The season of pumpkin pies and pecan-anything is just around the corner and already lingering in shelves of grocery stores. But 2019 has also become a popular year among various diets and lifestyle changes, such as veganism.
If you’re a carnivore and are hosting a Thanksgiving for your family or a “Friendsgiving” this year, that involves one or two non-meat eaters, there are many vegan dishes that can be prepared, without any hassle or extra ingredients you need to buy. Most side dishes can be made vegan friendly, by leaving out or substituting certain ingredients.
If you’re planning on serving some sort of mashed potato, skip the butter, cream and chicken stock, and use olive oil instead. Planning on serving crispy brussel sprouts? Leave the turkey drippings to the turkey and leave the bacon at the butcher. Brussel sprouts can be easily prepared by mixing them with olive oil, sea salt, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, and letting them get crispy in the oven.
Running out of dessert ideas that don’t involve loads of butter and cream? If you’re someone that keeps coconut oil or coconut milk around, a vegan apple crisp can be the answer. And no, it won’t taste like coconut, but like an actual apple pie.
The bottom line is, that you don’t want to create a whole new menu for just one or two people, and those vegans or vegetarians don’t want you to make a big deal about their diet restrictions.
If you’re the host of a “Friendsgiving” instead of a family buffet, even better. Make it a potluck and have everyone bring one or two of their favorite dishes. No stress, no hassle, no guilt. As a host, you can be in charge of the beverages and easy salads, where you can skip the creamy dressing in exchange for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The holidays are already a stressful time and having a teenager with diet restriction could be even more daunting. According to a 2016 poll from the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital, more than half of parents of teenagers with diet restrictions said those restrictions became stressful and a source of conflict.
“Things that create an extra burden around meals are kind of the worst,” said Sarah Clark, health behavior researcher for the University of Michigan poll. “There’s a high-pressure situation of the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, as well as the everyday exhaustion of one more chore I have to do to take care of this family and you are making it harder.”
According to Clark, situations like that can add negativity and create a gap between the relationship of the child and the parent.
“They’re trying to figure out who they are. For the most part, it’s a good way to try out new identities, but it does cause conflict,” nutritionist and professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Leslie Lytle said, who did not participate in the poll. “Around the holidays this can be really challenging, as you can get extended family who often may really challenge the child’s [diet].”
As a parent, the best way to handle the situation of conflict is by preparing meals together.
However, it might also be difficult to be a vegan host and inviting coworkers and friends who are neither a vegan or a vegetarian, but very much “meat eaters.” Many carnivores have some sort of “phobia” when it comes to veganism or eating vegan dishes, although vegan dishes don’t all contain faux meats and soy products, but are mostly done with veggies. Some don’t understand or accept the fact that there won’t be any dishes containing dairy or meat at a vegan Thanksgiving. Therefore, it’s important to be respectful when going to a vegan Thanksgiving, and not start a conflict about someone’s diet- or lifestyle choice.
Dinners with a big group might give some individuals the impression to talk about politics of any sort, that includes having a conversation about someone’s choice to ditch meat or not. But there’s usually no debate on why someone ditches all the veggies, and not the meat. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that vegans and vegetarians are usually in the minority at most traditional American Thanksgivings, so make them feel welcome and don’t treat them as if they are an inconvenience.
With that said, if you plan in advance, this holiday season can be a breeze, even with having more veggie dishes on hand than usual. Also, keep in mind, veggie dishes are a lot easier to prepare than a turkey. Be mindful of your guests, their allergies, diet restrictions, and any political conversations, in order to keep the holiday season peaceful.