Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays – there is something so special about the sense of community, thankfulness, family tradition, and overall togetherness it brings each year.
It’s also a perfect day to teach and influence your family to eat less processed food and make better choices at the grocery store. I know it’s tricky messing with handed down time honored traditions but using canned mushroom soup that is full of GMOs and MSG to make grandmother’s green bean casserole recipe just has to stop.
42% of us will be obese by 2030, our children are expected to have a shorter life span than us and 41% of us are going to inevitably get cancer. This doesn’t have to happen. We can alter this trajectory if we spread as much information about the chemicals in food as possible – specifically the chemicals that can be directly linked to obesity and cancer and that are slowly poisoning us and making us suffer as a society.
This is why I think it is absolutely critical to detail out the ingredients in popular holiday meal products that are on sale and lining conventional grocery stores all over the country right now.
Let’s talk turkey…. choosing a conventional turkey is a bad idea because it’s pumped full of preservatives, natural flavors and antibiotics.
Manufactured natural flavor that is often found in conventional turkey, processed foods and other meat products is contributing to what David Kessler (former head of the FDA) calls a “food carnival” in your mouth. This makes it difficult to stop eating or drinking because the flavors they have synthesized trick your mind into wanting more and more. Butterball and other food companies use this natural flavoring to just give you the best 1 millionth part of the taste so we only want more of that product, which in turns fills their pockets. When companies use manufactured flavor, they literally are “hijacking” your taste buds one-by-one.
Natural flavor, unfortunately, is not the worst consequence of choosing a conventional turkey – 83% of farms that raise turkeys in the United States likely use antibiotics in the feed to make the turkey grow bigger and prevent them from getting sick in terrible living conditions. When I met General Wesley Clark who is a retired general from the US Army – he expressed to me that the use of antibiotics in the food supply concerned him the most out of any food related issue and we as a nation needed to address the threat of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Factory farms use 80% of the nations antibiotics and it is being leached into our soil, water and air – we are being exposed to them at an alarming rate causing anti-biotic resistant infections that should worry all of us, not just the General.
Turkey Tip: Order a turkey in advance that hasn’t been fed antibiotics from your local farmers market or natural grocery store. There are some mail order options available if you can’t find one near you. Check all the ingredients in the turkey before you buy. I love Alton Brown’s recipe, I make it every year and it goes perfect with my yummy homemade cranberry sauce too.
The amount of ingredients in popular stuffing brands like “Pepperidge Farm” and “Kraft’s Stove top” should alone trigger an alarm signal in your brain. They both are made with cheap white flour, transfat, nasty preservatives and high fructose corn syrup, a.k.a. “HFCS”. Studies show HFCS causes significantly more weight gain in people when compared to the consumption of conventional sugar and is linked to the increase in obesity.
Sodium Bisulfite, BHA and many of the other preservatives that are found in Betty Crocker’s Creamy Butter Potatoes, Hungry Jack’s Mashed Potatoes are preservatives that no one should be consuming. BHA for example, is linked to cancer, fertility issues and kidney problems and is considered a carcinogen by U.S. Health and Human Services, yet the FDA still allows it in our food.
Mash Potato Tip – Try this homemade recipe for mash potatoes that “sneaks” in a vegetable serving using cauliflower from Vanessa at The Chic Life.
The amount of Monosodium Glutamate “MSG” that can end up in your food is not regulated by the FDA and soup manufacturers like Campbell’s know this. When rats were given MSG laden food they ate more of it, linking this “flavor enhancer” to obesity. MSG is also an excitotoxin that, in some cases, can excite brain cells to death and cause adverse reactions in some people including “skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression and even seizures.” This list of hidden MSG names is helpful in understanding the various names for MSG so you can look for it on the label and avoid it.
Green Bean Casserole Tip: Try this homemade version of condensed mushroom soup by Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food to make your casserole MSG free.
Trans fats are commonly found in many of the foods listed here – like in the Jiffy Corn Bread and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Trans fat has been shown to be deadly even in small amounts. “A 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat can create a 23% higher risk of heart disease.” 40 calories is a mere 2% of a typical 2000 calorie per day diet – and could easily be the amount of trans fat found in many of these products. Can you imagine how much transfat you would be consuming eating all these products in one day at one meal and then the left overs for days later? Sheesh!
Corn Bread Tip: Start from scratch – get 100% organic corn meal to avoid GMOs and try my organic vegan corn bread recipe here instead.
I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw there was artificial food coloring in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Pie Crust and Marshmallows! The most widely used dyes are contaminated with known carcinogens, linked to cancer and known to cause hyperactivity in children. Also please note the “caramel coloring” found in McCormick’s gravy mix that sounds natural, is anything but! Caramel color is often manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds that are also linked to cancer.
All of these popular holiday products have genetically modified organisms a.k.a. “GMOs.” Yes, every single one of them! GMOs can even be hidden in the corn/soy feed given to the Butterball conventional turkeys or the citric acid used in Pillsbury Pie Crust. GMO’s are in 90% of processed food and you should make it a point to eliminate them entirely from your kitchen. No long term human health studies have been conducted, however many of the animals studies conducted have produced horrifying results. A recent controversial French Study revealed that rats fed GMOs during the course of their lifetime and exposed to the pesticide “Round Up” developed tumors all over their bodies and in their internal organs. There has been so much outrage about the results that Russia banned all GMO imports into their country. Additionally, GMOs have been linked to toxicity, allergic reactions and fertility issues. Mass consumption of GMOs pose a serious threat to our health – a threat I believe no one should be taking.
Dessert Tips: Try this decadent Grain Free Pumpkin Pie recipe from Carrie at Deliciously Organic and my Pumpkin Ice Cream Cake recipe. Instead of marshmallows on top of sweet potato casserole – try candied pecans and/or homemade meringue. “Truwhip” is a product you can buy to replace chemical filled Cool Whip – however it is still very processed, so I recommend making this coconut whipped cream from Angela at Oh She Glows instead.
A few closing thoughts…
If you are going to cook – please avoid all these products and ingredients in your recipes – it’s not too late to take back items you may have already purchased. Check the ingredients on all the products that you buy – especially for hidden GMOs that can be in just about everything and in every store – even Whole Foods.
If you are going to someone’s house for thanksgiving – share this information with them. I know the thought of this may initially seem rude – but so is sitting back and watching the food industry continue to poison us, our friends and our families. Your power and influence is greater than you think – please use it to spread the word, it’s the only way we are going to end the corruption of our food supply.
Also, consider boycotting these brands and other brands that continue to use these harmful ingredients all together – I have personally done so and boy does it feel good!
Happy Thanksgiving to You and Your Family,