Happy Herbivore Blog

November 17, 2012

This Week's Q&A: Thanksgiving Edition

This Saturday Q&A is a special Thanksgiving edition! Since September (Yes! September!) rolled around, I've been getting questions about Thanksgiving from what to make to how to survive being plant-based, if you should talk to your family about being plant-based at the dinner table, and more! 



So I've compiled some of the most common questions right here.

1. I'm the only vegan/plant-based eater. What do I do?

I always, always recommend telling a host about your dietary restrictions long before you show up. Offer to bring your own meal or something that everyone can enjoy along with you. I suggest saying something like, "I'm eating a plant-based/vegan diet now but I don't want you to go out of your way for me. I can bring something for myself, or a dish for everyone..." Just start the conversation. Get the ball rolling. It benefits no one (especially you) to show up and sort of spring it on the host. I did that at a party once (just showed up) and the host was devastated that she had made nothing I could eat. Then I felt bad that she felt bad. All of that could have been prevented if I'd just called her. If nothing else, bring something. You can always eat it another time, but chances are, everyone will try what you've brought. Safe bets are HH Butternut Soup or HH Pumpkin Muffins.

2. Do I talk about the benefits of a plant-based/vegan diet at Thanksgiving?

In my humble opinion, Thanksgiving (or any major holiday) is not the best time to bring it up. It's one thing if someone is curious, or asks you a question. By all means, answer them... and if a neutral, educational (not hostile or heated) conversation starts, that's great — but otherwise, I'd reserve talking about it to your loved ones for another time.

3. What if my family makes fun of me or tries to fight with me, etc.? 

First, remind yourself why they are being hostile. See my post, "Dealing with Negativity from Family and Friends".

Second, don't let them get a rise out of you. I mean it. End the conversation by saying "I prefer not to talk about this right now, but I can send you some articles/websites later if you'd like to know more." You're not going to change their mind that day in that conversation, so don't waste the emotion.

4. Seeing all the animal products my family eats makes me sick/sad/etc. What do I do?

See my post, "How to Keep Yourself from Being a Vegan Snob".

Don't forget this is also an amazing opportunity for you to lead by example — be a shining, positive example. If people see you loving your life and thriving, it will make them curious. See my post, "Build Them Up".

5. My family is plant-based, but my extended family is not. They want me to make a turkey. I don't want meat in my house — advice?

My house is vegan/plant-based, period. My relatives are free to eat how they want in their houses — but in my house, plants rule. Last year, my parents decided to come visit me for Thanksgiving. They were not plant-based at the time and couldn't imagine, after 65 years, not having a turkey at Thanksgiving — but they did, and they loved their first vegan Thanksgiving! 

It's ultimately up to you, but my advice is to do what feels right to you — and remember that your feelings matter, too. I'm a people pleaser, so I know how hard it can be to make what feels like a "selfish" choice, but standing firm usually leaves you feeling the most warm.

6. Should I cave this once for family peace? 

NO! If you want your family to respect your decisions, you have to stick to them. It also creates harmony later on. A friend of mine was plant-based, but when she was around her family, she'd often succumb to family pressure and eat cheese. Then when she decided to really stick to her guns, they were all mad — especially since they had prepared a special vegetarian meal for her. "What? you're not eating cheese now?!" Same story with another friend. His family was like, "oh yeah, sure you're vegan; we'll see how long that lasts this time!" Stick to your guns. It's about your life, your health, and your choices. I like to remind myself that I should never have to compromise myself, or hurt myself, for someone else to be happy. 

7. What if my grandma gets offended?

It can be hard on older relatives when you suddenly won't eat their food. They often take it personally. Try to explain it the best you can. Also tell them that you love them a lot. It'll get better with time. I showed one of my family members that seemed particularly upset I wouldn't eat something how they could make it vegan. They did, and I ate it — and so did everyone else.

8. Finally, what should I make?

Here's my latest blog post about what to make for Thanksgiving.

But you can also search "Thanksgiving" on the blog and find at least a dozen posts.

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