For a lot of people, vegan or not, thanksgiving can be a huge source of stress because of the food alone. I’m sure so many of us have been in a situation where we want to make healthier or more conscious decisions by limiting or cutting out certain food groups, and our family just does not understand. Unfortunately, the result often includes shaming or guilt, and at worst can include bigger conflict and arguments.
This thanksgiving, let’s make an effort to avoid this.
My grandpa has been vegan for around eight years now and I’ve been vegan for five, so my family has gotten pretty good at hosting a vegan-friendly thanksgiving. Since going vegan, I’ve always felt included and confident in my thanksgiving meal. Here are some things I’ve learned from them along the way to make it a good day where the focus is on abundance, gratitude, inclusion, and enjoying each other’s company rather than on judgment, guilt, or lifestyle disagreement.
- If your diet differs from your family’s, bring your own dish to eat and share.
Whether you’re vegan, keto, gluten-free, or anything else in between, bringing your own dish that you know you’ll feel good eating will save you from feeling left out and might stop a well-meaning family member from pushing food on you that you really don’t want. Additionally, and for vegans especially, sharing the dish you bring can help your family see that the food you’re eating still tastes good and that you’re not missing out. If you’re not the world’s greatest chef, no worries there either, you can pick something up pre-made and most likely no one will care who made it! If you’re vegan, you can pick up or pre-order some grab and go items from Louisville Vegan Foods that are sure to be real crowd pleasers.
- Focus on the sides
Most vegans and vegetarians are pretty savvy at making filling meals out of sides, and thanksgiving is no exception to that. Sure, you can buy a vegan “thanksgiving roast” if you’re into that, but it doesn’t have to be that hard, and no one really needs to go that far out of their way. The best thing that my family does for me and my grandpa is to set aside a little bit of the dishes they were already making, and leave the animal ingredients out of that portion. Bring both to the meal and voilà! You have an easy vegan-friendly thanksgiving. In my family this means my mom’s mashed potatoes are made with vegan butter (no one tastes the difference, don’t tell my family), and a small portion is separated out before the gouda cheese is added. It means that the cranberry relish my grandmother has been making for a decade now has a portion without Jell-O (gelatin), and speaking of, it means getting marshmallows without gelatin for the sweet potato pie (again, no one can taste the difference.) If you’re expecting a vegan at your thanksgiving meal, I think these little changes to things you’re already making are the best and easiest way to accommodate them.
- Stay In Your Lane
This sounds harsh, and there are so many instances where we should take action and speak out on things that don’t sit right with us, but what your family member is eating, or choosing not to eat this thanksgiving is not one of them. Food is such a complicated, personal, and HUGE part of our lives. So when someone questions or seemingly judges what we’re eating, it’s almost impossible not to have an emotional and defensive response to it. You might think it’s disgusting that someone is loading their plate with turkey, or snobbish that they’re refusing to. However, the truth is that what someone else is eating isn’t your business, and making comments to them about their diet, whether it includes meat, gluten, sugar, etc, or not, is most likely just going to upset them and cause conflict.
This thanksgiving, instead focusing on what everyone else in your family is eating, focus on what you love about them. Focus on how they inspire you or make you laugh, or just make a really great pumpkin pie. Don’t forget that it’s a time to celebrate, so enjoy it.
Happy thanksgiving, no matter what you choose to eat!