The Best and Safest Non-toxic and Eco-friendly Dinnerware for Kids
Looking for the best and safest non-toxic eco-friendly dinnerware for your little ones? We've got you covered, as usual, taking a face and research-based approach to our assessment.
You are likely reading this article because you probably already heard all the buzz about risks associated with the use of plastics, especially in kids' products that may end up in their mouth or have contact with food they eat, like mealtime essentials. With the abundance of resources online, many of which use a language you have to be a scientist to understand, we want to share what we've learned in simple terms. While we still list the known offenders below, so you know which long name chemicals to watch out for and why, the reality is there is much we don't know yet about how some of the chemicals used in dinnerware products affect kids' health, especially when it comes to recurring long-term exposure.
Here is what it all boils down to, when it comes to kids exposure to plastics and why it's best to avoid it whenever possible. Early studies about the health effects of chemicals from plastics show that they negatively affect the following parts of our body:
- Endocrine system (the system that controls hormones, or the chemicals that regulate metabolism)
- Immune system (the system that helps keep us from getting sick)
- Reproductive systems (the male and female systems that allow us to have babies)
- Behavior and cognitive development
These health risks are worse for babies and children.
Many of us would think if a chemical is approved (in this case by FDA) then it must have been tested to be safe. The reality, however, is many chemicals were approved decades ago based on limited and sometimes antiquated testing methods. The FDA does not regularly consider the cumulative effects of chemicals exposure from various sources with impact on the same organs and systems. On top of that, FDA testing requirements haven't been revised based on the most recent scientific findings.
One of the ways to reduce exposure to all these chemicals is to stick with better alternatives at mealtime for things like plates, utensils, lunch boxes, cups, and so on.
SO WHAT ARE THE BEST ALTERNATIVES?
The good news is there are a few options that are much better than plastic and are tested to be safe and eco-friendly to use at mealtime with your little ones. With that said, some of these options are better than others. Next, we unpack a few alternatives that are commonly thought of as non-toxic and eco-friendly. Our assessment is based on the following factors: #1 - safety, but also based on #2 durability, function, #3 eco-friendliness, and #4 convenience.
Food Grade Stainless Steel
- Most highly recommended material for kids dinnerware by the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Food-grade 304 stainless steel is free of BPA, PVC, phthalates, melamine and lead, and the rest of the nasty stuff
- Completely non-breakable, most durable out of all dinnerware materials (buy it once and it can last for generations)
- Very environmentally friendly due to high durability and recyclability
- Easy clean-up (dishwasher safe)
- Cannot be used in a microwave
- Gets cold or hot easily (double-walled stainless helps mitigate this)
- Eco-friendly and sustainable
- Fairly durable (perhaps a bit less so than stainless steel)
- Non-toxic in pure form (as long as it's not treated with anything chemical-based; look for wooden items sealed with natural materials such as coconut oil, beeswax, walnut oil, carnauba wax, etc.)
- Cannot be used in a microwave
- Not dishwasher safe (wood easily absorbs water, so hand washing is recommended)
Bamboo (and other plant-based alternatives)
- Highly sustainable and environmentally friendly (bamboo is a grass that re-grows on its own without a need for replanting, doesn't require fertilizer, is biodegradable)
- Very durable (even more so than wood)
- Non-toxic in pure form, as long as it's 100% bamboo. You'd want to make sure melamine, which is a plastic component, isn't listed on the list of ingredients (so you have to do some research before buying mealtime essentials made from bamboo). Melamine is especially risky when heated in a microwave or when using to serve hot meals. Evidence suggests melamine can cause damage not only to kidneys and bladder but is also suspected to have an impact on neurological and reproductive function. In short, you and your family don't need it, neither does the planet when it's time to dispose of it.
- Dishwasher safe (being water-resistant)
- Should not be used in a microwave
- Requires research to ensure the melamine-formaldehyde resin isn't used as a binding agent, but rather a natural plant-based binding material
Food Grade Silicone
- Doesn't leak toxins into your little one's food during the heating process (comprised of "silica", which is made primarily out of sand)
- Latex, nitrosamine, phthalate, BPA, and PVC free
- Soft rubbery material makes it perfectly suited for little kids (provides good grip, is safe for kids to gnaw on during the teething stage, doesn't break, if accidentally falls or is purposely thrown on the floor just to see what happens)
- Microwave and dishwasher safe
- Lots of options in the marketplace that are not 100% food-grade silicone, using plastic fillers; therefore, research is required to ensure the product is as safe as you hope it is.
- While silicone is approved by FDA and considered to be safe, more research needs to be done, as there are some concerns around leaching during heating at high temperatures as well as when using fatty ingredients.
The bottom line, the winner based on our research is stainless steel. It is our #1 recommendation by far and the reason why we offer stainless steel dinnerware products in our portfolio. While you may pay a bit more for it, it can last for generations, making it the most durable, eco-friendly, and pocket-friendly (after you factor in not needing to replace it) option available.
Check out our selection of stainless steel dinnerware products! Also, let us know about your experience with various eco-friendly materials!