies or sensitivities. Pack a sandwich and a cookie wrapped in waxed paper add a piece of fruit and put everything in a brown paper bag. So easy!
Unfortunately, over the past several decades food has become complicated. An apple may not be just an apple. It may be color enhanced and genetically modified or sprayed with harmful pesticides before it ever gets to the market. The words organic, sustainable, conventional and GMO are not just part of our vocabulary but concepts that we need to take into account when we food shop. It takes effort to prepare healthy meals and healthy lunches. Being conscientious means that you read labels, shop in the organic aisle of the supermarket, join a food coop or grow your own veggies. If you do all of that and think you’ve got everything under control think again. What about the containers? Whether you’re packing snacks for your baby or toddler, packing lunch for your or your child or just storing leftovers, you want to make sure you are not putting healthy food into toxic containers. It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Are all plastics toxic?
Given the amount of time it takes to shop for and prepare healthy meals, the last thing you want to do is put healthy food in a toxic container. Also, if you’re like me and carry water with you wherever you go, you should switch from a plastic water bottle to a stainless steel one. You can also get silicone sleeves for glass water bottles so that they won’t break if you drop them. If you are using plastic, make sure it’s safe plastic. It needs to be BPA, lead and PVC free. Why? Because BPA is a hormone disrupter. It can cause early puberty in girls, diabetes and obesity. Lead can cause neurological problems and learning disabilities. PVC is carcinogenic. These substances can leech from the plastic into the food (or water).
All plastics are not created equal. Plastic containers have a little triangle stamped on them with a number in the middle. Check the numbers. Avoid 3, 6 and 7. Safer plastics are 1, 2, 4 and 5.
If you take your lunch to work or make lunch for your child to take to school you may want to rethink “brown bagging it” According to the EPA, brown bag lunches for one child produce 67 pounds of waste a year. (I admit even my mom went from brown bagging it to sending me off with a lunch box.) Brown bags may not be toxic but they certainly have an impact on the environment. Reusable food bags and wraps are the perfect alternative to disposable baggies, plastic, and yes, brown bags. They may be a bit more expensive up front but in the long run they are cheaper. And they are definitely better for you and the environment.Reusable lunch boxes, lunch bags , water bottles and thermoses:
- Graze Organic 5 pack – www.reuseit.com
- Snack Taxi (reusable bags for snack & sandwiches) – www.snacktaxi.com
- Foogo Thermos (stainless steel) – www.thermos.com
- Kleen Kanteen water bottle – www.kleenkanteen.com
- LunchBots (stainless steel lunch boxes) – www.lunchbots.com
- U-Konserve (bottle, lunch bags and sleeves) – www.kidskonserve.com
These are just a few brands. There are many more. If you have some favorites please share by leaving a comment below.