It’s that time again – another year, another Thanksgiving! And, that time when "Turkey Day" could send a plant-based vegan searching for coping tips.
For plant-based vegans, the annual Thanksgiving celebration of friends, family, gratitude – and large quantities of poultry protein – can be a challenging mix. Like everyone else, we too love the togetherness and warmth of the Thanksgiving holiday.
But for all its joys, Thanksgiving, or “Turkey Day,” is a national event uniquely built around the mass production and eating of animals, something that’s fundamentally at odds with our core values and lifestyle. For many vegans, no other holiday comes close to bringing up as much ambivalence and concern as Thanksgiving.
So what’s a plant-based vegan to do? Below are 5 tips for enjoying Thanksgiving cheer while minimizing the stress of sharing a table with our turkey-cooking, turkey-eating loved ones.
- Communicate Vegan Dietary Needs in Advance: No one likes to be taken by surprise, least of all a Thanksgiving host. Be considerate by communicating dietary concerns before the big day, or at least as early as you can before you arrive. Explain clearly and specifically what you can and can’t eat, without lecturing or trying to convert. Many people don’t realize the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan, and could mistakenly think that eggs or dairy, for instance, are OK with you.
- Suggest Win-Win Thanksgiving Solutions: Offer suggestions such as using vegetable broth or miso instead of chicken stock in soups, or almond milk and vegan margarine instead of dairy in mashed potatoes. You can also encourage your host to make two versions of something, such as tomato sauce, where meat can easily be added to one batch after cooking. Be sure to also let your host know about the many vegan substitutes available today, such as vegan creamer and plant-based turkey substitutes.
- Offer to Bring Vegan Dishes: A great way to share the vegan love on Thanksgiving is to share favorite plant-based items, such as chunky sweet potato casserole, tossed garden salad with green goddess dressing, sugar-free cranberry apple sauce, and vegan desserts such as pumpkin pie, blueberry lemon bars, or baked apples with cashew cream. Be sure to check out the Plant-Based Cooking Holiday page for more plant-based vegan ideas. Your “potluck” approach takes pressure off your host, demonstrates goodwill, and most important – shows everyone how delicious vegan food can be!
- Take Responsibility for Yourself: Ultimately, it’s you who will need to make sure you have a good meal, and a good time, this Thanksgiving. Find out what is being served, what substitutions will be available, and proceed accordingly. Bring your own vegan main dish if you’re concerned about protein. You can also bring your own vegan creamer, salad, side dishes, beverages and the like, in small, discreet personal containers. Of course, family and friends may wonder what you’re doing, which brings us to the next tip.
- It’s a Party, Not a Protest: You may have strong feelings about being vegan, but the Thanksgiving table may not be the best time or place for an extended discussion. Love and relationship are what it’s all about, and you’ll want to keep that in mind as Uncle Joe or Aunt Sally wonder what you’re up to. Instead of being defensive or preachy, welcome their curiosity, briefly explaining that you’ve gone plant-based for health, ethical or whatever reasons are most important to you. Keep it simple, offering to revisit the subject at another time or to email them vegan resources and information.