Your Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving as a Vegetarian

Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around family and food—two of the best things ever—so what's not to love?

Well, if you're a vegetarian or vegan, there are some pretty obvious downsides. When the average person pictures a Thanksgiving table, there's no doubt a massive turkey is in the center of it all. Sure, there are plenty of sides on the outskirts, but the worries for those of us who live a plant-based life aren't over.

A table full of thanksgiving food is shown from above with friends reaching to fill their plates

(via Shutterstock)

If this upcoming Thanksgiving will be your first as a vegetarian (or if you simply want to find a better way to navigate the holiday than in years past), here's your easy survival guide:

How to Bring It Up

Because Thanksgiving often involves seeing extended family members we may not be around all the time, some of them are likely to either forget that you don't eat meat or be unaware entirely. They may try to scoop a piece of turkey onto your plate or question you when you say that you don't eat meat, but it's best to simply approach the topic openly and firmly. Simply say something like, "Oh, I actually don't eat meat anymore" if it's offered to you, and if you're met with a flabbergasted, "So you don't eat steak?" or other silly question (we've heard them all), try to simply laugh it off and keep things lighthearted. Vegetarians get a bad reputation for being aggressive towards those who do eat meat, so it's better to just remain open about your reasons if you're asked but generally keep the tone non-judgmental. You could also suggest to the host (if it's not at your own parents' house) that you bring some form of vegetarian main dish to share to bridge the gap sooner rather than later.


Hidden Items to Be Aware Of

If you're the kind of vegetarian that truly tries to avoid consuming animal products (other than dairy and eggs, unless you're vegan), you may need to avoid a few Thanksgiving dishes other than just the turkey. If your family is a fan of sweet potato casserole doused in marshmallows, you may want to avoid this one if you're not okay with the presence of gelatin in those marshmallows (it's typically sourced from pigs). There are vegan or gelatin-free marshmallow options out there, but the average kind that most people buy at the store features this as an ingredient. You'll also want to check things like the stuffing, which may have been cooked inside the turkey. Even if not, there may be bits of animal fat in it or some form of chicken or beef stock. Bacon is another common ingredient that your family members may love to throw in their recipes (green beans and even mashed potatoes are common ones), so check with the chef before digging in just to be safe.

Sweet potato casserole in a green dish on a Thanksgiving dinner table

(via Shutterstock)


What You Can Eat

With everything you can'eat covered, what exactly can you enjoy during this food-focused holiday feast? It depends on the way your family specifically likes to do the holiday, but often a Thanksgiving table won't be complete without some form of salad as well as cranberry sauce and plenty of sides. As long as you check with the creator of each that no extra animal products (think broths or other items mentioned above) were used if you aren't okay with that, you can easily make a meal out of these delicious side dishes. If you want, you can also bring something of your own to be safe or see if the host is willing to make some adjustments. For example, some families will do a pasta bar as well as a turkey and keep things like hummus and crackers at the ready. If your family is hosting and you want to go all out with the plant-based goodies, there are plenty of meatless centerpieces that mimic that turkey that so many others find difficult to give up. Plus, there's always pumpkin pie!

A Thanksgiving table with pumpkin pie is shown from above as someone cuts a piece

(via Unsplash)


With these things in mind, you're set to still enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family—even if they accidentally sit you right in front of the turkey on the table. And when in doubt, there's always Friendsgiving! Throwing one of these means you can bring whatever kind of food you want without facing the judgment of every aunt and uncle you haven't seen in nearly two years.


Want to make everyone jealous of your vegetarian Thanks(or friends)giving? Easy—just click HERE for some cute caption ideas for your vegetarian Thanksgiving.