Opinion: The best Thanksgiving food isn’t a food at all


Image from Better Homes and Gardens.

Jane McNulty, Op-Ed Editor

While some people joke about conflict at their Thanksgiving tables, we share at least some common ground—we all deserve to eat good food. 

However, what food is the best, number one, crown-winning Thanksgiving food? Let’s evaluate some classic contenders.

First, while turkey is the center of Thanksgiving meals it’s underrated. Stuffing gets all the love when people discuss their favorite Thanksgiving foods, while turkey is thrown on the back burner. Maybe I’m drawn towards favoring turkey because quite literally makes me happy—it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in serotonin production. Unfortunately, SleepFoundation.org busted the popular myth that turkey helps sleep. Regardless, I’m not sure of much, but I’m certain that I’m looking forward to some warm turkey with gravy at the Thanksgiving table. 

Well-seasoned green beans are an essential part of my Thanksgiving meal. Whether they’re buttery, seasoned with garlic or lemon pepper—maybe all three—they are certainly my favorite side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. I’m smiling just thinking about it (and my stomach is growling a little too).

The third food to come to mind when deciding which food is THE best was simply bread. This is probably the part of my brain that doesn’t develop until age twenty-five talking. A warm biscuit with butter was absolutely my favorite Thanksgiving food as a child because… well, I love bread. Simple as that. Though I still look forward to a warm roll on the side of my meal, I wouldn’t say this is the ultimate Thanksgiving food.

Fourth, I can’t wait to have some butternut squash this Thursday. The kind my dad makes has a cinnamon flavor to it that I’m not sure how to describe. Whatever it is, this is certainly one of my favorite sides.

As I wrote this, something that is not food at all came to mind. That’s right. I’m starting to think that the best Thanksgiving food of all is not food but rather a beverage. (Full transparency as an ethical journalist: I may be biased because I’m always thirsty.) I love apple cider with my Thanksgiving meal.

Apple cider pairs so well with pretty much anything on the Thanksgiving table. Served hot or cold, it highlights the beauty of the rest of the meal. It is refreshing and has a lot of the nutrients apples have. Obviously, I’m not encouraging drinking it in excess. There is definitely too much of a good thing. A little apple cider goes a long way in balancing out the big Thanksgiving meal. As I wrote this, I was informed that not everyone has cider with their meal. I suggest changing that!

This Thanksgiving, I’m voting apple cider as the most important holiday food-related item.

I have to give a shoutout to my mom’s cookies, though. She makes chocolate chip cookies, the perfect way to bookend the meal. They are a little mushy in the center but firm enough around the edges.

While I am not a nutritionist, a final recommendation I have this holiday season is mindful eating. I do have lots of personal experience navigating my mental health, and I find mindful eating to be an extraordinarily helpful means of staying present. Really observing what I’m eating helps me stay grounded, even when I’m anxious. Difficult feelings arise for many of us during the holiday season, and mindfulness really does work (for me, at least). Savoring the taste of what you’re eating helps generate feelings of gratitude and joy, and that’s what everyone deserves this holiday season.