Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and delicious food. But what if you or someone at your table follows a plant-based diet and you aren’t sure what to make? Fear not! A plant-based Thanksgiving can be just as flavorful and satisfying as a traditional one. If this year is the first time you’ve been tasked with planning a menu for a plant-based Thanksgiving, then you’re in the right place because we have plenty of tips and tricks to help you out.
Embracing a Plant-Based Thanksgiving
While turkey is most closely associated with Thanksgiving dinner, this holiday feast traditionally includes quite a few dishes that are made with animal products. There are mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and green bean casseroles that often call for cheese, milk, butter, or heavy cream. With so many dishes associated with the holiday requiring some sort of animal product, it can be daunting to even think about the possibility of having a plant-based Thanksgiving this year. However, when you step back and think about the many benefits you and your loved ones can experience by embracing a plant-based Thanksgiving, you’ll start to see that the benefits are sure to outweigh the extra work. With that in mind, here are some of the top benefits you and your family can reap by making the switch to a vegan holiday feast:
- Less Digestive Discomfort: We’ve all experienced the bloating and stomach discomfort that comes with overindulging at a holiday feast. While having a vegan dinner won’t guarantee that you and your guests don’t overeat, plant-based meals are loaded with fiber and vital nutrients that will help you feel full and satisfied without consuming the grease, fat, and calories that often lead to after-meal discomfort.
- More Nutrients for a Healthier Body: Speaking of nutrients, plant-based foods are fantastic for providing a wide array of the vital nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. By having a vegan Thanksgiving, you can rest assured that you are not only making a delicious meal for your family but that you are providing them with a healthy, nutritious meal as well.
- Reduced Pressure on the Planet: Embracing a plant-based meal for Thanksgiving isn’t only better for your health, it’s also better for the planet. In fact, researchers have calculated the carbon footprint of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and they found that in a traditional feast, the estimated carbon footprint of the turkey alone is equal to that of all the sides and desserts that accompany it. Meanwhile, plant-based items have a much smaller impact on the environment as they take fewer resources to cultivate, transport, and cook. All that to say, having a vegan Thanksgiving is one small thing you can do to help keep our planet as healthy as possible.
- Better for Accommodating Dietary Restrictions: Not only will a plant-based Thanksgiving offer an array of delicious dishes for you and your family to enjoy, but it will also allow you to better accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences. If you have people in your family who are sensitive to dairy products or have chosen to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, then choosing to host a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner ensures you can accommodate them without any extra hassle.
Tips for Planning Your Plant-Based Thanksgiving
Now that we understand the benefits of a plant-based Thanksgiving, let’s dive into some practical tips to help you plan and prepare for your meal.
1. Make Your Menu Ahead of Time
Planning your plant-based Thanksgiving menu ahead of time is a great way to ensure a stress-free and well-organized holiday meal. By making your menu in advance, you’ll have time to gather all the necessary ingredients, plan your recipes, and make any adjustments that may be needed. This will not only save you time but will also allow you to prioritize tasks and keep your stress levels on the big day. Additionally, creating a menu ahead of time helps you budget, shop early, avoid any last-minute rushes to the grocery store, plan for leftovers, meal prep in advance, and use your ingredients as efficiently as possible. With your menu planned out, you can confidently enjoy a delicious plant-based feast with your loved ones.
2. Research New Recipes
Researching new recipes for a plant-based Thanksgiving is an exciting way to find inspiration and discover delicious vegan options. By exploring recipes that feature seasonal vegetables, herbs, spices, and vegan substitutes, you can create a diverse and flavorful menu. Consider trying vegan versions of traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Don’t be afraid to explore different cooking methods, such as roasting, grilling, or steaming, to add variety to your upcoming feast. Spending time to find new recipes allows you to customize your menu based on personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and the preferences of your guests. It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the versatility and deliciousness of plant-based cooking.
3. Communicate Your Meal Plans
To ensure a smooth and inclusive plant-based Thanksgiving meal, it is essential to communicate your meal plans to your guests ahead of time. By letting your family members, friends, and other guests know about your vegan holiday meal in advance, you can help them plan accordingly or even offer to bring vegan-friendly dishes themselves. Additionally, don’t forget to ask about any dietary restrictions, allergies, or preferences so you can be prepared to accommodate everyone’s needs. Sharing your menu, recipes, or meal ideas with others also allows them to contribute, provide feedback, or suggest alternatives if necessary. Ultimately, open and clear communication fosters a sense of inclusivity, gratitude, and togetherness, which is what this holiday is ultimately about.
