A plant exclusive Thanksgiving Feast with Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary, Orland, California – butternut squash roasting on an open fire

A Plant-Based Guide to Thriving at Thanksgiving

For those of us who have opted out of flesh for feasts, simply sitting down to the family gathering with a big, lifeless and featherless bird in the center of the table can present a challenge – and at the least offend the sensibilities.  Whether you’re still in transition to plant-based eating or a longtime veteran, the issues are there, right along with the need for strategies to navigate a social situation that may – especially for the plant-based virgin – feel awkward.

Traditional U.S. holiday feasts are cemented in carnistic thinking – seeing animals as edibles to be utilized for our palate’s desires. [pullquote] “Carnism” – in case the term is new to you – is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals[/pullquote].

Those of us who see the world through a different lens – outside the ‘eating the animals’ box – can be made to feel like we are the oddballs.   It seems we are given two primary options:  either laugh off the jokes about our dietary plan, or stand our ground with dour tidings of the reality of the animals-on-your-plate world.

Yet it’s possible to participate without being a killjoy.  This is dependent on your confidence about YOUR choices, and letting go of any expectation about your choices making a difference for someone else.  For one thing – trust me – your choices DO have an impact, even if made light of in the moment.  It’s all planting seeds.  People respond more to how you are and what you do than what you say.

Here is a list of tips I hope you find helpful and supportive for your flesh-free Thanksgiving feast – Plantsgiving!

Six Things To Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner

1)  Your sense of humor.  This is not only my first rule of fitness, it’s my first rule of survival in any venue.  Give your militant side a rest and focus on the spirit of inviting others to feel at ease around you.  This is not the same as encouraging actions in direct opposition to your ideology. Simply be the change you want to see in the world with lightheartedness.

2) Redirect skills. For some reason, it seems to be universal that when you opt out of something everyone else is opting in for – such as the turkey on the table – people feel threatened and defensive. This often shows up as an offensive attack on you. Simply choose to not get embroiled in the controversy and redirect the conversation.  For example, if directly offered the poultry platter and along with it comes the comment “You don’t have any turkey!  Don’t you want some?”  Rather than freezing up or stumbling through a “I don’t eat animals” phrase, simply say – “Gosh, my plate is packed right now, everything looks so good!  Who made the amazing green bean dish? The table looks gorgeous.  Where did you come up with the ideas for the table decorations…?” and by the time you are done with the compliments, they’ll be on to someone else.  Honestly? no one cares what you eat or don’t eat. We just think they do.

3) Compassion and love.  This is definitely one of those times to focus on the positive. Family dynamics are hard enough without utilizing the venue as a soapbox for your deepest held convictions.  Take your attention off of yourself and put it on those around you.  I find that if I am prepared and industrious with questions about how others are doing, and ask questions about what is going on in their lives, you can actually get through an entire evening without a single person asking you anything about yourself.  Evidently it’s true – people love to talk about themselves. And they will have a positive connection with their experience with you, which is actually the best way to be an influence for positive change. Model the behavior you’d like to see in the world and watch spirits uplift.

4)  Plant food eats for everyone.  Even if the host responds to your “What can I bring?” question with the “nothing”, always err on the side of generous and bring some eats.  No fail choices are homemade bread, colorful salads, and veggie crudites with your favorite veg dip. A beverage – always!  Remember, good food pleases everyone and you win hearts when you demonstrate how delicious your plant-based choice can be.  Some simple appropriate suggestions are Cranberry sauce with dates and orange juice and Forks Over Knives Style Mushroom Gravy. Oh, and how about plant-based pumpkin pie?

5) Relevant resources.  For the sincere aspirant who wants to find out more about plant-based eating – and there are more and more of them out there – have handy some short sheets with helpful book titles or web addresses to give to those who ask.  This is the way to meet the need and teach to the moment, without having to be prepared with an entire plant-based nutrition lecture.  Helpful and popular resources are:

6) Humility.  No need to announce to everyone that the beautiful dish you are setting on the table is “all vegan and fat free!”  Unless you have an appreciate crowd, this will fall on all ears as “your food is bad, my food is good”.  That may not be what you said, but that’s what they’ll hear. As silly and off the mark as this may be, you know it’s true.  Keep your ego on a short leash and let people enjoy what you’ve brought simply because it is so dang good.

Happy Plantsgiving!

And thank you so much  for your continued support of The Plant-Based Journey and your generous reviews on Amazon.

Share your thoughts

Have you something to add to my list – something that you’ve found to be helpful at the Thanksgiving gathering?  Please share in comments blow.


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