I’m happy to have an extended family that understands and tries to accommodate my diet preferences, but I’ll be honest to say that surviving Thanksgiving dinner could be a challenge if you are a vegan. I’ve heard stories of some people who shamed family members for eating poultry and other stories where vegans were not able to eat anything throughout the entire day. Luckily, I’ve never been in situations like that! Even though none of other people in my extended family are vegans, I always managed to have a delicious meal and have wonderful family time. I was thinking that my experience might be helpful for some of you who are celebrating vegan Thanksgiving for the first time so, in this post, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks on how to handle Thanksgiving if you follow a plant-based diet.
#1: Never Come Hungry
Regardless which event I’m attending, I always make sure to eat before I leave the house. I’m known for getting quite irritable when I’m hungry so in order to avoid such situations, I always make sure that I’m not starving while heading to the event. I know, it might sound counter-intuitive to eat before heading to a dinner party, but trust me when I’m saying that you might face a situation when there is absolutely nothing for you to eat—so you’ll either be miserable and hungry or feel a temptation to break the diet and eat whatever you could find.
#2: Bring a Snack
Another hAnger preventive strategy is to always have a snack with you. It might be a vegan protein bar or a bag of nuts—anything goes when you are in a situation when there is nothing for you to eat. It might sound excessive, but I have a backup snack in every purse as my schedule could get busy and I always want to make sure that I have an option when there is absolutely no vegan food available.
#3: Be Strategic
In most situations, finding a vegan option at the Thanksgiving dinner will not be that big of a deal if you know how to strategically plan your plate. My strategy goes as follows: I start with a salad making sure that there is no dressing or cheese on it (some salad dressings contain butter). Then, I will find a side order that will be my main course. Usually, I go for plain rice or potatoes (be careful with mashed potatoes though as most of the times this dish contains milk). To spice things up, I’ll have a few spoons of cranberry sauce (just in case, ask a person who cooked dinner if it contains butter). For dessert, I’ll go for a fruit salad or berries; if none is available I’ll drink a cup of tea with lemon and agave syrup.
#4: Don’t Be Mean
Perhaps, the most important thing about celebrating Thanksgiving as a vegan is to control your emotions toward people who are not following the same diet as you are. I know how tempting it is to share all the knowledge about saving animals and improving your health, but in my humble opinion, a family celebration is not the right place to do so. You are risking to hurt people’s feeling and just ruin the entire holiday. My rule of thumb while discussing my dietary preferences is to only answer direct questions if people ask me about something and never intrude with unsolicited vegan advice.
#5: It’s Not About Food
Finally, stop thinking about things that you feel like you are missing out since you are a vegan. Trust me, Thanksgiving dinner is not about a specific meal that you got used to during the years before you started a plant-based diet. It’s about people surrounding you. So make sure to spend meaningful time with your friends and family—because any holiday is just an excuse to catch up with the most important people in your life.
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There you have it: my 5 tips on how to survive Thanksgiving as a vegan. I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings by expressing my opinion on how I handle non-vegan Thanksgiving dinners while being on a plant-based diet. These are just strategies that work for me and I hope these tips help you not only during the holiday season but also anytime you are going out to the restaurant throughout the year.