4. Give Yourself Grace
Transitioning to a plant-based Thanksgiving can be a journey filled with new discoveries and flavors. Embrace this process and remember that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Give yourself permission to enjoy exploring new recipes and ingredients, and be kind to yourself as you navigate this change. Progress is more important than perfection, so focus on small victories and the positive impact your choices have on your health, the environment, and animal welfare. Celebrate the joy of creating a compassionate and delicious feast that reflects your values. With each vegan dish you serve, you are making a difference, so give yourself grace and embrace this opportunity to create a memorable and fulfilling Thanksgiving experience.
Simple Plant-Based Swaps for Your Thanksgiving Dinner
Now that you have some tips for planning your plant-based Thanksgiving, let’s explore some simple swaps you can make to “veganize” your favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
1. Swap Butter for a Plant-Based Option
Instead of using dairy butter, opt for vegan butter made from olive oil or coconut oil. These types of butter are plant-based and have a similar texture and flavor, making them great substitutes for traditional butter. You can also experiment with mashed potatoes made with almond milk instead of dairy milk, which adds a creamy, nutty flavor to the dish.
2. Find a Plant-Based Gravy Recipe
Gravy is a staple of Thanksgiving dinner, but you don’t need meat drippings to make a delicious gravy. Make a vegan gravy using vegetable broth, spices, and thickeners like arrowroot or cornstarch. You can also explore recipes for mushroom gravy, lentil gravy, or vegan miso gravy, which add depth of flavor to your meal. Don’t forget to use tamari or soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and herbs to add additional flavor to your gravy this year.
3. Serve a Plant-Based Main Instead of Turkey
Instead of turkey, consider serving a plant-based main dish that will wow your guests. Try lentil loaf, tofu roast, or vegan meat substitutes as the centerpiece of your meal. Experiment with recipes for butternut squash, cauliflower, or pumpkin roast, which can be seasoned with herbs and spices for a flavorful main dish. You can also enjoy hearty vegan stews, casseroles, or pot pies as a filling main dish. Get creative with stuffed veggies, like bell peppers or portobello mushrooms, as a centerpiece that everyone will love.
4. Focus on Vegan Side Dishes
Thanksgiving side dishes are often the highlight of the meal, and there are plenty of vegan options to choose from. Prepare roasted brussels sprouts, green beans, or cauliflower as flavorful side dishes, or try recipes for vegan stuffing, sweet potato casserole, or cranberry sauce, which are traditional favorites that can easily be made vegan. Get creative with vegan green bean casserole (using almond milk) and vegan mushroom soup for a creamy, delicious dish.
5. Add Some Flavor with Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs play a vital role in enhancing the flavors of your plant-based holiday dishes. Traditional fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves bring warmth and depth to your meals. Experiment with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage for a savory touch to your stuffing and sides. Get creative by mixing and matching flavors to create unique and delicious dishes. Don’t forget to use fresh herbs as a garnish to add a pop of color and freshness to your Thanksgiving feast.
6. Don’t Forget Dessert
No Thanksgiving feast is complete without dessert, and there are plenty of vegan options to sweeten the meal. Indulge in vegan pumpkin pie, apple crisp, or coconut milk-based ice cream for a classic Thanksgiving treat. If you want to branch out a little more, you can always look for a recipe for vegan pecan pie, cranberry almond loaf, or pumpkin soup, which showcases seasonal flavors and ingredients.
Live the #NewEarthLife
A plant-based Thanksgiving can be just as delicious and satisfying as a traditional one. By embracing a plant-based diet during Thanksgiving, you not only reap the benefits of improved health and reduced environmental impact but also get the opportunity to explore new flavors and dishes, which is why we consider it part of living the #NewEarthLife. So this Thanksgiving, why not try incorporating more plant-based options into your holiday feast? Share your plant-based Thanksgiving creations on social media with the tag #NewEarthLife and inspire others to join in on the deliciousness!
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