New to a WFPB diet and feeling a wee anxious about your first plant-based Thanksgiving. If you only take away one piece of my holiday advice, let it be this: focus on the sides! Want your WFPB Thanksgiving to be really successful? Keep reading!
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There are so many elements to a “successful” Thanksgiving, WFPB or otherwise. First, there is the social piece (which may be a little different in 2020). Second, having a plan is key to keep you from feeling overwhelmed come the big day. Third, it's all about the food: make it delightful! (Don't worry – I'll show you how in a minute here.)
Thanksgiving is the holiday infamous for arguing relatives, touchy subjects at the dinner table, and loads of pressure on the home cooks. With the election so recently and everyone being on edge from COVID-19, there won’t be a shortage of “touchy” subjects to go around the holiday table, even if you're keeping things really small this year. Add in the extra pressure of being plant-based for the first time at the holidays are yeah, tensions could be high.
But they don't have to be!
There are three steps you can take to keeping it light and peaceful this year if you decide to get together with your family, whether it’s with your immediate household in your dining room or extended family via Zoom.
Some digital tips for a Zoom Thanksgiving 2020:
- Keep your Zoom call going while you cook! Even if you’re not talking the whole time, and need to focus on the delicious WFPB recipes you're making, it can still make cooking feel more like a family activity, especially if you're away from some of the folks you'd normally spend the holidays with. Plus, this way way you can ask your mom which spices she puts in her famous stuffing over and over again :)
- After your “after dinner walk,” watch a movie together via one of the countless apps or program out there.
- If possible, avoid those touchy conversation points; it can be more difficult to “debate” when you’re not face to face.
- Not eating Turkey on Thanksgiving can be tough if this is your first WFPB holiday! If you choose to skip it, understand this might seem odd to others, especially if you're the only person in your family following the WFPB lifestyle. Instead of feeling defensive when questioned about your new eating habits, try to use “I” statements, like “I just feel better when I don’t eat meat,” or “I have X condition that makes eating meat tough on my body, so I choose to avoid it!”
Dining with Your Bubble
If you’re dining with your bubble and/or immediate family, remember not to shame anyone for their diet choices, as you hope they will not shame you for yours. Thanksgiving is about putting your differences aside and coming together for a meal. If the family is giving you a hard time for not eating Turkey, just remember those “I” statements!
If you’re the one cooking for the family and they are not plant-based, try to make the side dishes plant-based and stick to those. They can enjoy Turkey and sides, and you can stick to sides for now. (They're the best part anyway, am I right?)
If you’re not the cook, offer to bring a few side dishes that you can keep plant-based. WARNING: Make extra. For 3 years in a row I brought WFPB side dishes to my non-vegan family's Thanksgiving and everyone ate all of my food not knowing it was vegan! They really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t able to have leftovers or go back for seconds. People tend to really enjoy vegan food until they find out it’s “vegan.” Go figure!
Staying calm means having a plan, and taking time for yourself. If you’re reading this section, you are most likely going to be head honcho in the kitchen this Thanksgiving. No small feat, especially if you're new to WFPB eating. Don’t fear! Here are three easy steps you can take to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.
1. Plan Out the Menu
And keep it simply! If you don’t have simple plant-based recipes in mind, check out our easy plant-based Thanksgiving menu suggestions!
2. Grocery Shop Early
Most ingredients can be bought up to a week in advance! Potatoes, cranberries, stale bread, peas, onions, veggie broth, carrots, sweet potatoes…. They all last until the big day if refrigerated. And if you wait until last minute chances are some of the items are your list will be sold out which is the ultimate holiday stressor. Find the calm and go early!
3. Don’t Do It All Yourself
This year's Thanksgiving being smaller does not mean you should shoulder it all! Like any great leader, it’s important to delegate. This comes especially in handy when you have children or a spouse to fill in the gaps.
Now, how do I put this lightly? If you’re like me, and you become a bit — let’s just say “inflexible” or “particular” in the kitchen — then here are some tasks that won’t leave you hovering over your sous chefs:
- Set the table
- Chop vegetables
- Mash the potatoes
- Make a creative centerpiece
- Plate the finished food
- Pick out serving dishes and set them up on the table
- If you're having a turkey for meat-eating family members, ask them to brine, stuff, baste, and cook the turkey! Glad you got out of that one? I bet!
If you are alone this year and are doing it all yourself, then throw on a holiday movie in the background or Zoom your favorite family members to keep you company while you cook. Try and keep it to your top four recipes (and keep them simple if you can!) to prevent overwhelm.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you want to have some turkey, cheesy mashed potatoes, or buttered biscuits and you think you can enjoy these without compromising your health, then go for it! If you’re concerned about your health condition, then take a small taste if you’d like. If you want to be 100 percent WFPB, then that’s fine too! You make the decision that best fits YOU. We say this at MamaSezz all the time but it's always true: progress, not perfection!
OK, the really important part. Need some WFPB inspiration for your vegan Thanksgiving? No worries. We have a FREE vegan Thanksgiving menu you can download here. Filled with delicious and simple plant-based recipes to bring the holiday cheer.
Have some family favorites in mind that you want to veganize? Use these simple WFPB swaps while cooking.
Want more than just sides? You can pretty much stuff any veggie! Here are our favorite plant-based foods to stuff instead of turkey.
The most important thing is that you use the spices you grew up on to keep the flavor profile familiar and delicious. And if you’re not confident in the kitchen, then stick to a recipe. It makes things way easier on yourself!
- Keep conversations upbeat, even if you're enjoying your meal with family via Zoom.
- Prep and plan in advance!
- If your whole crew isn't eating WFPB like you, then focus on the sides.
- Don't be too hard on yourself, and delegate some of the cooking if you can.
- Use the MamaSezz FREE vegan Thanksgiving menu if you're not sure how to keep your holiday WFPB.
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.