(Organic Slant) Celebrate Thanksgiving holiday without the traditional genetically altered foods. Here are tips and suggestions for consumers on how to remove unwanted GMOs from their holiday feasts.
Identifying GMO-laden products will help the consumer celebrate a Non-GMO Thanksgiving.
The good news is that it is easy to get the GMOs out of Thanksgiving by purchasing foods that are certified non-GMO or organic. You can find many non-GMO and organic options at your local co-op or farmers market, at Whole Foods, and increasingly, at mainstream grocery stores. Using ingredients that are organic and non-GMO will also create tastier foods at the table. So, whether you are hosting a Thanksgiving meal, or bringing a dish to share, make sure to leave the GMOs out!
The following chart will help you identify the GMOs in popular holiday foods, and non-GMO alternatives. This is only a partial list. In particular, keep a look out for foods from companies that opposed Prop 37, such as Campbell’s, Coke, General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, Pepsi, Hershey, Unilever (full list here). Remember, if you buy foods that have corn, soy, or sugar in the ingredient list, and they are not certified non-GMO or organic, then you could be eating genetically engineered ingredients!
Genetically modified pie crust, anyone?
America is talking about genetically modified (GM or GMO) food more and more now that we are becoming more aware of what is in our food — and also because the state of California recently voted on whether to require labeling food that contains GM ingredients. That measure (Proposition 37) didn’t pass, but 4.6 million people in the state did vote in favor of labeling. Almost half of the other states are considering labeling, and several nations have restrictions on GM food.
So many typical Thanksgiving foods likely contain genetically modified ingredients! Without labeling, we can’t know for sure, unfortunately. But when you look at the companies making these foods and realize they donated big bucks to defeat labeling in California — that kind of makes these foods suspect. It also helps to know which ingredients are typically genetically modified.
If you are looking to stay away from GM food — or you simply don’t want to give your business to food companies that don’t want to label what’s in the food they make — then take a look at these common Thanksgiving foods and consider the alternatives.
Problem: I wanted to make a salad and include some dried cranberries. Naturally, I looked at Craisins.
Craisins are made by Ocean Spray, which donated more than $60,000 to defeat GM labeling
But Craisins are sweetened with sugar, and unless a label specifies “cane sugar,” the source could be from sugar beets, which are usually genetically modified.
Craisins contain sugar, which is probably made from GM sugar beets
Alternative: I know I can get dehydrated cranberries not made by Ocean Spray, which donated money to defeat Prop 37, at another store near me, and that’s what I might do instead to spruce up my salad.
Healthier alternative, instead try organic cranberries by Earthbound Farm, they add a sweet touch to the salad.
Problem: Gravy on the mashed potatoes. Gravy is worth the time spent fixing it yourself. It is simple and easy to make. Don't buy a jar of gravy to warm up (or microwave even worse) and set out for everyone at Thanksgiving.
Most prepared gravy likely has GM ingredients
But when you look at the ingredients on those jars, I can't believe anyone would feed this goo to their family with genetically modified and junk ingredients. And on top of that it is microwavable.
Package of gravy mix:
Prepared gravy and gravy mixes may contain GM ingredients, not to mention other junk ingredients
Popular mixes contains corn and soy that are probably genetically modified, because most corn and soy grown is GM. Another of the top ingredients is monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is an excitotoxin. Farther down the list, you see yeast extract, which contains hidden MSG. You get a double dose!
Alternative: Make my own (gluten-free) gravy. It’s really not that hard.
Speaking of gravy and potatoes, Make your own with real potatoes. Alot of people buy packaged potato mixes, though, like this one:
Betty Crocker potatoes. Its parent company, General Mills, paid more than $500,000 to fight GM labeling
Problem: Potato mixes use potatoes but then add a bunch of junk you wouldn’t if you were making them yourself. Would you add corn and soy (that are most likely genetically modified, as most of those crops grown here are), artificial flavors and artificial colors to mashed potatoes? Probably not.
Potato mix contains junk ingredients
Alternative: Make your own mashed potatoes. Don't peel the potatoes (adds nutrients), boil them until they’re soft, then use a hand mixer or masher to whip them into a paste. Add some butter, salt and pepper — maybe a little milk — and your mashed potatoes will be great.
Another popular side dish at Thanksgiving is stuffing, or dressing. (It’s called stuffing if you put it inside the turkey while it cooks, or dressing if you cook it outside of the turkey.)
Stuffing mixes contain unhealthy ingredients. Kraft gave more than $34,000 to fight labeling food that contains GM ingredients.
Everyone seems to like this because it requires less work. But read the ingredients it contains enriched flour, hydrogenated oils, and BHT for preservative.
Other stuffing mixes aren’t great, either:
Another product with suspected GM ingredients
Sometimes the ingredients are printed so small that they’re hard to read. This stuffing mix contains sugar, soy, cottonseed oil and corn — all top genetically modified crops. Plus, it likely contains MSG and artificial color.
Alternative: Make your own dressing. Find an all-natural bread (you could even do this with gluten-free bread), cut it into cubes and toast it lightly in the oven on a baking sheet. Add your own diced onion, celery, broth, real herbs and spices (not MSG), maybe some mushrooms if you like them. Don’t buy bags of bread cubes for stuffing, because those almost always contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is also likely made from GM corn.
