The Story of my First Vegan Thanksgiving
Are you stressed out because you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your family and friends and you’ll be the ONLY vegan at the table? Or is this your first vegan Thanksgiving and you’re nervous about how it’ll turn out?
Trust me, I know how it feels to have your vegan thanksgiving go wrong. My first vegan Thanksgiving was horrible. I’m surprised it happened to me, really, because I think I should know better, but when I started out, like everyone, I didn’t know better :)
So, I understand you completely, but I also know that your vegan Thanksgiving dinner can be amazing and stress-free, so if you’re stressed out, read on!
So, Let Me Tell You About My First Thanksgiving As A Vegan.
I remember going to the market before Thanksgiving to look for the perfect entree to replace the turkey. I bought a Field Roast (a plant-based “meatloaf”) and was so happy to find that there are vegan products on the market that are perfect for Thanksgiving--or even for every day. I knew the rest of the dinner would be roasted vegetables, salads and mainly vegan dishes anyways, so I thought I was all set.
Come Thanksgiving Day, I proudly baked the Field Roast according to the package instructions and then I had it for Thanksgiving dinner.
It was delicious, and I felt like I figured it out, I was happy that it tasted so good, perfectly salty and seasoned just right! And looked like how a “real” entree should look like.
An hour later I started feeling bad. My stomach was heavy, and I was very uncomfortable. And then I started throwing up. :(
At this point I felt that maybe the path that I chose--going vegan--wasn’t the right choice for me. I felt like a loser in a way...I thought that I had finally figured it out and all of a sudden I became insecure with my choices. Because I was a beginner-vegan then, I didn’t even think to read the ingredients on the label because if it’s vegan, then it must be healthy and good for me...right?!
While my husband was taking care of me when I was feeling so sick after that meal, I remember him saying to me, “Are you really sure you want to be vegan after all that?” Inside, I was agreeing with him--was it really worth it if I felt worse than after eating meat products? Initially, I was doubting my own ability to stay vegan and feel satisfied while finding meat-substitutes. However, after that moment I was even MORE determined to find foods that agreed with my body, that were healthy, real, and nutritious.
I made my first major mistake that Thanksgiving--and I had to learn the hard way. Although it was discouraging to be excited and then immediately disappointed about going vegan, I learned that avoiding processed foods--at least for me--was the best way to go.
But I Learned A Lot From That First Vegan Thanksgiving
Lesson #1: You Can’t Put Your Body Aside
My point isn’t that the Field Roast was bad or anything; I’m sure other vegans have it and have no issues with it. My body doesn’t do well with this processed product which contains mainly gluten (and a lot of it). I should have known better, but I was so focused on finding the perfect “imitation meat” that I was blind to my body’s needs and preferences.
What I should have done is trust myself, my cooking skills and my recipe arsenal to make my own main dish.
We all have things that don’t work well for our bodies, so we all must keep that in mind in our pursuit of the perfect vegan version of non-vegan foods. We just can’t put our bodies’ aside. Literally, we can’t. :)
Lesson #2: Just Because Something Is Vegan Doesn’t Mean It’s Healthy
The other thing to remember is that just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good for you. So, stick to real food, limit processed foods and read the labels. If I would have made my stuffed peppers, for example, I would have been much happier and saved myself the uncomfortable experience.
Lesson #3: For Holidays And Special Occasions – Food Is There To Bring People Together
When we get together with our family and friends, we create moments that we’ll all cherish forever. These beautiful memories will last way longer than the memories of what we had to eat that night. So, just stick to real and simple food and focus on the experience.
I’m not suggesting you serve a boring meal for Thanksgiving. I know that if you’re reading this, you must love good food (I do too!). But you can take a huge load of stress off your back by remembering that food is just the excuse. As long as it doesn’t get in the way as the Field Roast did for me, you’re going to have a great time, and that’s what counts.
Here’s a Sample Vegan-Friendly Thanksgiving Meal with Some Options…
90% of the Thanksgiving meal that I make for my family is vegan, and no one even thinks about it...
I no longer try to make a fake turkey for the vegans at the table. I just make sure that there’s plenty of good, healthy vegan food on the table.
I usually buy the turkey + stuffing + gravy pre-prepped in an aluminum pan, ready to go into the oven. Then I take care of all the rest of the meal which is 100% vegan, of course!
The easiest thing to plan in my Thanksgiving menu is dessert because, without a Pumpkin Cheesecake, Thanksgiving meal will not be complete! Easy enough right?
Here are other vegan dessert options that work really well for Thanksgiving:
Alternative #1: Olive Oil Orange Cake
Alternative #2: Tahini Oatmeal Cookies
Vegan Main Dish (Non-vegans’ Side Dish)
For this sample menu, I suggest going with the Stuffed Butternut Squash. It’s a great, naturally sweet yet perfectly savory, hearty and balanced dish.
I always like to use some type of pumpkin/squash this time of year just because they are so fresh, delicious and festive!
Here are other vegan main dish options that work really well for Thanksgiving:
Alternative #1: Baked Mini Pumpkins
Alternative #2:Roasted Vegetables Lasagna
A great salad for the Thanksgiving table is my Apple Kale Salad it will complement the rest of the meal beautifully! Especially when Honeycrisp apples are in season!
Here are other vegan salad options that work really well for Thanksgiving:
Alternative #2: Chopped Raw Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Apple and Dried Plums
And that’s it!
Did I Ease Your Mind?
I want to give you the confidence that you can cook a delicious vegan meal for Thanksgiving and it's not that hard! You'll be surprised how the rest of the crowd will love “your” food and won't even realize it's vegan, it will just taste good.