I became a vegetarian at the young age of 16, and it just so happened to be right around Thanksgiving time. My family barely knew what a vegetarian was, let alone what to cook for me. These days, it’s become a little more mainstream, and my family has become much more knowledgeable and flexible when it comes to making meals. Every Thanksgiving, my immediate family heads over to my aunt and uncle’s house for a big family meal, and I’m thankful that I always have plenty to eat. My aunt even makes sure to make a second dish of stuffing that was cooked outside of the bird so that I can have some! I’m very lucky in that regard.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and even New Year’s can be very big meat-eating events. Here are some tips I’ve developed over the years for how to have a great holiday meal when you’re not partaking in the meat:
Let Others Know In Advance
If you’re attending a holiday party hosted by a friend or family member and they’re not familiar with your diet, it’s a good idea to make sure to let that person know ahead of time. It gives you a chance to let the host or hostess know just in case, and also it prevents an awkward moment at the dinner table when that person may end up feeling insulted or blindsided when you’re not eating a giant slice of turkey. I never make a big deal of this, but it’s polite and helpful to let them know.
Bring a Veggie Dish With You
This is my favorite tip: If you’re not sure there’s going to be many options for you at a holiday event, bring one (or two!) yourself. It’s always fun to do some cooking or baking around the holidays, plus this is a great chance for you to expose other people to some non-meat dishes that you love that they may also find delicious. Some great ideas: baked macaroni and cheese, a big salad, any kind of potato dish (roasted, mashed), roasted brussel sprouts, a giant pan of assorted roasted veggies – and the list goes on!
Check out the Appetizers
Appetizers are the best. They’re often the tastiest thing at a party and there are so many options that you’ll likely encounter that don’t include meat! I love a good cheese platter, and some other favorites include chips and salsa, guacamole, olives, nuts and crostini.
Side Dishes are a Vegetarian’s Best Friend
At least in my family, even if the centerpiece of a meal is a giant turkey, steak or ham, there will always be a variety of side dishes. For instance, this past Thanksgiving there were side dishes ranging from mashed potatoes and squash to lasagna (yes, lasagna! My family is Italian and big eaters, so apparently lasagna is considered a side dish). Oftentimes at these big holiday meals, there are so many side dishes to choose from that I can barely fit them all on my plate.
Host a Party Yourself!
If you have the opportunity, hosting a holiday get together can be a lot of fun, as well as a chance to control the menu. D and I are planning to host our very first Thanksgiving next year, and while it certainly won’t be meat free (we will have all the traditional foods, including turkey), I do plan on branching out and making several vegetarian friendly dishes. I’m actually very excited for a chance to experiment with some new dishes and share them with our families.
Don’t forget: desserts and wine are always great meat free options to indulge in at the holidays 🙂
Did you have any non-traditional foods at Thanksgiving this year?
What is your favorite holiday dish?