Tips for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: it’s supposed to be about enjoying homemade meals and family around the dinner table. But with constant the rush of our daily lives, we inevitably run out of time in our preparations for the big meal. With all the commercial products on the market guaranteeing us stress-free, effortless holiday cooking, it’s easy to forgo the homemade and go straight for the cheaper, faster, get-it-and-go holiday meal ingredients. But the more processed these packaged items are, the more chemical additives they are likely to contain.

Many store-bought ingredients of our Thanksgiving dishes contain one particularly unhealthy food additive: MSG. MSG has been shown to lead to obesity, brain damage, headaches, strokes, tumors, and seizures. Even more alarming: small children are four times more sensitive to MSG than adults. Self-basting turkeys are advertised for their built in moist texture. But MSG additives are the real secret ingredient. Other packaged Thanksgiving foods, such as store-bought stuffing cubes and packaged gravies are often loaded with the chemical. Most canned soups, as well as packaged casserole toppings like crispy onions are “kept fresh” with MSG.

Not only do these processed foods contain chemical additives, but the packaging they come in also often contains harmful chemicals. The plastics that are used for many beverage bottles and food packaging contain BPA, a chemical variant of estrogen that disrupts our endocrine systems. BPA is now found in 92% of the US population, with its potentially harmful effects ranging from premature puberty to obesity and diabetes. Other studies have also found BPA exposures linked to cardiovascular problems and miscarriages. With all the family and friends around the Thanksgiving table, who wants to expose these precious guests to such risks?

Luckily, there are plenty of natural, alternative ways to get delicious meals on the table without a lot of stress. Some tips to keep in mind this year:

  1. When buying a Thanksgiving turkey, your best bet is look for a store that offers locally-farmed, organic birds. Unlike factory poultry farms, organic farmers give birds access to pasture, use organically-grown feed, and don’t use growth-promoting hormones or antibiotics. Local Harvest is a good online resource to find organic farmers markets and sustainable farms in your area.
  2. Avoid using processed, packaged foods. Use the natural pan drippings from your turkey basting to create the base for a natural homemade gravy.
  3. Try some creative, tasty vegetarian side-dishes for some variety. Add some spice to your regular sweet potatoes with this Fiery Sweet Potatoes recipe. Or try this quick Caramelized Corn with Fresh Mint recipe. Pesticide-laden canned cranberry sauces are also something to steer clear of this holiday season, so making a simple version of your own using organic cranberries is always a good idea.