holiday baking

We love the useful tips for a safe holiday kitchen from Senior Vice President for Research at the Environmental Working Group, Jane Houlihan: Choose foods low in added chemicals and pollutants; use non-toxic cookware; store and reheat leftovers safely. And we’ve added a few more tips of our own that we think will make your holidays a whole lot healthier, and yummier.

Like Houlihan points out, opting for foods that are low in chemicals is a no-brainer, but it’s not always obvious, as in the case of packaged and canned foods. Says Houlihan, “Food containers can leach packaging chemicals into food, including the synthetic estrogen bisphenol A that’s used to make the linings of food cans.” We couldn’t agree more! Fresh is best, which is why we also recommend shopping at your local farmers market instead of supermarkets for your produce this holiday season. Grocery stores can easily tempt us into buying things that aren’t always healthy. There are far fewer bad food temptations at farmers markets and you’re getting the freshest and healthiest selection of seasonal fruits and veggies; and they taste better, too!

We also love Houlihan’s recommendation for avoiding the microwave when reheating food. It’s toxic and puts us at risk of BPA exposure if we use plastics. And we say take it a step further and try to avoid leftovers altogether. More than 95 billion pounds of food waste end up in our landfills every year—a lot of that coming from meals we say we’ll finish “later.” Our suggestion: Cook smaller meals. If your still hungry, eat a piece of fresh fruit, or drink a glass of water and see if you aren’t just thirsty instead. Another great option is to pre-cook a lot of food: Steam veggies, whole grains, beans, etc and that way they’re ready to be incorporated easily into fast meals—without the leftovers.

The EWG is well known for their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists of the most and least heavily pesticide-sprayed fruits and vegetables. Avoiding pesticides is at the top of our shopping list, too. And so is another consideration: Superfoods. Bursting with nutrients, superfoods offer us more bang for our buck, and that’s especially helpful during the stress of the holiday season. Try replacing chocolate chips with raw cacao nibs (higher in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants), using fresh kale instead of frozen spinach (loaded with calcium) or try adding goji and golden berries to your fruitcake (nutrient dense dried fruits with antioxidants, amino acids and trace minerals).

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Dano