4 Greener Choices for Your Thanksgiving Day Menu

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

These surprising swaps will lower your carbon and water footprint

Did you know that an estimated 46 million turkeys are raised and purchased for Thanksgiving day alone? More than on any other day of the year, Americans from all walks of life may be purchasing, preparing, and eating nearly identical items and dishes.


This gives Thanksgiving day enormous economic impact across a small number of supply chains — making it the perfect opportunity to employ the power of your consumer spending and food choices as tools for change.


Ready to rethink your menu? Whether you're looking for big or small changes, we’re bringing you four fantastic swaps that will minimize the carbon or water footprint of traditional Thanksgiving staples. These choices all stand out for their exemplary GreenScore for environmental impact. Our GreenScore help you quickly identify products that align with YOUR values.


Swap: Green Bean Casserole for Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Why: Green beans and legumes have more than 3.5 times the water and carbon footprint of Brussel sprouts and other brassica vegetables. Plus, you'll save even more water and greenhouse gas emissions by trading the cream and cheese in that casserole for olive oil, which makes these roasted brussel sprouts oh so crispy and flavorful!


Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to employ the power of your consumer spending as a tool for change.


Swap: Turkey for Roasted Herbed Salmon

Why: Perhaps our most bold swap on the list...but with 46 million Turkeys produced for Thanksgiving, that's a lot of greenhouse gas emissions for just one day! Turkey has more than 1.5 times the carbon footprint of salmon. Why not consider experimenting with a new tradition, with a whole fish centerpiece. Pro tip? Choose a certified-wild salmon, and cut down your carbon AND water footprints even more!



Swap: Buttermilk Biscuits for Cornbread

Why: It may come as a surprise that wheat requires more than 3 times the amount of water as corn, per serving. Instead of whipping up traditional wheat flour biscuits, why not pass around a basket of fluffy cornbread muffins? The planet will thank you!



Swap: Canned Cranberry Sauce for Fresh Applesauce

Why: Cranberries are a water intensive crop, and 80 million pounds (20% of the annual consumption) are eaten during Thanksgiving time. By swapping to apples, you'll save up to 1/3 of the water of cranberries, and you'll be ditching that aluminum can! Plus, we doubt that you'll miss all that added sugar loaded into traditional jellied cranberry sauces.


Looking for more ways to lower your carbon and water footprint? Consider small tweaks that favor ingredients lower on the food chain. Making homemade pastry crust? Instead of using recipes or baking mixes containing animal-fat based shortening, try ones with olive and vegetable oils. In pie, brownie, and cookie recipes, swap out cow's milk and cream with their nondairy counterparts (we recommend oat or soy over nutmilks) — they will still taste just as good!


Use one of our suggestions or have your own?! Post a photo of YOUR sustainable Thanksgiving swaps on social media and hashtag #GreenChoiceThanksgiving - we'll share it with the rest of the GreenChoice community!

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GreenChoice aims to empower you to create a healthy, just and sustainable world. It's not always easy to know what products are healthy and sustainable — we offer a free mobile app that simplifies healthy, values-based grocery shopping to help you better understand your food choice. Download the GreenChoice app for Apple iOS or Android!



Where we got our footprinting data:

  1. Clune, Stephen, Enda Crossin, and Karli Verghese. "Systematic review of greenhouse gas emissions for different fresh food categories." Journal of Cleaner Production 140 (2017): 766-783.

  2. Poore, Joseph, and Thomas Nemecek. "Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers." Science 360.6392 (2018): 987-992.

  3. Willett, Walter, et al. "Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems." The Lancet 393.10170 (2019): 447-492.



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