Family Health

How to Celebrate a Vegan or Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular in our society. However, this trend hits a snag every November: How do you accommodate such a diet on a holiday where the traditional entree is turkey? Whether you're hosting a vegetarian Thanksgiving this year or attending a Thanksgiving celebration as someone who follows a vegan or vegetarian diet, there are many ways to make it work.

Tips for the Host

Make sure to plan for your Thanksgiving meal by deciding on an entree without meat or meat products in it. Whether you make something such as stuffed squash or a vegetable risotto or simply buy a vegetarian Thanksgiving loaf from your local health foods store, your guests will feel plenty accommodated for -- and your meat-eating guests will be able to enjoy these foods, as well!

If you're sharing your table with nonvegetarians, another good strategy for the head cook is to make your side dishes vegetarian. Many traditional side dishes for Thanksgiving are already vegetarian or can be easily converted to vegetarian. Here are some tips for doing just that:

  • Use vegetable or mushroom stock. You don't need to use poultry or beef stock in all your dishes. The flavor will be very similar and most guests won't notice a difference.
  • Remove meat and dairy from dishes that don't need it. Try an apple and onion stuffing this year instead of one with sausage or bacon, and replace milk in dishes with almond milk or soy milk.
  • Make sure to have vegetarian gravy. Using a mushroom broth is a great way to enhance the savory flavor that people look for in gravy.
  • For vegan guests, use vegan butter, olive oil, and vegan cheese. These items can be found in the refrigerated section of most large grocery stores. You could also omit cheese and oils altogether for a healthier spread -- replacing these fats is easier than you might think!
  • Try making a vegan dessert. From traditional pumpkin pie to something a little more out there, like black bean brownies, there are many options. Adding one to your spread doesn't mean you can't also offer cookies or pies with milk and butter.

Realize that your veggie-oriented guests are accustomed to delicately navigating a Thanksgiving table. Those who have chosen to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are used to going to dinner parties or outings where they must decipher what they can eat, so don't stress too much over the accommodations you've made for them. They will appreciate your efforts to make them feel welcome and comfortable.

Tips for the Guest

As a guest, you may not really know what you're in for as you head to an in-law's Thanksgiving feast.

Here are some surefire ways to be prepared:

  • Bring your own creation. What better way to show your meat-eating friends how delicious vegetarian dishes are than by bringing your favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving entree? This will also take the pressure off your host, considering they have so much to do in preparation for the holiday.
  • Enjoy the bounty. There does not always have to be a replacement for the meat item in every vegetarian meal. Usually, there are so many nutrient-dense side dishes to try at Thanksgiving -- potatoes, green beans, salads -- that you won't feel the void of not having a portion of the main dish on your plate.

Thanksgiving is a time of love and appreciation, so be sure to keep that in mind while preparing (or preparing for) the big meal. Enriching your Thanksgiving menu with vegetarian options will make your guests feel welcome and add a new degree of healthfulness. Your guests, vegetarian or not, will be thankful for your efforts, so celebrate without worry this year!

Posted in Family Health

Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally from the Boston area, she attended Boston University where she majored in nutritional sciences with a concentration in dietetics. She recently completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy. While her background has mostly been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces wellness nutrition as the backbone of optimum health. She is excited to be able to educate a larger audience about nutrition through the written word.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.