Posts Tagged ‘kitchen safety’

Recently I came across a statistic that startled me: Many youth today are up to two generations away from households where healthy food is prepared from fresh ingredients. We’re cooking and eating at home less and less. Only about 60% of dinners eaten at home are actually cooked there.

This makes food preparation and nutrition education important to our next generation’s health.  In order for youth to make informed, healthy decisions about their food, they need to have skills and knowledge about nutrition and food. Teaching kids to cook isn’t just passing on useful information they will use to feed themselves later on it also builds math, science, literacy and fine motor skills.

Dinner time is often one of the busiest times every day at my house. Teaching cooking skills and having nutrition discussions with my kids is on the back burner or forgotten in the chaos of the evening. Having a plan to pass on these skills can help make sharing them with your children and teens a priority.

Including your kids in meal planning is a good place to start.  Have children or youth choose a recipe that they are excited to try.  Help them make a list and shop for the ingredients at the store.  This teaches meal planning, a valuable lifelong skill and can build their enthusiasm for being in the kitchen.  As you grocery shop with your child consider explaining to them why you make some of the choices you do.  Talk to them about how and why to compare prices, use coupons or why you choose some brands and sizes over others.

Keep in mind cooking is a skill that increases with experience.  If a recipe with a lot of steps or ingredients feels intimidating for your new chef consider having them start with a side dish or a simple dessert.  Building confidence is part of gaining skills. Keep in mind that not every recipe may turn out successfully.  There’s growth and learning in failure too.  Talk with your child about what went wrong, and what could be done differently next time.

If your child isn’t ready to tackle a recipe on their own, invite them to join you in the cooking process by reading the recipe to you as you prepare food.  This involves them in part of the cooking process and teaches them how to read and follow a recipe.  As they learn to follow a recipe have them participate in other parts of the process such as gathering ingredients, being an assistant chef, setting the table or serving food.

Allow some space and time to play in the kitchen.  Some ideas might include: helping your child with a food science experiment, encouraging your child to create a food dish without a recipe, or experiment with different textures and taste combinations with some of your favorite recipes.

Keep in mind this process will be messy! However, it’s all part of the learning process and will get better with time.  Be prepared to talk about and demonstrate the skills you are wanting them to learn. The important thing to remember is to invite your kids in the kitchen with you in any way. Help them build a lifelong skill; it’s never too late to start.

Author: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension – Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewed By: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Science Educator, Ohio State University Extension- Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2015). Teaching Kids to Cook. https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/cook/teaching-kids-to-cook

Center for Nutrition Studies (2017). Cooking at Every Age, Why Kids Should Learn to Cook. https://nutritionstudies.org/cooking-at-every-age-why-kids-should-learn-to-cook/

eXtension (2017).Cooking with Kids in Schools: Why it is Important. https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/cook/teaching-kids-to-cook


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phthalates1The second chemical of concern in regard to food storage and cooking with plastic is phthalates. According to the CDC, phthalates are a group of chemicals (including DEHP, DINP, DBP, DEP, and more) used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. They are often called plasticizers. Phtalates are considered endocrine disrupters, and have been linked to a number of serious health problems in children and adults.

Unfortunately, phthalates are not listed on product labels and are virtually impossible to avoid. They are found in household items (vinyl flooring, shower curtains), personal care products (hair care, body wash, some cosmetics), fragrances and air fresheners, household cleaners, and last, but not least, food.

Even though they are not added directly to food, people may be exposed to phthalates in the kitchen by eating and drinking foods that have come in contact with containers or products containing phthalates. Robin Whyatt, professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Medical Center and the lead author on several landmark phthalate studies, recommends that consumers remove foods from plastic packaging. Foods should be placed, instead, in glass containers.

“Phtalates continue to leech over time, so you do actually reduce exposure by changing the storage container, even if it’s been in plastic before you bought it,” she says. “All of the phtalates have probably not come out yet by the time you get it home. And if there’s still some in there, it’s probably still leeching out, so you can at least reduce your exposure to some extent.”

In addition to phthalate exposure in food purchased for home consumption, a new study found that people who consume fast food have increased exposure to phthalates. “Fast food may be an especially important source of phthalate exposure,” says Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program.

“In fast food, there is more handling and more packaging than food you might buy at the grocery store,” she adds. This is because the plastic gloves, which most employees are required to wear, contain phthalates that can be transferred to food.

Some tips to reduce your food consumption of phthalates (both home and away):

  • Avoid putting your food in or on plastic.
  • Eat more plant foods.
  • If you must use plastic, keep it out of the microwave and dishwasher.
  • Switch whenever possible to organic and grass-fed produce, meat, and dairy.
  • Invest in a water filter.
  • Avoid processed foods.

Bottom Line?

We may not know for decades if, or what, kind of effect plastic chemicals have on our bodies. In the meantime, it makes sense for us to limit our exposure to plastic whenever possible, especially when heating foods.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu







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I’ve noticed that more people are expressing concern over the use of plastic in the kitchen. It seems like there is always some email being forwarded around the country about the hazards of cooking and/or storing food in plastic. As Jack Webb’s ‘Joe Friday’ character in Dragnet used to say; “all we want are the facts, ma’am.”

The problem with “getting the facts” is that research is still challenged to find definitive answers. The long term effects of plastic usage are not readily observable.  If you have a nut allergy and eat peanuts, you feel sick right away.  If you ingest chemicals when you eat food that was microwaved in a plastic container, you don’t immediately feel or notice anything different (if ever). But there may be epigenetic changes to your cells that eventually surface in your children or grandchildren as serious health issues.

Our ancestors used to take cloth bags and glass or metal containers to the general store to purchase food stuffs; now we go to grocery stores where everything is pre-packaged. The four types of materials currently used to package food include glass, metal, plastics and polystyrene, and paperboard/cardboard. Chemical migration from packaging into food is much more likely to come from plastic, paper, and/or cardboard.

What chemicals should I be concerned about?

BPA: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS), “the primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”

NIEHS says BPA can leach into food from the epoxy resin coatings inside canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles. The amount of BPA that leaches into your food or liquid depends on (1) the temperature of the liquid, food, and/or bottle, and (2) the age of the container.

Currently the National Toxicology Program, in partnership with the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research is carrying out in-depth studies to clarify safety issues regarding BPA migration.

Recommendations from the NIEHS:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from overuse at high temperatures.
  • Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle code numbers 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.




Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu


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