As an animal lover and environmentalist, I’m a huge fan of plant-based diets. For the most part, I’m vegetarian and I help my Health Coaching clients add more plant-based meals to their lives. Although vegans and vegetarians are a lot more common than they used to be, Thanksgiving can be one of those times when staying plant-powered can feel like more of a chore.
But what about the turkey?!
Meat and dairy products have a larger carbon footprint than plant-based ingredients. According to research done by Carnegie Mellon University, the Thanksgiving turkey alone has the same environmental impact as many of the side dishes combined.
If your love for the environment has led you to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, you can feel good about choosing a turkey alternative. Thankfully, plant-based diets seem to be trending, which means there are more options out there than ever before. Two of my favorites are the Vegan Mushroom Make-Ahead Gravy and the Simple Vegan Stuffing. Also consider a Lentil Loaf or a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie for a protein-rich meatless main dish. Other ways to lessen the carbon footprint of your meal include choosing locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. These items require less fossil fuels to grow and transport.
Beware of the bacon.
Here in the South, butter and bacon are more religion than ingredients. At first sight, many of the typical Thanksgiving side dishes may look plant-based but there could be animal products hiding in there too (like chicken stock, bacon, and dairy in its many forms). If you're cooking and hosting the meal, you can easily rework your menu to avoid these products (keep reading for tips on this!). If you're attending Thanksgiving as a guest, however, get clear about your priorities in advance. What feels more important—sticking to your plant-based diet or simply relaxing with your loved ones? Could you easily do both? These are all valid choices! Another idea is to bring your favorite plant-based side dish to share—that way you'll know there's at least one thing on the table you can eat.
Served with a side of plants.
Many traditional Thanksgiving side-dishes can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. For instance, mashed potatoes get a vegan makeover when whipped with non-dairy butter (like Earth Balance). When substituting with your favorite non-dairy milk, be sure to choose the original unsweetened version. Just because you enjoy that sweetened vanilla soy milk in your cereal doesn’t mean you’ll like it in your potatoes. Instead of writing off a traditional Thanksgiving dish as off limits, look for opportunities to make plant-based substitutions.
Opting for a plant-based Thanksgiving opens the door to a cornucopia of non-traditional, yet seasonal recipes. Simply search for “vegan thanksgiving” and you’ll get loads of ideas! Here are some of my favorite plant-based Thanksgiving dishes that will wow carnivores and herbivores alike.
Miracle No Knead Bread
Grilled Asparagus with Creamy Sweet Potato Sauce
Spiced Pumpkin Hummus Dip
Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole
Are you enjoying a plant-powered Thanksgiving this year? What are some of your favorite plant-based Thanksgiving dishes and substitutions?
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Lots of Crunchy Love,