What to Eat (and Avoid) This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the one day I spend thinking entirely about food…

I remember growing up watching my dad spend all day making Thanksgiving dinner for our family. He did it all – the oyster stew, the gravy, the stuffing… We even brought out the honorary carving knife for him. At the end of the day, the kids did the dishes. Mom loved that day.

This holiday isn’t easy on our waistlines. Some estimates show Americans consume about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving.

To me, that’s OK… Stuffing yourself for one day won’t kill you.

But did you know that some of your Thanksgiving favorites contain something more dangerous than the fat and calories?

I’m talking about pesticides.

Every year, an organization called the Environmental Working Group (“EWG”) creates a “Dirty Dozen” list – the 12 foods that have the highest amounts of pesticides. Even in tiny amounts, these poisons are also known to alter human liver and brain function. Researchers have linked foods containing pesticides with Parkinson’s disease and thyroid disease.

You might be surprised to learn that some Thanksgiving favorites are often high in pesticides.

So today, we’re using this year’s Thanksgiving meal to show you how to buy safer foods. These are dangers you can control. And at Health & Wealth Bulletin, we’re all about empowering you in your health and wealth.

Here are some popular holiday dishes made with produce on the EWG list. Keep reading to see where their ingredients rank…

  • Stuffing
  • Succotash
  • Green bean casserole
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Apple pie

In its 2021 list, the EWG ranked 46 common fruits and vegetables based on the amount of residual pesticide found on them in testing done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can find the full rankings here.

Here are some of the worst that may appear on your Thanksgiving Day shopping list, along with their rankings. (It’s numbered one to 46, with one being the worst for pesticides. The No. 1 food is strawberries.)

  • Apples (No. 5)
  • Bell peppers (No. 10)
  • Celery (No. 11)
  • Potatoes (No. 13)

So when you go shopping this week, look for organic versions of these high-pesticide foods. Organic versions limit (though don’t necessarily eliminate) the amount of pesticide used.

However, you don’t always need organic food to stay safe… Some Thanksgiving foods you don’t need to worry about are:

  • Frozen sweet peas (No. 41)
  • Onions (No. 43)
  • Sweet corn (No. 45)

Some of you may have noticed that I included green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato casserole on my list of dishes to look out for… but not on the list of foods to buy organic.

Green beans and pumpkin (winter squashes) rank as No. 19 and No. 25, respectively. Sweet potatoes rank as No. 29. So they’re right in the middle and relatively safe. Of course, there’s no harm in buying these organic, other than the added cost. (And I don’t know about you… but I get my pumpkin from a can.)

And remember that we’ve seen a few outbreaks from E. coli this year. Thorough washing is essential for killing most bugs on your produce, but if you’re especially worried, cook your veggies to kill these bacteria. Personally, I like to use a vinegar mix to wash my vegetables, some of which I enjoy raw and others I cook. I use a mix of one tablespoon of vinegar and six cups of water.

As you’re finishing up your Thanksgiving Day shopping, use the EWG’s food list to help you get the healthiest – and safest – foods for your table.

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Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 23, 2021