When early settlers sat down to give thanks with a meal, they would have enjoyed the true fruits of harvest, wild game and what we might now call whole foods. Fast forward to the deal driven, processed, canned, version of what we still try to enjoy as a time of gratitude with our families. Additives and preservatives are as common on the table as the gelatenous cranberry and high fructose corn syrup sauce, molded to the can, that my husband strangely associates with Thanksgiving. Sure, we're all busy, on a budget and not necessarily chefs. Here are a few tips on how to make this gastronomic event a bit more wholesome and sustainable.
The Environmental Working Group suggests buying organic produce whenever possible. This avoids synthetic pesticides and health concerns associated with them. If you must also use conventional produce, the EWG has a Clean 15 list
of whole foods that are less likely to pass on pesticide residue. EWG
also suggests picking organic dairy and meats to steer clear of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Katie Ries, Outreach and Marketing Director for Three Rivers Market
in Knoxville, Tennessee, suggests starting with at least one local food this year. Ries also says we can remember to cook seasonally, thus taking advantage of the best fresh picks. Three Rivers is one of many food co-ops and farm markets that support small businesses growing food sustainably in their areas. Maybe your budget could include locally grown pumpkins, squash or kale. Or perhaps you'd prefer a turkey or ham pasture raised by neighboring family farmers. Here's a guide to finding a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association
in your area.
If you are limited to typical supermarket choices, there are still ways to make your meal more wholesome. Plan ahead to take advantage of more whole foods and fewer packaged ones. Even if you're not a gourmet, boiling water and baking are things we can all do. Read the labels. Believe it or not, claims like "natural" mean very little on the front of a food package. What matters is in the fine print, where you'll often find preservatives and other additives. Consider stocking up on your own spices instead of relying on prepackaged and artificially preserved versions of savory foods.
Whether my husband still insists on one or two of his processed holiday food favorites remains to be seen. We may have to compromise for the sake of budget and harmony. But I'm in charge of buying the turkey, and he'll soon find out that we've ordered a truly natural, non-GMO, pasture raised bird via the local food co-op. Family farmers certainly need our gratitude this season, and this is our way of showing it.