We often spend a lot of time talking about what foods to eat and not eat regarding diet for autism. However, we spend less time on how to prepare the food, cook it, and store it. You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment, but you will want pots and pans as well as storage containers from non-toxic materials.
The cooking tools and storage materials we use can be harmful, depending upon the materials they are made from. The chemicals from pots and storage containers that our food comes in contact with leaches into our food, and therefore exposes us to toxins. I’d like to talk about common cooking equipment and storage materials that are healthier, and how to avoid the toxic ones.
Cookware is often the first question people ask about. Do not use aluminum (where the cooking surface is aluminum), Teflon-coated, or copper. Especially, do not use Teflon. I know they are easy and non-stick but there have been many studies showing how toxic this material is. Even if they are new and unscratched I would not use them. Teflon is also toxic to produce. There are also newer varieties of cookware, all claiming to be non-stick and non-toxic. Because some of these are so new, I have not seen enough research to recommend them.
As with most areas of nutrition and cooking, I prefer to stick with the traditional and classic options. Cast iron and enameled cast iron are good options for cookware. Stainless steel pots and pans are also good options; however, stainless steel can contain high levels of nickel. Buy stainless steel that attracts a magnet—these are much lower in nickel. If you can find the old VisionWare by CorningWare, they are also great to cook with.
For bakeware, you can use glass such as Pyrex, ceramic stoneware such as CorningWare, and natural stoneware such as Pampered Chef. Pyrex and CorningWare are old stand-bys. The stoneware by Pampered Chef is great for gluten-free pizza crust and butternut squash fries.
Avoid storing in plastic. Most importantly, do not put hot food in plastic, and avoid putting fats in plastic such as oils, butter, or cheese. Store in glass with plastic/rubber lid, or in stainless steel. While it’s best to avoid the microwave altogether, certainly don’t microwave in any plastic containers, even if considered “microwave safe.”
Avoid plastic wrap & aluminum foil. Use wax paper for wrapping food, or store something like cheese in glass with lid. This will keep anything that need to avoid contact with air fresh. If you use aluminum foil (for wrapping a burrito for example), wrap food in wax paper first to avoid contact with aluminum, then wrap in aluminum to give it structure. You can also get natural plastic wrap alternatives such as Abeego made from hemp/cotton cloth coated in beeswax.
Avoid freezing in plastic when possible. Store frozen food in glass mason jars or Pyrex storage containers. Mason jars can be frozen—you may get an occasional broken jar at the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it’s uncommon to have the glass break. Just be sure not to fill the jar too full—allow plenty of room in the jar. If possible, don’t screw lid on all the way until completed frozen.
Since eating healthfully is such an integral part of healing and recovery, learning how to cook and store food without exposure to chemicals is important. When you prepare a meal, begin to think of not only the ingredients you use, but how to cook and store it to support good health.
Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Autism Diet Specialist, and author of Nourishing Hope for Autism. Visit: NourishingHope.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.