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Q: I do my best to stay away from genetically modified foods (GMOs), but they seem much harder to avoid during the holidays. Can you provide some names of non-GMO Halloween and holiday candy and other tips for festive non-GMO food choices?
—Connie M., Oklahoma City
A: Consumer demand for non-GMO foods may be at an all-time high, but it still isn’t easy to completely avoid them—especially during the food-centric holiday season. Here’s a quick guide to help you steer clear of GMOs all fall and winter long.
Halloween Clean Candy Alternatives
Most parents want their children to experience the fun of Halloween without risky, hidden ingredients that can turn sweet treats into health tricks. To avoid this spooky situation, try Non-GMO Project Verified candy, such as Yum Earth Organic Lollipops, Licorice, Gummy Bears, and Hard Candy; Chimes Ginger Chews; and Simply Gum. But beware: like all candy, these treats are made mostly of (non-GMO or organic) sugar.
From a nutrition point of view, treats made with certified organic real-food ingredients—and a little healthy fat to prevent candy-induced blood sugar spikes—are a better way to go. A few to choose from that come in large bags or boxes: Nutiva Organic O’Coconut Lightly Sweetened Coconut Treat; Cocomels Organic Coconut Milk Caramels; Alter Eco Organic Truffles; and Heavenly Organics Chocolate Honey Patties. Other healthier treat options include Stretch Island Organic Fruit Strips, which are made only with real fruit ingredients, and Eden Foods Organic Pocket Snacks, featuring fruit-juice-sweetened dried fruits.
Looking for sugar-free Halloween ideas? Try making festive alternatives to jack-o-lanterns from fresh mandarins, satsumas, or small oranges. Draw faces on the skin of the fruit with a black permanent marker (it won’t contaminate the fruit). Or give out Glee Sugar-Free Gum, which is Non-GMO Project Verified and Fair Trade certified. It’s sweetened with xylitol, a sugar alcohol made from American birch and beech trees, and is available in five flavors. You also can go unconventional, skip food altogether, and give out glow bracelets—fun gifts that kids love that are also practical because they make kids easier to see in the dark when they’re out trick or treating!
The best way to enjoy a healthy non-GMO holiday meal with a minimum of stress is to be organized and plan ahead. A few weeks before the holiday, order an unprocessed organic or Non-GMO Project Verified turkey (or an organic turkey breast, or organic or Non-GMO Project Verified chicken for smaller dinner gatherings). Mary’s has both options.
Gradually gather nonperishable, USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified products—such as dried herbs and spices, chicken broth, thickeners such as arrowroot, sweeteners, and canned pumpkin—that you will need for Thanksgiving. Half a week before the holiday, buy ingredients such as organic butter, as well as hardier vegetables. Then prepare dishes such as mashed root vegetables, homemade cranberry sauce, and any pies or desserts that you can make in advance. A day or two before Thanksgiving, pick up your turkey and any perishable fresh vegetables you’ll be serving, then prepare a simple-yet-tasty non-GMO meal that you and your family and friends will love.
Healthier Christmas Treats
For the big dinner, follow the same guidelines as for Thanksgiving. If you prefer red meat to poultry, seek out and purchase organic, 100 percent grass-fed cuts of beef or lamb.
Keep in mind that corn, potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, papaya, and apples can be genetically modified, so make sure to seek out those labeled organic. Or make simple side dishes with vegetables that aren’t genetically modified. Some options include baked sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and mushrooms, green beans almondine, spinach salad, or kale salad with orange pieces and organic dried cranberries. For desserts, use non-GMO flours and sweeteners and organic butter or coconut oil to make easy-to-prepare apple crisps or shortbread cookies.
For sweet stocking stuffers, any of the organic candies mentioned for Halloween will work well. Also look for Justin’s Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups, Coconut Secret Coconut Bars, Eating Evolved Coconut Butter Cups, Hail Merry Bites, Boulder Bake Chocolate Chip or Banana Walnut Cookies, and That’s It Dark Chocolate Covered Fruit Truffles.
For sugar-free stocking stuffers, try That’s It Fruit Bars, made only from fruit, Lily’s Sweets stevia-sweetened chocolate bars, or Bulletproof Vanilla Shortbread or Mint Chocolate Chip Collagen Protein Bars.