Know What’s in Your Thanksgiving Meal

By Robyn O’Brien

It’s Thanksgiving week and as families across the nation come together, the soaring rates of allergies, diabetes, obesity and cancer continue to impact our lives, making us much more conscious of what we eat. It is important to me and my family that I can choose what I put on the dinner table. With Thanksgiving being one of the most significant meals of the year, there is much that you can do to make choices for you and your loved ones.

Because so many popular Thanksgiving dishes may use ingredients that have been genetically engineered, here are a few simple ideas to try to avoid these potentially uninvited guests to your Thanksgiving table, until the FDA labels them (there is currently no mandatory labeling), which is what a recent ABC poll indicates that 93 percent of the American public wanted.

1. Look out for products that contain conventional soy and corn (soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup), which are likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

2. Look for products labeled “USDA Organic,” because by law organic prohibits the use of genetic engineering. You can also look for “GMO-Free” labels, including the Non-GMO Project, the Food Alliance and other initiatives.

3. When you can, choose organic eggs, as they are not from chickens fed genetically engineered corn or soy.

4. Cook with organic butter or olive oil instead of conventional butter, margarine or vegetable oil, which most likely were made from genetically engineered crops.

5. Look for dairy products (milk, cream, butter) labeled “rbGH-free,” “rbST-free” or “USDA Organic,” as they are not produced with artificial growth hormones created from genetically engineered bacteria.

6. Eat like your grandmother did and steer clear of processed foods.

7. Kick the can, since canned foods often contain a lot of corn and soy derivatives and many Thanksgiving canned foods contain the toxin Bisphenol A. (Click here for some No-Can Recipes.)

Here are some other easy tips and recipes for trying to reduce your family’s exposure to genetically engineered foods during Thanksgiving:

Cranberry Sauce: Because most fruits are not genetically engineered, you can use cranberries and 100 percent sugar from sugar cane to make a cranberry sauce without any genetically engineered ingredients. This is an easy and delicious way to avoid canned cranberry sauces, which may contain ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, which could be from genetically engineered corn.

Oven Roasted Vegetables: Chop up and cube some sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, broccoli and potatoes and throw them into a casserole dish. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper before roasting in the oven on 400 for about 30 minutes.

Green Bean with Caramelized Onions: Slice and sauté red onions in a little bit of olive oil while boiling green beans for about 6 or 7 minutes. Add some water or vegetable broth to the onions and mix in some sugar before adding in the green beans.

And let’s not just stop at Thanksgiving.

Until the FDA labels genetically engineered food for Americans, as they have been labeled for eaters in over 40 countries around the world, pick one thing that you can do to get started either at home or online to protect the health of our families. Use the True Food Shopper’s Guide from the Center for Food Safety to find products that don’t contain genetically engineered ingredients, purchase “USDA Organic” products which by law are not allowed to contain genetically modified ingredients, and join more than 300,000 Americans and hundreds of food and health organizations to tell the FDA you have a right to know what’s in the food that you buy for your family.

Because together, we can create the changes we want to see in the health of our families, our country and our food system.

Robyn O’Brien authored “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It.” A former food industry analyst and mother of four, Robyn brings insight and detailed analysis to her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of our children. She founded and was named by Forbes as one of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter.” The New York Times has described her as “Food’s Erin Brockovich.” Watch Robyn’s TEDx Austin talk here or learn more at

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