Whether you're a new vegetarian or vegan or have been meat-free for years, the holidays can be tough time of year.
You’re out of your comfort zone and dividing headfirst into dinners of turkey, stuffing and casseroles galore. And did we mention there's tons of gravy?
Luckily, steering clear of animal products doesn't have to mean skimping on the comforting, carby dishes Thanksgiving is known for.
You just need a strategy.
If you can’t or choose not to have your own all-vegan/vegetarian Thanksgiving, chances are that you’ll run into some issues when the big day comes.
Here are five ways you can survive -- and thrive -- at Thanksgiving dinner this year.
Bring a dish everyone will enjoy
Cooking vegan can be a challenge for someone who isn’t used to cooking that way, so you can't expect your host to cook everything vegan.
The most effective way to make sure you have food on the table you can actually eat is to make it yourself.
This will show your friends and family that vegetarian food is amazing. People will eat just about anything on Thanksgiving, and they may even realize it’s just as good as the standard dish.
If you feel like putting in a bit of extra effort, bring a dessert as well.
You'll have the crowd asking for seconds.
Don't make faces when the turkey arrives
Chances are you probably ate (and enjoyed) turkey at some point in your life, so don’t forget where you came from.
Be polite and congratulate the chef. Granted it might not be the prettiest sight in your mind, and nobody will expect you to "ooh and aah" over it, but rudeness won't get you anywhere.
Don’t succumb to guilt
Especially if you’re a new vegan in a non-vegan-friendly family, you might get sad-eyed looks from your parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents.
“Wait, what? You’re not going to try some of the XYZ, after so-and-so worked so hard to prepare it?” Be firm, yet kind. “I don’t eat XYZ any more, but I’m sure it’s delicious, and there will be more for everyone else.”
Repeat as needed.
The first year will be hardest. By year two, they’ll likely get tired of laying on the guilt.
Go into it with a sense of humor
When you're subject to a surprising amount of Tofurkey jokes, don't be alarmed.
Your awkward relatives are just trying to relate to you in any way they know how. That and, well, they may honestly just not get it. And that's fine, smile anyway.
If someone gets right in your face about your choices, or asks a point-blank question like, “What’s wrong with milk? After all, the cow doesn’t suffer,” I say, “I’ll be happy to share what I know about animal agriculture, but right now is not the best time or place for graphic details.”
That'll get them off your case.
Well, for the time being.
Celebrate the season. The holidays aren’t really about the bird in the middle of the table. The fact of the matter is that it is one meal. If a little meat makes its way onto your plate, that's one meal out of the thousand that you ate this year.
That's .1 percent. The industry won't reap the benefits, the animals won't spurn you, and your vegan friends won't condemn you.
While you should stick to your principles, don't let your dietary habits ruin your holiday! You're supposed to be giving thanks, remember?
Now, back to that vegan pumpkin pie.