by Jamie Landa, Food Campaigns Fellow
From travel arrangements to meal planning, preparing for Thanksgiving can be stressful. With so much going on, we want to help make it easier to identify which foods to put on your table for an environmentally sound and healthful Thanksgiving feast. By following these five simple steps, you can ensure you are feeding the highest quality food to your loved ones and using your dollars to vote for sustainable growing and sourcing.
- Buy Organic
In order for a product to be certified organic, it must not be produced using genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This means that if the potatoes or squash you’re cooking with this Thanksgiving are certified USDA Organic, then they were not grown from genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Any product that is certified organic does not use GMO ingredients.
- Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Label
Some products are not certified organic, but still have gone through a certification process that ensures they do not exceed a threshold level of GMO ingredients. The Non GMO Project is a third party verification for non-GMO products that consumers can trust. Do be wary of products that make non-GMO claims that are not verified.
- Avoid conventional soy, corn, cottonseed, canola oil, alfalfa, sugar beets, milk, and aspartame
When you do not have the option to buy organic or non-GMO verified, there are certain ingredients that are more likely to be made with GMO’s than others. Products containing soy, corn, cottonseed, canola oil, alfalfa, sugar beets, milk, and aspartame are almost certain to have been produced using GMO’s if they lack a certification indicating otherwise. Substitutions can often be made for these ingredients. For instance, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil can be used in place of oils like canola oil and soybean oil. Also, organic soy milk and coconut milk are great substitutes for milk made from dairy, which usually comes from cows fed GMO feed in inhumane conditions.
- Shop at the farmers’ market
Another great way to avoid using conventional animal products, which are usually raised in poor conditions and fed GMOs, is to shop at your local farmers’ market. You can find a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner that had a good life eating a nutritious diet. At the market, you can speak to the farmers in your area and have a conversation about what their practices are regarding sustainability and animal stewardship. The farmers’ market is also a great place to find fresh, local vegetables which may not be certified organic but are grown using organic methods free of harsh chemicals and GMO’s. By going to the farmers’ market, you can support your local economy while feeding your family and friends the freshest and best-tasting ingredients possible.
- Choose brands wisely
When it comes to GMO’s, not all brands create their products equally. Some of the foods traditionally seen as integral to a Thanksgiving dinner unfortunately contain GMO’s. Luckily, there are even tastier alternatives. For example, Land O’ Lakes butter is produced by Dean Foods which raises its cows on GE corn, soy, alfalfa, cottonseed, and/or sugar beets. You can ask them to stop doing so here. In the meantime, Straus Creamery, Organic Valley, and other dairy producers do not use GMO’s. There are also a variety of vegan options, like Miyoko's and Kite Hill, which are great non-dairy and non-GMO alternatives. Many traditional Thanksgiving dishes use Campbell’s soups as a base. Campbell’s has made great strides in ditching GMO’s; however, many of its popular soups still use GMO ingredients like vegetable oil and milk. Campbell’s fortunately has a wonderful line of organic soups that includes flavors like Chicken Noodle and Creamy Butternut Squash. Amy’s Kitchen has a wonderful selection of all organic soups.
Some brands that are ideal for your Thanksgiving needs (and the planet’s) are Nutiva, which has line of ecologically sourced cooking oils; and Arrowhead Mills, which sells a delicious organic stuffing mix. For dessert, Wholesome! has an array of organic and fair trade sweeteners including cane sugar and stevia that are perfect for baking.
However hectic your Thanksgiving plans are this year, one thing that can be simple are the ingredients in your food. By following these guidelines, you can keep unnatural GMO’s out of your kitchen and feel pride in your shopping choices. After all, a health planet and people is something to be thankful for.