Safe Food Tips for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

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Certain traditions of the Thanksgiving meal have a knack for evoking the nostalgia of family and Thanksgivings past.  For me, having that weird Ocean Spray “smooth jelly” cranberry sauce from the supermarket was a must every year when I was growing up.  I couldn’t stand the lumpy kind that my aunt made from scratch.  These days, I’m no longer the picky kid I used to be, and I now thoroughly enjoy the taste of real, homemade cranberry sauce with (gasp!) actual pieces of cranberry in it.

You may never have been a fan of Oceanspray jelly cranberry sauce, but if you grew up anytime after 1950, it’s more than likely that at least one Thanksgiving ingredient—if not many—in your holiday meals came, and still do come, from a can.

From Bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods and plastic food packaging, to the pesticide-ridden cranberries or greenbeans that reside inside those cans, the safest choice for picking the right items to make a healthy holiday feast are usually avoiding most packaged foods altogether.

Here’s our round-up of our best safe food tips to make a “green” and healthy Thanksgiving feast:

  • Avoid Canned Foods and Plastic Packaging: Even though many adults prefer homemade items, canned sauces are often a staple at Thanksgiving gatherings since, after all, it’s still the favorite among the kids at the table.   But kids are the most vulnerable to the chemicals found in cans and packaging since they are still developing.
  • BPA is now found in 92% of the US population, with 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?

  • Use Organic, Local Ingredients: Get a handy Local Foods Wheel.  Available for the San Francisco and New York Metro Areas, the Local Food Wheel is a 12-inch wheel printed on card stock, with the top wheel showing foods that are available year-round, and the bottom wheel exposing what foods are available only seasonally.
  • If you don’t have time to visit the Farmer’s Market to buy produce every week, you can sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  CSA is an easy, alternative way to get local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.  When you purchase a subscription, they deliver a box of seasonal vegetables and fruits from local farms right to your door!

  • Go Homemade: Preparing some dishes from scratch doesn’t have to mean spending long hours toiling over a hot stove.  There are simple, quick ways to make your own homemade Thanksgiving essentials like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and even pumpkin pie made from scratch (yes, with real pumpkins!).
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Ali manages the website and coordinates the online communications of CEH. She works with the communications and development staff to create messaging strategies and public education content for CEH’s supporters and online audience. A Bay Area native, Ali attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and Cultural Studies. This allowed her to live abroad in Argentina, where she studied Latin American history and learned valuable Spanish language skills. Ali is thrilled to be part of an organization that advocates for healthy communities so effectively.