Non-Toxic Mealtime: Beyond Organic Food 

Green Living expert, Aida Garcia Toldedo shares her insights on the dangers of toxic cooking tools and utensils

Photo by Syrie Wongkaew

When feeding tots many parents understand the importance of choosing organic foods to avoid exposure to pesticides and added hormones, but many might not realize that the tools used to cook and serve a child’s food can also be a source of harmful chemicals.

Cooking Tools: What to avoid


  • Non-stick cookware is a staple in the majority of kitchens across the world today. While convenience of non-stick is clear, the technology behind it not so clear.
  • Non-stick teflon pans: Up until recently, the go-to chemical used to make non-stick pans was the ‘Teflon chemical’ (Perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA for short).  This chemical is so toxic that the company that makes it agreed to phase it out of its products. It is a carcinogen (causes cancer), and prenatal exposure to perfluorinated chemicals may affect the immune system in early childhood.  If you have older non-stick pans at home they probably contain PFOA. Stop using these pans to cook or reheat your children’s meals. If you have to use them, make sure you use medium to low heat, since the higher heat temperatures are what cause the chemical to be released into the air and food. Also, make sure the pan has no scratches.  Once it is scratched you should throw the pan away immediately.
  • New non-stick technology: There are various new chemicals and technologies being used in newer non-stick pans. Because these technologies are so new, proper long-term studies are needed to confirm if they are, indeed, completely safe. When cooking for a younger child, it is a good idea to err on the side of caution and avoid anything that has not been proven to be completely safe.


  • Due to its physical resemblance to stainless steel, aluminum is often mistaken for a safer cooking material. Unfortunately, pans made of aluminum can release heavy metals into food- aluminum is considered a neurotoxin (high exposures to it has been linked to Alzheimers).  Acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, high heat and wear and tear cause more aluminum to leach from this cookware into the food. Although the amount of aluminum that a pan would give off is actually very low, as always with young children I prefer to err on the side of caution and when possible simply choose a safer option.

Safer options

Lucky for parents everywhere, there are many tried and tested pots and pans that will not leach chemicals into your family’s food.

  • Cast iron: When properly seasoned, cast iron is virtually non-stick. An added bonus is that cast iron pans add iron to the food you are cooking and can last decades, making them a great investment.
  1. Stainless steel: Widely available, stainless steel is another great option for cooking that will not leach any chemicals into your tot’s meals.  Many stainless steel pan users complain about their food sticking to their pans. However, although it does take a bit of practice, there are easy ways to avoid having your food stick when cooking such as ensuring you are cooking on a high heat to seal the food so it doesn’t stick and ensuring the pan is properly oiled and seasoned just before adding the food.

Serving & Storing Tools: What to avoid

Many parents limit themselves to lower quality plastic dishware for children, not realizing that there are many safe, non-toxic and stylish alternatives that are widely available to serve food in.

Generally speaking, for hot or acidic meals you should avoid plastic plates, as the heat (from food, from reheating or even from the dishwasher) can cause the plastic to leach chemicals like BPA and other endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Great alternatives to plastic for plates, cups and storage include:

  • silicone
  • wood
  • stainless steel
  • glass (for little kids consider a silicon sleeve to protect glass)

Here are a few of course favorite non-toxic dishware, food storage & utensil picks

  1. Petits Et Maman Wooden Monkey Fork and Spoon
  2. Silikids Siliskin Straw Cup
  3. Silikids Siliskin Universal Sippy Tops – 2 Pack
  4. ezpz Happy Bowl
  5. Petits Et Maman Wooden Car Plate
  6. Wean Green Kitchen Starter Set
  7. Modern Twist Bowl and Lid
  8. Bamboo Miniware – Dish Set
  9. Stasher Silicone Bag
  10. Avanchy Bamboo Suction Plate & Spoon