The topic of plant-based diets has been on an upswing. Experts have always recommended eating more vegetables and fruit to keep your body functioning at its best. Plus, having a more plant-centered diet and relying less heavily on animal-based products reduces your environmental footprint drastically. Any small change you can make helps, you don’t need to fully convert to vegetarian or veganism to make positive changes for yourself and the planet. But what about during the holidays? It can be challenging to be mindful of a plant-based diet while still enjoying your holiday feast with friends and family. Here are a few ways to show your appreciation for plant-based foods this Thanksgiving.
Start With Snacks
Leave out bowls of raw chopped veggies on the kitchen counter, dining room table or even the coffee table in the family room. If you’re a guest, arrive early at your host’s with a tray of fresh veggies for everyone. Serve one or two vegetable-based dips alongside those colourful veggies. Try hummus, white bean, pumpkin seed, roasted beet, root vegetable or butternut squash dips to liven up the veggies and provide a bit of sustenance before dinner. When whipping up the dips, employ lots of warming spices, hearty fresh herbs, tahini and even feta or soft goat cheese. These will make your dips sing and get your guests talking about your cooking skills.
Prioritize Plants on Your Plate
When sitting down to dinner, plates are often heaped with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, with only the smallest space reserved for one sad spoonful of vegetables. This Thanksgiving, transform your dinner dish into a work of art and reach first for vibrant orange sweet potatoes and carrots, golden squash and turnips, crimson cranberries and beets or emerald leafy greens and green beans. Roast your Brussels sprouts and cauliflower instead of boiling for amazing flavour. I promise that after eating side dishes of this caliber, you’ll feel less sluggish after dinner and have ample energy to visit with friends and family.
Shift the Focus of Fats
Animal fats can easily be swapped out for plant based fats—and you don’t even have to sacrifice flavour. Have your bottle of olive oil handy and drizzle it into your mashed sides or over your roasted vegetables. You can even bring coconut oil into play if you’re looking to mix up the flavours. Surprise your guests by mixing up a batch of rich, savoury mushroom gravy instead of the traditional turkey kind.
With all of this said, it’s still OK to give yourself permission to enjoy the foods you love this Thanksgiving—turkey and all. The main thing to remember is to enjoy yourself! Experiment and maybe a few more plant-based options might end up making it on to your favourites list this year. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Shannon Smith is a registered dietitian. Through her years of practice, Shannon has adopted a very gentle and understanding approach to nutrition practices. She meets her clients right where they’re at, and works to help them rediscover the joy of eating nourishing foods in ways that suit their lifestyle.