How to do a Meatless Thanksgiving

What a playful coincidence that Thanksgiving falls on a Monday! I felt it was a great opportunity to discuss this holiday as it relates to the topic of this series. The goal of this blog is to help you navigate this holiday to maintain your meatless wishes and help prevent any unnecessary emotional, social, and mental stress that may come along with it.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, love, and reflection that is usually celebrated by sharing a meal with a turkey or ham as the centerpiece. However, that does not mean our readers who firmly adhere to Meatless Monday, or who do not consume meat at all to begin with, must miss out on anything! One could even challenge the idea of “missing out” on something, as a personal choice related to food does not always need to be thought of as “missing something” anyway. In any case, Thanksgiving is not a time to be stressed about these types of food choices.

One thing that is always useful is taking time for yourself to better understand the rationale and purpose behind your choice to adhere to Meatless Mondays or follow a meatless eating pattern. This will help ground you in your decisions and identify the rigidity by which you stick to it. Ultimately, the question that you should be able to answer for yourself is “how much do I value this behaviour/action, and do I value it enough to have to strategize for events such as Thanksgiving dinner?”. It will also arm you with conversation points if your family or friends ask questions about your choices. This way, you can either put effort in to remain Meatless for it or be content with eating the turkey or ham (or whatever meat may be present). Recognize that there is no “right answer” to any of this; the “right answer” is whichever one you land on that you feel the most comfortable with and will be happy with in the long term.

Some strategies to utilize for a meatless Thanksgiving:

  • BYOP (Bring your own protein): a phenomenal substitution for turkey or ham is seitan, a food similar in texture to both that is made with wheat gluten (the protein in wheat that imparts a stretchiness and elasticity to bread). The exact same flavours used on turkey and ham can be used for the seitan to match the taste.
    • Make your own seitan
    • Purchase a seitan roast from your local grocery store or supermarket
  • If someone is hosting you, ask them to prepare a separate protein: people are often understanding and appreciative of individual choices. Recall what I talked about above about being grounded in your decisions. Contact your host well in advance to allow them time to prepare something for you in case they are not familiar with alternative protein sources. You may even help another person who intends to remain meatless on Thanksgiving. After all, it is becoming more popular!
  • Stick to the side-dishes: if you did not have a chance to bring your protein, you could get away with choosing a bunch of side-dishes. Do your best to maintain balance within the meal but allow yourself to be content with not achieving balance too. Your meal may be a bit lower in protein, but overall, it will not have much of an impact so long as the meals before and in the day after are balanced.

At the end of the day, we at Revive want you to have the happiest Thanksgiving. As dietitians, we would not be filling our role completely if we did not acknowledge the social, emotional, and psychological aspects of food that are always present but are especially significant around holidays. Take time to enjoy your time with family, friends, and even with just yourself; you would be astonished of the impact gratitude and thankfulness has on the human brain!


By Brandon Gruber, Dietitian