Holiday season or christmas is crush time when it comes to cooking. So little time to cook so much – and too much junk that is just unhealthy for your family. As you shop for your holiday meals, you might grow weary from trying to pull together a dinner that can satisfy your family and meet your health objectives. The shelves are lined with preservative-laden, GMO-loaded artificially colored foods that no longer even appeal to your appetite but are cheap and easy for a busy holiday week!
Perhaps it’s time for a visit from the Ghost of Christmas past. Shopping for non-toxic choices was not an issue in bygone days. Let’s compare a traditional holiday dinner today and see how it was different 100 years ago.
Christmas Feasts of Today
The meal that sits on your table this holiday is similar to what’s served at most tables around the country. Here are some common holiday meals and the toxins they contain.
Popular main dish options:
Conventionally grown turkeys are pumped up with hormones, antibiotics, polluted water, and they are fed GMO corn and soy feed. Bred for size, they are unable to fly and are kept in strict captivity. According to Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle regarding these turkeys that most American families eat, “more than 99 percent of them are a single breed: the Broad-Breasted White, a quick-fattening monster bred specifically for the industrial-scale setting.” Mass farmed, poorly treated and kept in small spaces, these turkeys are hardly the healthy or sanitary choice for your family.
This popular alternative to turkey is full of added nitrates and sodium, but that’s not the worst of it. If you are eating a HoneyBaked Ham, your ham may be coated in an abundance of additives, sodium nitrates, flavor, sugars and more…in other words, no honey! If you are dressing it up, it may be no better. My husband likes to bake a ham trimmed with maraschino cherries. These toxic babies are comprised of additives, sugar and plenty of Red Dye #40.
- Toxic Additive:
A recent Food Babe report reveals that turkeys are often fed Ractopamine, an additive that is put in both turkey and pork feed to promote growth in turkeys or lean growth in pigs. This additive is banned in Europe, Russia and China but declared safe for use in the U.S. It is not safe for direct human consumption but apparently only good for our animals.
- Mashed White Potatoes:
According to the site “What’s on My Food,” conventional potatoes are loaded with pesticides. A 2009 USDA study found that potatoes had higher rates of residue from insecticides, pesticides and toxins compared to organic potatoes. These are one of the foods you should always buy organic. Potato growers also may use particularly toxic chemicals to prevent bugs and pests.
- Candied Sweet Potatoes:
Typically, these are bathed in off-the-shelf high fructose syrup, and usually finished with conventional butter from cows treated with rBGH and fed GMO grains.
- Green Bean Casserole:
Typically made with canned beans, which can be high in sodium, and mushroom soup, which can contain MSG, GMO seed-based oils like soybean oil, GMO sugar, soy protein concentrate (labeled as “GRAS” by the FDA, meaning they’ve never officially approved it as a safe food additive), and artificial flavorings. Because it’s in a can, it’s likely been exposed to BPA as well.
- Jellied Cranberry Sauce:
What’s in this processed canned gelatin? Often it contains both HFCS and corn syrup and, of course, more GMOs and BPA.
- Dinner Rolls:
These are also a mixed bag. According to Fooducate, popular Pillsbury Dinner Rolls, for example, contain partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (providing some trans fat), mono- and diglycerides and autolyzed yeast extract making for a highly processed bread. Martin’s potato rolls are even worse, containing all that plus artificial colors and azodicarbonamide.
- Box of Chocolates:
There are so many brands but more often then not, if you’re not buying organic chocolate you are getting an assortment of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides and artificial flavors and colors. Naturally, these have GMOs too.
- Candy Canes:
Sugar, corn syrup, GMOs and coloring – often Red #40, a trigger for ADHD. Avoid these!
Healthy Christmas Feasts of Yesteryear
What was Christmas dinner like 100 years ago? It’d be quite different. Of course, GMO corn, soy, and sugar beets didn’t exist yet. In addition, early pesticides, like DDT, were highly toxic, chemical pesticides were not yet developed and synthetic pesticides and herbicides were not developed until the 1930s and 40. So all fruits and vegetables were still naturally “organic.”
Turkeys and pork were also healthier. There was far more variety back then. Today, a new movement has sprung up hoping to embrace a call to the past of raising diverse turkeys. Heritage Turkeys are a mix of breeds that used to be raised for American consumption, before the mass farming of turkey for the holidays began in the 1960s. In other words, these are a variety of traditional turkeys that have not been industrialized. So you might want to look at one of these birds, since they are raised without hormones or antibiotics, and roam freely as well as being naturally bred. Because they are not injected with hormones they have less white meat but do have more dark meat. You could also purchase an organic turkey or an organic ham without added nitrates or sodium and dress it yourself.
In the past, cooking oil was not a danger. According to Food Renegade, “prior to the industrial revolution, making seed-based cooking oils was far too labor intensive and (in many cases) downright impossible. All the ancient cooking oils (like coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, etc.) are easily pressed out of the plant without needing extremely high-pressure or high-temperature extraction.” People safely used those oils, rather than today’s unhealthy processed GMO oils, and reaped the benefits of those healthy fats.
We need to go back to those healthier alternatives. And while cooking from scratch is more time consuming and buying organic is more costly, it’s worth the trouble to give your family a healthier holiday. My advice? Get your family involved. Do the baking together with your spouse. Have your kids mix, whisk and stir everything they can. Make cooking a part of your family’s holiday tradition and use discounts and coupons whenever you can. Where can you start?
Crafting a Healthier Christmas Feast for Today
Here is a healthier holiday menu that you can use for your Christmas dinner:
Buy an organic ham, baked with organic cloves and fresh organic pineapple slices (pin the slices to the ham with the cloves). Juice some of the pineapple to cook it in. You can find organic maraschinos but keep in mind they have sugar and that will add to how much sugar you have with your holiday feast! Or, try a Heritage turkey if you can find a small local farm that carries them. Then massage some real butter and sage under the skin of the turkey and if you’re really exotic, cover it with organic, uncured bacon with no added nitrates before roasting. (This was a real hit this year in my house.) Then use the bacon as a base for a delicious fresh made gravy.
- Twice baked organic potatoes whipped with grass fed, organic butter and sea salt.
- Fresh organic green beans, sautéed with sliced fresh garlic and a drop of Non-GMO soy sauce or coconut aminos, if you are avoiding soy altogether. Delicious, easy and fast.
- Peeled and sliced organic sweet potatoes baked in fresh grass fed butter, honey or organic real maple syrup and organic cinnamon.
- Fresh organic cranberries sauce created by simmering cranberries with fresh diced pineapple (you can juice the pineapple first) and a few tablespoons of organic or local honey.
- Save time here with a premade organic or non-GMO option for dinner rolls, such as Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Plain Ciabatta Rolls.
Find high quality, organic candy brands for the holidays, like these:
- TruJoy Sweets makes organic / Non-GMO Project Verified candy canes that are free of corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors and are vegan as well as gluten free and Kosher.
- You can also buy organic boxed chocolate from brands like Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates, who carry a holiday box assortments in festive shapes.
- Or start a healthier tradition with Nutiva Organic O’Coconut Classic and Hemp & Chia on your holiday table.
You don’t have to be a Scrooge to have a healthy, traditional Christmas meal like they did a hundred years ago. Today there are so many options and vendors who offer USDA organic or Non-GMO Project Verified holiday favorites free of artificial dyes, colors, preservatives and other toxins so you don’t have to sacrifice your family’s health this holiday. A little time and planning can go a long way to crafting a healthy Christmas feast for your loved ones!
Disclosure: Bookieboo LLC has worked with numerous brands in the natural space, including Nutiva and Rudi’s Bakery.