5 Tips for Non-Toxic Holidays

(originally posted at Momsrising)

The holiday season is almost upon us. And oh, how things seem to speed up, and expectations fall like rain.  Family meals, holiday parties, school events and fundraisers, gifts for friends and family…. it can get overwhelming even for the most zen like among us.

It is even easier to grab processed foods for eating on the go during this season, and to do a speed shop at the grocery store without much rhyme or reason. But with a deep breath and some of these tips in mind, you can cut your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals this holiday.  While doing that (the multi-taskers that we are) we should encourage our senators to pass the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, making future holiday seasons less stressful and considerably less toxic for American families everywhere.

1.  For Special Holiday Meals:

*Avoid canned foods.  Most of these contain BPA, an hormone mimicking chemical, in the lining.  BPA has been linked to several types of cancer, reproductive problems, early puberty, interference with chemotherapy, and most recently, learning and behavior problems.

*Avoid the dirty dozen.  Remember when shopping for the ingredients for your favorite holiday dishes to buy produce organic that is listed on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list. These are the fruits and vegetables that carry the highest pesticide load and will cause the greatest exposure. We are learning that pesticides (and other industrial chemicals) may be contributing to the epidemics of learning disabilities that are increasing exponentially.

2.  When Making Baked Goods:

*Avoid conventional food coloring.  Oh, I know the lure of bright colors, especially for holiday cookies.  For awhile, I took the law of averages approach and used food coloring once at year during the holidays. But after learning that the FDA almost placed warnings on all food with artificial colorings based on the studies showing improved behavior in children when they DO NOT eat them, I figured it is time to go cold turkey.  I’ll be using natural food coloring this year.

3.  For Gifts:

*Buy Safe:  How to avoid unsafe toys?  Buy wood, sustainably made, and U.S. or European made toys from trusted retailers.  Check out healthystuff.org before buying a toy from a mainstream store to see how they are rated for safety.

*Buy Green:  Support your green ideals when gift giving. Travel mugs, safe water bottles, snack and sandwich taxis, and cute reusable bags make great friend and family gifts.

*Give Fair Trade: Seek out fairly traded gifts from around the world.  There are many nonprofits online and other international festivals during the holiday season that you can visit.  There are several happening in our area of Vermont– I always attend with my daughters and they pick out unique teacher gifts.

*Give Meaning:  Here is a great post about holiday gift ideas of charitable donations.  They are listed by subject area and show us that giving doesn’t have to be about stuff, stuff and more stuff.  You can find a charity that your loved one is interested in and give a donation in their name.

4.  For Road Trips:

*Avoid fast food stops by packing meals and snacks in reusable BPA free containers.  Remember to bring napkins, water bottles, travel mugs and utensils so your trip is green and healthy.

5.  For Food Gifts:

*Make special holiday breads, sauces, mixes, and cookies and other treats with local, organic ingredients and store them in glass or stainless steel containers.  You can decorate a glass ball jar with ribbons and fabric for a safe and beautiful food gift container.

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