In 1621 the Wampanoag Indians and the Plymouth settlers celebrated a giant feast during the autumn harvest. This was a meal of community, neighborhood, and acceptance of one another, and was also a way to thank the Native Americans for teaching the Pilgrims how to utilize and farm the land that they’d sailed up to a few months earlier. This type of celebration was common throughout the world, as the autumn harvest was often a time for people to have a large community meal and give thanks to their gods for providing for them.
Fast forward to now, and we continue to celebrate this autumn meal as the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s become a holiday focused on family, good food, and overall gratitude. Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many americans due to the traditional turkey/potatoes/pies menu that everybody loves and waits for all year long. Many modern americans are interested in also having a Thanksgiving celebration that is healthy, environmentally friendly, and allergy friendly so that everyone can enjoy it. Here are a few ways you can make your Thanksgiving meal more environmentally friendly.
1. Buy Organic and Non-GMO. An organic, local, free range turkey will cost a bit more, but your guests will appreciate the extra care you put into making sure the main dish is healthy and delicious. Cook from scratch to avoid GMO’s that will be hiding in processed side dishes and desserts.
2. Go Plant-Based. Reducing your carbon footprint is only one benefit of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Skip the turkey all together and prepare a veggie feast for your Thanksgiving dinner.
3. Avoid Travel. Yes, it’s awesome to get together with out of town family and friends for the holiday, but maybe skip driving in favor of a greener method of transportation like a train. Or, celebrate with your local friends and family instead of traveling out of town this year.
With the rise in food allergies it is important to know if your potential Thanksgiving guests have any special dietary needs, and to be accommodating to them. 15 million Americans have one or more food allergies, there is a very good chance that some of the people you know have one. If there are children coming over for dinner, know that they are much more likely to have food allergies. One in every 13 children is affected. There are a variety of foods that that people can be allergic too, but there are 8 major food allergens that you should be aware of (these are called the Top 8):
It’s a good idea to check in with your guests beforehand to find out if they have any food allergies, then you can adjust your menu to suit them. Learn about how to prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen so that you don’t accidentally expose anyone to allergens, and invite your guests to cook with you so they can feel secure that the food is safe for them to eat.
To be extra safe, just keep all of these things out of your Thanksgiving meal. It might sound difficult, but there are so many tips and recipes on the web to help you create allergy safe Thanksgiving dishes. Here are just a few substitutions to consider.
- Make your stuffing from gluten free bread.
- Use non-GMO cornstarch to thicken your gravy instead of wheat flour.
- Don’t top your sweet potato casserole with nuts.
- Make mashed potatoes with soy/dairy free margarine and gluten free broth instead of milk and butter.
- Fresh vegetables are always a good choice for those with food allergies. So be sure that your menu includes many of them! Steam or cook without butter or questionable oils for the healthiest and safest option
These tips for a healthy, eco-friendly, and allergy-free Thanksgiving should have you well on your way to a feast that is reminiscent of the first Thanksgiving in that you can give thanks for all that you have and celebrate community with those that you love.
Cindy Gordon is a foodie who loves to blog about gluten free vegetarian/vegan recipes on her website Vegetarian Mamma. Cindy's family is dedicated to finding/creating recipes and products that fit their families dietary needs. Cindy resides in Ohio with her husband and two boys (born '07 & '10). She enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors, gardening, wine and cooking!