Green This, Not That: Simple Swaps For A Healthy Thanksgiving

Healthy Thanksgiving dish
Autumn leaves

Image courtesy of Jason Devaun.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and, for many, this day symbolizes guilt-free gluttony. While merriment and raising a sustainable toast is more than encouraged, here are some simple swaps that will keep the pounds (and chemicals) off, while promoting animal welfare and a healthier, happier planet.


GREEN THIS: Look for turkeys labeled USDA organic or certified organic that meet specific requirements of organic farming. Organic turkeys may not receive antibiotics, arsenic compounds or animal byproducts, and must eat 100% organic feed. Animals must have access to the outdoors or pasture and GMO’s are prohibited. You do have a choice when shopping, so why not buy a turkey that was treated fairly? Purchase an organic turkey from a local farm or farmer’s market and familiarize yourself with these labels:

Good: “Pasture raised” a better choice as these turkeys have been raised outside on pasture rather than inside, but the term isn’t regulated.

Better: The “Certified Humane®” a highly meaningful term that indicates the turkey was treated humanely. Animals are not confined to cages or crates, poultry is not de-beaked, and animals endure minimal suffering prior to slaughter. Antibiotics are only used to treat sickness as prescribed by a vet. Animals do not have to necessarily have access to pasture.

Best: “Animal Welfare Approved” certification is granted by the Animal Welfare Institute to independently-owned family farms that raise their animals outdoors on pasture so they can perform their natural and instinctive behaviors. This label indicates:

  • Continuous outdoor area that is covered with growing vegetation and at least 4 square feet per bird
  • Beak cutting and forced molting prohibited
  • Animals’ diets cannot contain meat or animal byproducts
  • No growth hormones allowed and animals must be insensible to pain prior to slaughter
  • Animals being raised for meat can only be given antibiotics treating sickness by a vet and they must be cleared from the animal’s system prior to

Vegetarian Option: Turkeys on factory farms are deprived of the simplest of pleasures, like running, building nests, spreading their wings, raising their young, and worse, are killed when they are only 5 or 6 months old. After their beaks and toes are burned off with a hot blade, they are crammed into grimy sheds. If you can’t verify the source, opt for a non-GMO, vegan alternative.

Also, order a free Vegan Starter Kit from PETA. Just fill out the form to request a free copy or instantly download the starter kit, which is packed full of recipes, tips on making the switch!

NOT THIS: Paying more for turkeys labeled ‘hormone-free?” Save your dollars in this department because no poultry in the U.S. is allowed to receive hormones. They are in fact, all hormone-free (can you say greenwashing?). Turkeys labeled “natural,” “pastured,” and “conventional meat” do not have the same standards or inspections as USDA Organic.

  • Avoid: “Free-range” This term is regulated by government and indicates the turkey must have access to the outdoors, but it can be just a small fenced and frequency and duration aren’t specified. No on- site review of operation is required. Painful surgical procedures without pain meds are permitted.


GREEN THIS: Avoid nonstick cookware. Cook with: cast iron, food-grade stainless steel or ceramic for cooking and glass, earthenware or cast iron for baking to avoid aluminum and perfluorchemical (PFC) exposure.

NOT THIS: Did you know that PFCs (PFOA and PTFE) — are used in the manufacturing of Teflon and in other coated items. Teflon and other nonstick pans begin to break down and release toxins into the air at a temperature of only 446° F. They are a likely carcinogen, as they have been shown to cause cancer in animal studies.


Vegan Nine Grain Whole Wheat Bread

Image courtesy of Mattie Hagedorn.

GREEN THIS: Buy 100% Whole Grain and 100% Whole Wheat. Eat the correct type of carbohydrates. A “good carb” contains “whole-grain” or “stone-ground” flour. Don’t look for this on the outside of the package as they can stretch the truth here. Look for these words near the top of the ingredient list. These contain the entire grain kernel, hence more nutrients. Also, choose USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified items.

NOT THIS: Remember just “wheat flour,” and “unbleached wheat flour” are not the whole grain. Avoid the word enriched. It sounds nice, but it ain’t! Enriched means they stripped the grain from everything good and healthy, including fiber and B vitamins, then attempted to add the vitamins back in, except the form they add back in is inferior and not absorbed as well by the body.


GREEN THIS: Choose USDA Organic produce which has a 5-digit PLU (Price Look Up) code starting with #9 and on-GMO Project Verified. Avoid genetically modified foods; a 5-digit PLU code starting with #8. High risk GMO crops include soy, corn, alfalfa and canola. If your budget is tight, stick with conventionally grown produce (a 4-digit PLU number indicates pesticides) that is on the list of the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen; produce found lowest in pesticide residue. The list for 2015 includes: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, onions, papayas, pineapple, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and sweet peas.

NOT THIS: Avoid the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of produce (fruits and veggies found with the highest levels of pesticide residue), or purchase only organic options for these: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, potatoes, hot peppers, kale/collard greens.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate? Let me know below and remember this holiday – toast to your health – not overindulgence.

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Lisa Beres
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Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."
Lisa Beres
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