The best reusable food containers for your health and the environment

Dos and don'ts for to-go packaging and a healthy bean salad recipe perfect for your work lunch
By Marni Wasserman
The best reusable food containers for your health and the environment Laptop Lunchboxes

We eat many of our meals outside the home, which means bringing leftovers home in take-away containers. Or maybe we take our daily work lunch at a take-out spot in the food court — which, again, creates another package. Then we send our kids and spouses off with a meal for school or work: again more packaging. What do these situations all have in common other than crinkly paper, cardboard boxes, and plastic? Garbage, and maybe even health hazards.

Plastic bags, cling wrap, foil, polystyrene foam — all of these things we often use to store and transport our food are made from synthetic and chemical compounds that have a negative and potentially harmful impact on us. Not only that, they contribute to waste and accumulate in the environment, causing pollution that can also affect our health.

All of the waste that results from food packaging and containers doesn't just magically disappear when it goes into a trash can or gets picked up weekly. Instead it goes to landfills, where it can emit toxic gases, or seeps into our lakes, sewers and rivers. As residues and chemicals from packaging seep into our soil and waterways, they could end up right back in our bodies — check out the website for the film Garbage! for more information.

Things to avoid and watch out for in food containers

BPA (Bisphenol A): Found in canned foods, receipts and food containers, BPA is a known endocrine disruptor. Some experts and researchers have tied BPA to elevated rates of diabetes, mammary and prostate cancers, decreased sperm count, reproductive problems, early puberty, obesity, and neurological problems.

Phalates: Found in toys, sprays, soft plastics and cosmetics. Research has suggested a link between phthalate intake and the decline in human sperm counts and male fertility, as well as the rise in testicular cancer, male genital deformities, increased risk of miscarriage, and stillbirth.

Glyme: Printed materials on packaging. These are potent reproductive and developmental toxins, shown to cause reproductive and developmental damage. They have been linked to miscarriages, thymus atrophy, bone marrow suppression and testicular degeneration, among many other problems.

It is up to you, as a consumer, to be conscious of what you are buying and what it is packaged in. You may need to either bring your own containers when getting take-out, or opt for as little packing as possible. Also, when it comes to you packing your own foods up at home, be mindful and use eco-friendly resources.

Five tips for reducing waste

1.   Skip the standard white plastic bags and buy reusable bags like RuMe.

2.   Say no to white foam containers and call ahead to use Pyrex glass dishes and Greentainers for storage.

3.   Pack lunches in Laptop Lunchboxes (not just for kids!).

4.   Get yourself a Klean Kanteen drink container for hot and cold liquids.

5.   Bring your own napkin and utensils. You can find cute, washable napkins that pack nicely into your purse at any home goods store. Those disposable white napkins usually get left in the bottom of the bag anyway!

Make this simple bean salad to bring with you all week in a sealed glass container!  Tastes great at room temperature or straight out of the fridge

Zesty three-bean salad with fresh mint

1 can each Eden canned organic black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans (you can also soak and cook all of your beans)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup or coconut nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½-1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 red radishes, small cubes
3 scallions, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup fresh mint, minced

1. Rinse and drain beans in a colander until all the residue and foam is rinsed off.

2. Strain any excess water and pour beans into a large bowl.

4. Whisk together the next five ingredients and pour over beans.

5. Then toss together with radishes and fresh herbs.

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.


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