EWG’s Guide to a Healthier Thanksgiving

This year the Covid-19 pandemic has many Americans rethinking how they’re spending Thanksgiving. EWG took a fresh look at some of the holiday’s traditions, and we have these tips to make your Thanksgiving healthier for you and the planet.

Pollute less

Raising and processing a four-ounce serving of turkey generates greenhouse gas emissions equal to nearly three miles driving. That’s less than a lot of other meats, but about a third of uneaten turkey meat goes straight into the garbage, so try not to buy more bird than you eat. Finding a smaller conventional turkey might be more difficult this year, but not if you look for one raised in a better way, since those tend to be smaller. See our tips about what to look for when choosing your bird.

Or spare the air and the planet even more by choosing a winter squash or other plant-focused main dish, like a festive white and green Thanksgiving lasagna. Check out our staff-favorite recipes for more ideas.

Ease off the gravy

Homemade gravy is delicious, but it packs in empty calories, and store-bought gravy can contain too much sodium and heart-damaging trans fats. Enjoy gravy in moderation, or try a light, flavorful mushroom ragout instead.

Stuff the stuffing

Organic apples, cranberries, celery and carrots are packed with phytonutrients – beneficial plant compounds that can reduce cancer risk. The fruits and vegetables fill you up with fiber, not empty calories. Skip the cancer-linked sausage, too, and try substituting walnuts or pecans.

Choose organic, especially for produce with high pesticide residue on conventional varieties. For instance, potatoes are on EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list because of their high pesticide load.

Cut back on sugar

Sweet potatoes are superfoods. But sweet potato casserole can end up being one of the most sugary dishes on the table, with some recipes packing more than 50 grams of sugar per serving. Top a sweet potato casserole with crushed pineapples, nuts, oats or dried fruit to avoid extra tooth-rotting calories. Or roast them for a sweet and savory treat.

Keep it simple

Cranberries contain potent phytonutrients called anthocyanins, but most store-bought varieties of sauce are more than 30 percent sugar. It’s so simple to make yours from scratch, you may never go back to the store-bought variety. For unbeatable flavor, use less than two-thirds of a cup of sugar per 12 ounces of cranberries, and choose organic cranberries if you can. Conventional cranberries are heavily treated with pesticides.

Light up the pumpkin

Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition, and for good reason. Pumpkin is packed with nutrition and generally low on pesticides. Give the pumpkin and spices the lead role in your pie, and lighten up on the heavy cream and sugar.

Here are some other holiday favorites recommended by EWG staff.

Learn more about feeding your family well and finding healthier choices in the grocery store with Food Scores and our Healthy Living app.


Please consult your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. This material is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.

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