Every year, the spirit of Thanksgiving always makes me especially grateful for my family’s health. So no matter how busy the holiday can be, I try to make our Thanksgiving dinner as healthy as possible, without ruining any fun of the tradtion-filled day.
Most tips on how to make Thanksgiving healthier are centered around nutrition, lowering fat content and restraining from overindulgence. While those are important to consider, below are tips that will help you serve an even healthier, “cleaner” (i.e., meals with fewer unwanted chemicals) Thanksgiving dinner.
Choose a heritage and/or an organic turkey. While I admit that I don’t always buy antibiotic and hormone-free poultry throughout the year, I find the holiday to be a great reason to splurge on a healthier bird. According to the National Resources Defense Council’s page on turkeys, heritage turkeys are the best choice for health; they are genetically diverse, contain no hormones or antibiotics, and roam freely on pasture, eating the diet that is natural for them. Another good option is an organic turkey, which will contain no hormones or antibiotics, will have eaten a diet of organic feed and have had some access to the outdoors.
Skips the cans. Tin cans are often lined with BPA or other harmful chemicals, which can leach into the food inside. On top of that, the ingredients used in processed food are usually far from healthy, so it’s helpful to consider alternatives. If buying fresh ingredients isn’t an option, consider the way your food is packaged – avoid tin cans and frozen boxes because of the chemicals used in packaging, and choose glass jarred or frozen bagged varieties if they are available.
Make you’re own! : Easy Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Pie Puree Recipes
Ideally, the healthiest meals and side dishes are made from scratch – and there are many easy recipes available! Cranberry sauce is extremely fast and easy to make (and you can make it days before Thanksgiving;) here is my favorite cranberry sauce recipe from the Pioneer Woman, which uses maple syrup instead of refined white sugar.
Although pumpkins take a while to roast in the oven, making pumpkin puree for pie is incredibly easy, and the puree can be prepared and stored days before it’s needed. To make the puree, cut the top off of a sugar pie pumpkin, and scoop out the insides. Cut the pie into four pieces, and place (skin down) on a baking sheet. Add some olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh of the pumpkin can be easily pierced with a fork. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh into a food processor (blender, bowl with emulsifier, etc) and puree. Voila – your pumpkin puree is ready!
Use healthy cookware. Non-stick cookware can release dangerous chemicals (some fumes from cookware have even been deadly to birds!) when scratched or heated to a high enough temperature. Cast iron, glass bakeware and stainless steel are all healthier alternatives. For more information on considerations of cookware, visit our post on non-stick pans.
Buy organic varieties of the most pesticide-laden produce. If you are going to buy fresh produce for your Thanksgiving dinner, consider buying the organic varieties of produce treated with the highest amount of pesticides. Every year, the EWG lists the produce that tests the highest for pesticides (The Dirty Dozen,) as well as the produce that is safe to buy conventionally (The Clean Fifteen). Use their guides when making your Thanksgiving grocery list! Take a look at the table below, and visit EWG’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen guide for more information.
Remember, no matter how small the change, all choices made with health in mind are meaningful. Be proud of whatever healthy choices you make, and enjoy every minute of your Thanksgiving day!