NEW YORK – Three types of stuffing will be offered on Stacy Fox’s table this Thanksgiving: traditional, gluten-free and vegan.
There will be steak for people who don’t like turkey. No eggs will be used in the latkes, or Jewish potato pancakes. And the sweet potato pie will be topped with vegan marshmallows she buys at a health food store.
“My life used to be simple,” said Fox, who’s entertaining 18 guests in Suffern, N.Y.
At homes across the country Thursday, tables will be set to accommodate everyone from vegans and vegetarians to those trying to eat like cavemen. The increasingly complicated feasts reflect the growing ranks of Americans who are paying closer attention to the food they put into their bodies.
The reasons vary. With two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight or obese, many find setting rules helps ward off temptation. In other cases, people steer clear of ingredients such as dairy to alleviate bloating or to boost energy. Others worry about the long-term effects of artificial dyes, preservatives and antibiotics.
Those dietary quirks are reshaping the food industry. Sales of organic packaged foods rose 24 percent to $11.48 billion over the past five years, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. Gluten-free packaged foods, made for those who are sensitive to wheat, more than doubled to $419.8 million. And the broader market of packaged foods targeted toward people with food intolerances to things like wheat, dairy or sugar rose 12 percent to $2.89 billion.
Sales of Tofurky, the tofu-based turkey alternative for vegetarians, have grown each year since it was introduced in 1995, said founder and President Seth Tibbott.
When Tofurky was rolled out, only about 500 were sold in health food stores in Portland and Seattle. This year, Tibbott expects to sell about 350,000 of the loaves, which resemble round, boneless turkey breasts filled with stuffing.
“People do say it’s close to turkey,” Tibbott said.
Some with dietary restrictions find they will have to make concessions when eating at relatives’ houses.
Alison Johnson, for instance, realizes it would be unreasonable to expect her in-laws to cater to her many preferences. She’s a vegetarian and she and her husband are on a Paleo diet that shuns processed foods, legumes and most sugars. She plans to relax her rules a bit and bring her own Paleo-friendly pumpkin bars for dessert.
“When you start saying you’re diabetic and Paleo and vegetarian, they would just throw their hands up and give up,” Johnson said. “I have to accommodate myself.”