How to Eat Vegan on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving time is finally here. The time of family… of friends… nah, let’s be real. It’s the time of stuffing your face, mostly. And don’t we ALL deserve to stuff our faces, no matter what kind of food we eat? You shouldn’t have to cheat on your vegan diet during Thanksgiving to eat bomb, delicious food. After all, it is World Vegan Month!

Why Shouldn’t You Cheat?

Veganism is a rising lifestyle. It basically consists of no dairy, no meat, and a whole lot of willpower.

 

Courtesy: Giphy

 

For most, it’s influenced by ethical reasons. The mistreatment of animals in the food industry plus the idea of eating a living being is pretty upsetting by itself. To add to that, the production of meat is bad for the environment and is actually the second leading environmental hazard on Earth. There are also a lot of studies on the negative effect dairy has on humans (as, obviously, we’re drinking milk made for baby cows, not for us). There’s a reason so many people are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. Contrary to popular belief, dairy reduces calcium levels in our systems, is high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium and has positive correlations with ovarian and prostate cancer. If you want to stay vegan, cheating not only will put a damper on your mental strength as a vegan (you’ll start to make more and more exceptions, it’s like "breaking the seal") but if you’ve been vegan long enough, the introduction of meat and dairy back into your system will make it go berserk. Your digestive system will have trouble breaking down the meat (it’s a lot of work, especially if it hasn’t digested meat in a while) and dairy will leave you regretting cheating at all. If you are willing to take the blow, have at it. Otherwise, check out these tips and tricks to have a successful vegan Thanksgiving.

#1: Plan Ahead and Communicate

Most of us are going to have Thanksgiving with a whole lot of family, and unfortunately, a lot of our relatives tend to not care too much about vegan lifestyles. That's just how it is. People with older, more traditional values tend to not be as exposed to veganism and are less prone to be understanding of restrictive eating habits. A lot of people take pride in their cooking and are offended when guests don’t try the food provided. The worst thing you could do is show up to Thanksgiving and pick around at the green beans. Not being able to eat will not only suck for you, but it'll offend the cooks (especially with Thanksgiving, when it takes a whole day or two to prepare). When it comes to avoiding offending family members, planning ahead to prepare vegan dishes and communicating that with them is key. Know at least several days in advance before the shopping is done which dishes you plan to cook, tell your family that you’ll be making them yourself and offer to make extra for others who are interested. This will not only help you prepare, but it'll put your family at ease to know that you’ll be cooking for yourself and that they won’t have to work to accommodate for you.

#2: Know What You Can and Can’t Eat

Even if you think some dishes are in the clear, on Thanksgiving they tend to not be. It’s surprising to most how many traditional Thanksgiving dishes aren’t vegan. The meat entrees, gravy and dishes like mashed potatoes are obviously out of the picture, but it’s important to also be wary of sides like stuffing and bread. Stuffing is made with eggs and butter and so are a lot of types of bread. Most Thanksgiving dishes in general have either meat, dairy, or animal by-products. Make sure to Google the ingredients ahead of time or ask your relatives if you’re unsure what’s in a dish.

#3 Make Easy Substitutes

The best solution to #2 is to substitute traditional recipes for vegan ones that everyone can agree on. Obviously, non-vegans at the table are gonna want to eat their turkey, gravy, mac n’ cheese, etc., but there is definitely a possibility that you could find alternative ways to make some dishes vegan while not changing the flavor too much. Sides like stuffing and potatoes can easily be made vegan, and there are easy alternatives for other things, like veggie gravy. Talk to your family ahead of time and see what dishes they’re okay with changing. If substituting isn’t an option, you can push for adding on vegan sides to the dinner, like basic veggie dishes, salads, etc. There are plenty of foods that are "subtly vegan" that most people would eat regardless of their diet, so find what suits your family and offer to make it.

#4 Research Vegan Dishes

There are so many options out there, it’s overwhelming (but that’s a good thing, right?). To make life a little simpler, I’ve made 3 vegan Thanksgiving meal ideas using cool-looking recipes I found online:

Meal Option #1: “Classic” Style

It’s like normal Thanksgiving, but vegan-ier.

ENTREE: Tofurky & Wild Mushroom Gravy

SIDE #1: Cauliflower Stuffing

SIDE #2: Cranberry Sauce

DESSERT: Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust & Coconut Whipped Cream

 

Courtesy: Delish

 

Meal Option #2: “Didn’t Even Know it Was Vegan” Style

Shhh. Just don’t tell your family it’s vegan. They’ll never know.

ENTREE: Lentil Shepherd's Pie

SIDE #1: Vegan Mashed Potatoes & Veggie Gravy

SIDE #2: Roasted Butternut Squash & Spinach

DESSERT: No Bake Caramel Apple Tartlets (Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Meal Option #3: “The Non-Traditional Vegan Meal”

This one is definitely the most inventive and creative of the 3.

ENTREE: Thanksgiving Cauliflower

SIDE #1: Smoky Mac Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

SIDE #2: Vegan Stuffing

DESSERT: Sticky Banana Date Pudding with Rum Caramel

Use these tips and tricks and you’ll be on your way to having an easier Vegan Thanksgiving.

Bon appétit!

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You can find more vegan recipes here.