Written by Beth Strouse at Sunshine on the Inside
Melanoma, Organic Apples and Cast Iron
I’m not sure any single event can stimulate significant life changes more than a health scare. I personally found this to be true following a melanoma diagnosis earlier this year which motivated me to seriously analyze and improve my overall health. I took up yoga, made it a goal to become more dedicated to my faith, and started maintaining an earlier bedtime to ensure adequate sleep. Additionally, I began to question the products that fill my home: from the cleaning products we use to the foods we consume to the clothing fibers we use to cover our skin. I quickly realized that there were ‘safer’ alternatives to many of the items we had been using.
I use the term ‘safer’ loosely, because even though my background is in the incredibly science-based field of pharmacy, most of the changes we instituted in our household were perpetuated less by a sound scientific report and more based on the simple belief that it generally makes sense to use and consume products with fewer chemicals in them. For example, if I can choose between consuming an organic apple or a regular apple, I’d take the organic apple every time. Some may argue that if you wash a regular apple well and eat it, you are at no greater danger from pesticide consumption than you would be eating an organic apple. While that may be true, I still prefer to eat an apple that has never been sprayed with a pesticide that could accumulate in my body. Ultimately, for our family, it has come down to personal preference. We prefer to eat organically whenever possible. We prefer to sleep in 100% cotton pajamas and bed sheets, and we prefer to use household cleaners that are free from dyes, perfumes and harsh chemicals.
From Teflon to Cast Iron
Likewise, some of the most important changes we made in our household were the updates we made in our kitchen. Aside from choosing organic food options, we also considered how we could best prepare and store the foods we purchase and consume. The pots and pans that we had been using were a wonderful wedding present about 6 years ago and had a very user friendly non-stick Teflon coating on them. Teflon has been around for years, and is generally considered a safe product as long as the coating is not scratched in any way. Once the surface is scratched, Teflon can break down and be consumed in the foods that are prepared on the surface.
While there is a realistic possibility that Teflon remains inert within in the body, and is therefore “harmless” upon consumption, we choose not to take that chance. And in our case, instead of just removing pots and pans from our collection that were noticeable scratched (we didn’t have any to begin with), we chose to change our pots and pans to stainless steel and cast iron varieties. The change alleviated any fear over whether or not small scratches in our Teflon pots and pans could be leaching Teflon into our bodies without being noticed by the naked eye.
Additionally, we were able to remove the plastic spatulas, spoons, ladles and spaghetti stirrers in our kitchen that we had to use with our Teflon pots and pans to avoid scratching the surface. They were replaced with more inert options including stainless steel and wood varieties (found at IKEA, HomeGoods and Marshalls).
The transition to cast iron pans was relatively painless in terms of cost and maintenance. Most big box retailers offer pre-seasoned cast iron pans at prices starting from $11. We also purchased a cast iron griddle that can fit over two of our gas burners, which is especially handy on pancake mornings!
Eco-friendly food storage
In terms of food storage, we’ve recycled all of our old plastic food storage containers and switched to glass storage to alleviate the fear of BPA laden plastics. Likewise, we’ve switched to using stainless steel and glass sippy cups and bottles for our children. Lifefactory and Thermos Foogoo products have worked extremely well for our family.
It is quite amazing how a health scare can shake you to the core and make you reanalyze your entire life! We’ve made an extraordinary number of changes in our household over the last eight months, and we feel great going forward knowing that we’ve filled our house with the foods and products that make us feel better about our family’s overall health. I only wish we would have made these changes sooner!
Interested in switching to cast-iron and stainless steel?
It can be a daunting task to switch over all your pots and pans. Well, we have you covered. Check out the Family Sponge Amazon store, where we have compiled a list of good quality cast iron/stainless steel pots and pans (some are personally recommended by Beth). You can also find similar pots and pans at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Costco. I just bought my first set of stainless steel pots and pans from Costco for $189 and have my eyes on a cast iron griddle on Amazon now!
For more green living ideas for your kitchen, check out our paperless kitchen article.