The onions that go on top of the ubiquitous green bean casserole are up to no good
Green Bean Casserole
Problem: Many people are a fan of this, and many people aren’t. These beans seem to turn up throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving. But the traditional way to make this casserole isn’t healthy. You take perfectly fine, healthy beans and mix suspect ingredients with them.
Usually, you mix the green beans with a can of soup.
Campbell's paid more than $179,000 to fight GM labeling
But the soup contains corn, soy, canola and cottonseed oil, and sugar (all most likely genetically modified because most of these crops are). Then it adds yeast extract (hidden MSG, an excitotoxin), more glutamate and crazy-sounding chemical ingredients we would never cook with at home.
Canned soups can contain a host of junk ingredients.
Then the infamous green bean casserole is topped with crunchy onions.
The onions contain soy and sugar, two of the most commonly genetically modified crops.
Onion ingredients include likely genetically modified crops
Alternative: Make steamed green beans. Cook them in broth for added flavor, and/or add onion and almonds to dress them up.
After dinner, it’s traditional to serve pie for Thanksgiving. Most pies are made with a crust. But if you buy that crust, like I used to, you could be serving more than what you might guess.
General Mills, donated more than $500,000 to keep labeling off GM food
Problem: Prepared pie crusts like this common one contain not one, but two, different kinds of preservatives that are made with petroleum (BHA and BHT). It also has artificial food dye, which is also made from petroleum. (And people wonder why they have indigestion and feel so sluggish after a Thanksgiving meal!)
This pie crust comes with three different ingredients made from petroleum
And this pie crust, which you don’t even have to bake:
Pie crust with suspected GM ingredients
It contains soy, sugar and corn, all of which are top GM crops.
Also, but crusts contain salt. Common table salt may be manufactured with corn, which is usually GM. Morton Salt paid more than $14,000 in the campaign against labeling genetically modified food.
When it comes to making your own pumpkin pie, I found the canned pumpkin also was suspect.
Libby's is owned by Nestle, which gave more than $1 Million to keep GM labels from consumers
It’s made by Nestle, which paid a whopping $1 Million-plus to fight Proposition 37 in California. That’s one food company that really doesn’t want consumers to be able to tell if what they are eating is made with genetically modified ingredients!
Alternative: Make your own pie crust. Buy pumpkin labeled as organic. Organic foods by law aren’t supposed to be genetically modified in order to labeled as organic.
It’s too bad that the government agencies that are supposed to protect us as citizens allow junk ingredients (petroleum?) in our food and think it’s OK for food companies to NOT have to tell us if something is genetically modified. Polls show most people DO want to know what’s in their food. Unless a label says otherwise, though — and unless a company didn’t pay to fight GM labeling (I got my donation amount from this source and other places) — I don’t feel I can trust these companies.
I don’t want to give my business to brands that don’t want me to know what’s in my food.
If you want to stay away from GM (or just plain unhealthy) foods at Thanksgiving or any meal, consider that the top GM crops in America are corn, soy, sugar (made from sugar beets — cane sugar seems to be OK), cottonseed and canola ingredients. They are in a lot of prepared/processed foods because they are cheap. Read labels and give your family good food with good ingredients.
**A note about cooking with broth: Most store-bought broths contain yeast extract, a hidden source of MSG. It’s best to make your own. Read salt labels, or buy natural sea salt.**
Some Common Thanksgiving Foods That May Contain GMOs, and non-GMO and Organic Alternatives
|Caution: Likely contains GMOs! Unless it is certified non-GMO or Organic, products often contain GMOs
||Non-GMO! Look for non-GMO and organic certified products.
|Soups (e.g., Campbell’s Tomato Soup)
||Organic soups (Amy’s, Pacific, and many other brands available)
|Cooking Oils –including corn and canola in particular (e.g., Wesson Canola Oil)
Organic Cooking Oil (Nutiva, Dr. Bronner, Whole Foods Organic, and many other brands available)
|Canned Yams (e.g., Bruce’s Yams)
Use fresh organic yams
|Chocolate (e.g., Hershey Milk Chocolate)
Organic chocolate (Equal Exchange, Theo, and many other brands available, many are Fair Trade as well)
|Crackers (e.g., Pepperidge Farm Crackers)
Organic crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers, Nature’s Path, and many other brands available), or toast organic bread and cut into squares.
|Dressing (e.g., Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing)
Organic dressings (Annie’s, many brands available), or make your own dressing using organic oils, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.
|Rice mixes (e.g., Rice a Roni chicken flavored rice)
Organic rice (Lundberg, and many other brands available). If you are in a rush, use organic couscous.
|Cranberry Sauces (e.g., Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce)
Buy organic cranberries and use organic and fair trade sugar (e.g., Wholesome Sweeteners) to sweeten. Or purchase organic jellied cranberry (Tree of Life, Grown Right and several other brands available) if you are in a hurry.
|Stuffing (e.g., Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing , Cornbread)
Make your own stuffing with organic bread. Or purchase organic stuffing mix (Arrowhead Mills and several other brands available)
Here is a link to PURCHASE Fresh Certified Organic Thanksgiving Turkeys