5 Ways to Feast on a Sustainable Thanksgiving Meal

Someone wise recently pointed out to me that we use the holiday season as an excuse to do so many things that are bad for us. We spend too much, we eat too much, we get too busy, and we simply compromise the issues that are important to us. I was in total agreement, and a little disappointed with myself.

The first shindig of this crazy time of year hits next week with Thanksgiving. We all have some traditions we like to maintain no doubt, but maybe this year we could start the holidays off on the right foot by make responsible choices, especially when it comes to the food we put on the table. Not just making sure it’s healthy, perhaps lighter, and even vow to serve smaller portions, but make sure it’s responsible and sustainable.

Sustainable food choices honor the farmers who work hard to grow honest food. They raise animals that are treated humanely, not squeezed into pens and pumped with hormones. They grow crops that are grown without synthetic properties or overloaded with pesticides. Simply put, sustainable food choices respect the way food was intended to be.

This Thanksgiving, draw inspiration from the first Thanksgiving and consider serving a sustainable meal. The pilgrims served produce that was in season, the meat they had raised naturally, and gave thanks for the bounty they ate.

Here are five tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving meal of your own.

1. Purchase a Heritage Turkey

A heritage turkey is bred very uniquely. According to Slow Food USA, farmers will evaluate certain birds and breeds and look for positive qualities. These birds are then bred naturally with another outstanding bird in order to create what many say is the best tasting turkey you can find. Farmers look for traits like hardiness, self-sufficiency, high meat production, taste and temperament. This process is a far cry from the industrialized turkey farms. Those birds mature so quickly that they struggle to walk, let alone mate naturally. Heritage turkeys are more pricey, but that money goes toward honest farming and high quality food. You can order heritage turkeys online from HeritageFoodUSA.com.

2. Buy Organic and Free Range Turkeys

Another great choice is to buy a turkey that has only been fed organic feed and has never been treated with antibiotics. Additionally, if it can be free range, meaning it’s been free of confinement, you’re well on your way to honoring farmers and the work they do. Many grocery stores carry these birds, especially natural grocers. Many states have farmers that sell turkeys directly as well. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s website is a great place that will connect consumers with local farmers. albc-usa.org.

3. Buy Local

Buying local keeps the money in your community, it prevents huge carbon hits from transporting goods across the country, and many foods that are grown in your climate or ecosystem are more beneficial to your body. For example, it’s believed that eating honey from your region actually helps prevent allergies, as you start to get “vaccinated” by the pollen that bees transfer from your area. To find out where the best locations to buy local trimmings for your feats, check out LocalHarvest.org. There you can connect with local and in-season goods.

4. Buy In-Season

The pilgrims had the first Thanksgiving in the fall, and they served foods that grew in the fall. They did not have the modern convenience of a grocery store that knows no seasons. Most of our traditional Thanksgiving fare is inspired from that first meal and it reflected what was in season. Buying in-season foods is sustainable because it doesn’t require planes or big rigs burning fumes to bring us strawberries in November or pumpkins in July. Some of the most common side dishes on Thanksgiving are in fact in-season, like sweet potatoes, winter squashes (including those pumpkins for pie), broccoli, and cranberries.

5. Go Meatless

Another great way to have a sustainable holiday is to go completely meatless. Obtaining a sustainable turkey can be expensive and sometimes just not possible. That’s OK, as there are plenty of great meatless, earth friendly options. For starters, the sides are often so bountiful, who needs turkey, anyway? Serve stuffed acorn squashes as the main dish, like this Roasted Squash with Whole Grain Stuffing, or even a thick lentil soup with in-season, local vegetables. For those more daring, try a Tofurkey. The often feared, but more often enjoyed faux turkey is made of soy and tofu and is a family favorite at many tables. In fact, many of these meatless dishes are getting a large fan base. Trader Joe’s “Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast” has a high demand each year. It’s reported that the roast now has a cult following as vegetarians and meat eaters alike are loving the flavor.

There are lots of ways to kick off a responsible holiday season. Making sure you’re serving healthy and sustainable food is a a move we can all be grateful for this Thanksgiving.


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Melania Padilla
Melania P5 years ago

Great advice, thanks

L and P.
Linda N5 years ago

Thanks so much for including the best option of all #5 "Go Meatless".

It doesn't make sense that another being should die so that we can celebrate our good fortune. Even if she was raised without cruelty, she dies young and innocent and for no good reason.

And if you are thinking about eating a cheaper turkey, please take a look at the link below first:



Marianne B.
Marianne B5 years ago

If you are LUCKY enough to have a family and can afford to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, I say do what you want to do. It's another tradition going down the drain with this generation. And please, vegans, quit lecturing those who are not.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Do the best you can.

Yvette T.
Past Member 5 years ago

Go meatless is the one I agree with. Meat is Murder. No turkey chooses to have life come to a violent end, and no turkey chooses to be controlled by one species of being for the duration of life! Humans need to evolve and open their spiritual perceptions to see how wrong it is to kill.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

Thank you!

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

good to know

Tania Vega
Tania Vega5 years ago


Christine Stewart

Thanks for the article- I have never tried tofurky, even though I've been a vegetarian for 30 years! But I am interested in Trader Joe's version!