Healthful Apps and The Harm of Plastic (March 2019 Focus on Food Article)

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Hello Wellness Warriors!

I wanted to honor our National Nutrition Month and all of our very important Registered Dietitians who we celebrated on RD day (and hopefully all days). Because RD’s are legitimate nutrition experts, I’m including a list of somewhat new healthful (not just nutrition) apps from my fellow RD friends that might be useful; so keep this article handy! In addition, I’m touching on sustainability and health regarding plastic usage with our food and beverages. More and more we are learning that plastic may not be the wisest choice for our planet and our precious bodies. Let’s find out why and what alternatives we can use.

plastics safety
Know the Code:  

On the bottom of plastic food storage containers, you’ll find a tiny triangle with a number (resin identification code) ranging from 1 to 7. This number indicates what the plastic is made of. In general, the safest choices for food use are numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding plastic containers with codes 3, 6 and 7. Plastic number 3 contains vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), 6 has polystyrene and 7 can contain various plastics, such as Bisphenol-A (BPA).

Cracking Down the Recycling Codes:

Plastic #1: Polyethylene Tereohthalate (PET or PETE)
Common Uses: 2-liter soda bottles, cooking oil bottles, peanut butter jars, detergent bottles. Most common for single-use bottled beverages, such as water or juice. Low risk of leaching and health hazards unless used more than once.

Plastic #2: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Common Uses: Detergent bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, butter and yogurt tubs. Lowest risk of leaching, least toxic, no known health hazards.

Plastic #3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Common Uses: Plastic pipes, outdoor furniture, shrink-wrap, water bottles, salad dressing bottles, window cleaner and liquid detergent containers. Contains chlorine, can release dangerous dioxins and phthalates. Never burn PVC plastic, as burning will release toxins.

Plastic #4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Common Uses: Dry-cleaning bags, produce and grocery bags, trash can liners, food storage containers, most plastic wraps. No known health hazards.

Plastic #5: Polypropylene (PP)
Common Uses: Bottle caps, drinking straws, some baby bottles. Has a higher melting point so is used for containers that come in contact with hot liquid. No known health hazards.

Plastic #6: Polystyrene (PS)
Common Uses: Packaging pellets or “Styrofoam peanuts,” disposable cups, plates and plastic tableware, meat trays, carryout containers, egg cartons. Can leach toxins into foods.

Plastic #7: Other
Common Uses: 5-gallon water bottles, clear plastic sippy cups, certain food and beverage containers, some Tupperware, some clear plastic cutlery, clear baby bottles, food can linings. Usually contains polycarbonate product (BPA).

Keep It Cool

Though polycarbonate plastic is strong and long-lasting, it can break down over time from high temperatures and overuse. Never microwave foods in plastic food containers, including margarine tubs and restaurant carryout containers. Plastic containers from packaged microwavable meals shouldn’t be reused after their initial use; they’re safely designed for one-time-use only. Putting plastic containers in the dishwasher should also be avoided.

What Else Can You Do to Stay Safe?
  • Purchase water bottles and other hard plastics labeled “BPA-free” if you do choose plastic (though not the number one choice, k?)
  • Store and reheat food in glass or ceramic containers free of metallic paint.
  • Purchase eggs that are sold in pressed cardboard or paper cartons.
  • Use cling or plastic wrap only for food storage and not for reheating. Avoid storing fatty foods, like meat or cheese, in cling or plastic wrap, as these foods are the most likely to absorb chemicals from the wrap.
  • Beware of cling wraps labeled “microwave safe.” Instead, use waxed paper or a paper towel to cover foods.
  • Before eating plastic-wrapped deli foods, slice off a thin layer where the food came in contact with the plastic.
  • Invest in a safe, reusable water bottle to limit chemical exposure and reduce landfill waste at the same time!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. only recycled about 9 percent of plastic containers and packaging in 2015. Scary! This can contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, impacting the health of the environment.

The Bottom Line
food containers 2food containersfood containers 3

Regarding plastic food safety, pick plastic food containers wisely and limit their use to cold food storage. Choose glass or stainless steel containers for cold or hot foods. Since both can be cleaned and reused, they’re ideal for home food storage, too.

Healthful Apps:

healthful apps
  1. DiabetesThe Dario app is a personal diabetes management tool for tracking blood glucose levels in real-time.
  2. Fitness: Studio SWEAT onDemand has the best at home Spinning, TRX, Boot Camps, Stretch & Restore, Ab & Core, HIIT Training, Kettlebells, and more. The most popular class – Spin Sculpt, which combines calorie torching Spinning with full body toning and strengthening. Aaptiv delivers music (only) driven workouts on demand for people at all fitness levels.
  3. Meditation: Insight Timer offers more than 12,000 free and searchable guided meditations for mindful eating, self-love and compassion, sleeping quality, anxiety, stress and depression, and more.
  4. Logging Food: Bitesnap uses artificial intelligence to log meals and track calories based on a photo the user would take.
  5. Quickly Count CaloriesMyFitnessPal has an impressive built-in food library. You can scan the food or search in the library which it will most likely have. I have used this one the most.
  6. To Make Healthy Choices on the Go:  Food Tripping tells you about restaurants, health food stores, farmer’s markets, and coffee shops.
  7. Understanding Nutrition LabelsFooducate lets you scan nutrition labels for a quick assessment of how healthy something really is.
  8. Dietary Restrictions: Ingredient1 quickly identifies products within your diet plan. Just apply a filter for your specific allergy (gluten, soy, dairy, etc.) and the app will locate foods in nearby stores that meet those requirements.
  9. Healthy ShoppingEWG’s Food Scores has a database of 80,000 products (not just food!) rated on a scale of 1-10 based on 3 categories: nutrition, ingredients, and processing levels. The closer the score is to 1 the better you can feel about putting that product in your cart.

Lots more but I will stop there for now. 🙂

Happy Spring!

Miriam
Studio SWEAT Dietitian

Resources:

  1. Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a Brooklyn-based culinary nutritionist, writer and media personality.
  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics  https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/refrigerate/how-to-use-plastic-food-storage-containers
  3. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 2008.
  4. https://wellnessmama.com/23757/plastic-dangers/
  5. https://www.pehsu.net/_Library/facts/bpapatients_factsheet03-2014.pdf
  6. TheDailyGreen.com 2008; Lafee 2008.
  7. https://www.health.com/nutrition/best-nutrition-apps
  8. Food and Nutrition Magazine https://foodandnutrition.org/tag/apps/
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