Your Complete Guide to Preparing Clean, Sustainable Holiday Meals

A Wasteful Holiday Season

So we’ve arrived here once again; to the thirty-some days between Thanksgiving and New Years where we all celebrate, family, food and gift giving. .

This also happens to be the season of toxic waste, unfortunately. Many holiday tables will include things like Butterball turkeys, stovetop stuffing and candied sweet potatoes. And much of the leftovers will end up in the trash.

That means that not only will our bodies be burdened by the toxin overload; but so will our landfills, oceans and atmosphere.

Last year, nearly 200 million pounds of turkey were disposed of.

But we can do better. Here are healthy substitutes for all of your favorites that are more real and less chemical. I also offer you ideas for using up those leftovers in ways that will satisfy. This is your complete guide to preparing clean, sustainable holiday meals for your family.

The Turkey

Free-range turkeys are key to preparing clean, sustainable holiday meals

It’s the centerpiece of most of these gatherings, but how many of us really know the story behind how that turkey got there? It ain’t pretty.

For conventional turkeys raised on factory farms at least, the journey to get to that Thanksgiving table is one of misery and torture. I’m going to refrain from posting one of those heart-wrenching videos of turkey cruelty on here, but they’re easy enough to find.

For popular Butterball and others out there, profit trumps humanity; so do you really want that as the symbol of your heart-filled gathering?

Add to this the fact that these turkeys are a toxic nightmare. Butterball injects its frozen turkeys with a liquid to “keep the turkey moist and help prevent it from drying out during cooking, and for flavor.”

Crowded conditions lead to diseases, overuse of antibiotics and then this results in antimicrobial drug resistance. Their gmo feed often contains high levels of arsenic that ends up in the turkey meat as well as in the soil.

Related Post:

Grass-fed & Local

Let’s be real here, not all of us can refrain from eating turkey, especially when it is such a huge traditional piece of our celebrations. I know I, myself, look forward to that part of the meal the most. That doesn’t mean my turkey has to be toxic and unsustainable. That’s where local family farms come in.

Find out where your nearest local pasture-raised turkey can be found. You may already have a relationship with your CSA or a farmers’ market vendor. You can also find a USDA Organic turkey in many grocery stores now.

Vegan alternatives

If you are strictly vegan, there is no need to fret about a main dish. There is no reason to resort to a Tofurky–unless you are a fan. Here are some tasty alternatives for you to try instead if that’s not your thing:

Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls with Cranberry Pear Sauce

Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip & Potato Mash

Mushroom Lentil Loaf

The Stuffing/Dressing

Stuffing/Dressing Comes in All Variations

Instant stovetop boxed stuffings have been a staple in American kitchens for decades. Unfortunately, they are really nothing more than an artificial turkey filler with an overabundance of gmos and other additives that contribute to disease.

Here are some toxin-free, homemade alternatives:

Healthy, Grain-free Stuffing

Simple Vegan Stuffing

Healthy Vegetable Thanksgiving Stuffing

The Holiday Ham

The holiday ham

Back away from the HoneyBaked Ham! I don’t trust any food that doesn’t actually contain the main ingredient in it’s name. In fact, here is the ingredient list:

Ham cured with water, salt, sodium lactate, sugar, sodium phosphate, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate. Glazed with sugar, gelatin, paprika (color), maltodextrin, food starch — modified, dextrose, spices, natural flavor with brown sugar, invert sugar, and natural flavoring.

Besides all that, where do you think HoneyBaked stores source their hams? From huge factory pig farms, that’s where! So I would recommend either finding your local family pig farm through localharvest.org, or opting for one of the vegan holiday main dishes already mentioned above.

If you are able to secure a local ham, you can give this toxin-free ham recipe a shot.

The Green Bean Casserole

fresh green beans for the traditional Thanksgiving casserole

This dish, which comes to mind for many as a favorite holiday side, is often overloaded with sodium and other chemical additives. This is due to the processed cream soups and onions that it typically contains.

Just by substituting organic canned mushroom soups, you can resolve some of these issues. Here is a delicious, healthier version of the green bean casserole we have grown to love. It also skips the bpa-filled canned soups altogether.

Healthy Green Bean Casserole

The Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes can make a healthy Thanksgiving casserole dish

This dish is one of my personal faves, with the added benefit of highlighting a vegetable that is chock full of beneficial vitamins. Just beware of those recipes that highlight the marshmallows instead!

This is my go-to sweet potato casserole, and I am not one to stick with a recipe, so it’s a good one! I would recommend just decreasing the sugar it calls for.

The Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry dishes are often loaded with sugar

I’m not proud of it, but I’m a fan of the canned jelled cranberry version. I only purchase those labelled organic, but I know that they are loaded with sugar nonetheless.

In order to avoid the plastic lining and the high sugar content, you might give one of these cranberry dishes a try.

Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Fruit Salad

The Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin desserts are a popular part of holiday dinners

Okay, now I’m really starting to salivate. My veracious sweet tooth will never pass up a good pumpkin pie. Here are some good pumpkin desserts that focus on whole foods and not too, too much sweetening.

Healthy Pumpkin Pie

Healthy Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

And for those who are into dessert, but not so into the pumpkin:

Paleo Pecan Pie

13 Vegan Thanksgiving Desserts

The Leftovers

So you may not be able to stomach Thanksgiving dinner for an entire weekend of meals, but don’t worry there are so many great ways to repurpose those ingredients. Here are some ideas to avoid simply tossing it all in the garbage can.

4 Ways to Repurpose Vegan Thanksgiving Leftovers

50 Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

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8 comments

  1. I love these sustainable and healthy choices for thanksgiving! I love that you also included vegan and vegetarian options (as I’m vegetarian and not not too keen on tofurky). That stuffing looks delish! I gotta add that to our list!

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