Congratulations! You’ve made the switch to a plant-based (or vegetarian or vegan) lifestyle. You’re feeling healthy, you may have dropped a few pounds and you can’t wait to share your new-found happiness with your family…at Thanksgiving.
The cool thing is that you can find “About 70,100,000 results in about 0.57 seconds” (thank you Google) when you look for plant-based recipes.
What no one tells you is that your family may not be as excited as you are about your lifestyle choice. They may even be downright hostile when you say you’re going to forego the turkey and other traditional family foods.
Is it possible to eat the way you want AND have a wonderful time with family? YES!
Here are some quick “Dos and Don’ts” to help you have a great day and maybe even get a few folks eating more veggies.
#1. Do NOT preach to your family about the “evils” of what they’re eating. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share your passion for your new, healthy lifestyle. Thanksgiving is not the time to talk about E. coli and the unethical treatment of turkeys. Save that for another time.
2. Don’t tell them. Load up your plate with veggies and side dishes…chances are pretty good that everyone will be focused on their own plates and no one will notice you didn’t take turkey.
3. Do bring a scrumptious veggie side dish and don’t tell them they’re eating a vegan or vegetarian dish until after they’re complimenting you on how delicious it is. Have copies of the recipe to share with them so they can make it at home.
4. Do remember, you are making a choice about what you’re eating (just like when you choose pumpkin pie instead of cheesecake). When we identify who we are as vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, we make the conversation about who we are as a human being. We draw a line in the sand…I AM this, you are that. If you remember you’re making a choice, you can invite others to understand your choice.
5. Don’t roll your eyes when they ask where do you get your protein? Gently remind them there is protein in EVER-Y-THING! Broccoli has protein, the sweet potatoes have protein, the stuffing has protein, heck, even the pumpkin pie has some protein.
6. Don’t focus on changing your family. When they disagree with your meat-free choice, remember, it’s ok. You’re the one who has made the choice to make a change. They don’t have to make the same change and you don’t have to eat the turkey just to make them happy.
7. Do ask questions. When Aunt Mabel tells you what a horrible choice you’ve made, ask her why she feels that way? And not in the snarky, 14-year-old-sulky teenager voice that demands, “WHY?” Tell her you’re trying to understand her anger and frustration with your life choices. This may give you an opening to share more about the value of plant foods.
8. Do use your best judgement. Keep in mind that choosing not to eat turkey is a choice. And it may not be just the turkey that you don’t eat. If your mom puts sausage in the stuffing, you can choose to eat it and pick out the sausage pieces or you can choose to pass on it and eat something else. Same with the pumpkin pie. I’ll bet there’s some butter in the pie crust. It’s your choice to eat it or not. Don’t expect them to change what they’re eating or preparing to suit you. You can always bring your favorite plant-based dish prepared with no salt, no oil and no sugar. Make enough to satisfy you AND plenty to share. I find sharing delicious food is the best way to spark interest in eating more veggies.
9. Don’t bring a Tofurkey and think no one will notice it’s not turkey. This is not the time for fake meats…actually it’s never a good time for fake meats, but that’s a story for another day. No one will be fooled and you’ll lose all credibility for making this choice.
10. Do enjoy yourself. Thanksgiving and the holiday season are about family, friends and staying connected to each other. Lead with love, treat everyone with the same respect you want to be treated with and remember you can only control your own actions and choices.
Wishing you all of the warmth of the holiday season!