Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Enjoying Thanksgiving as a Vegan at a Nonvegan Table

Let’s be honest feeling left out is never fun- sitting at a table full of food with a nearly empty plate because everything is laden with animal products is more stressful than enjoyable. For me personally, the past few Thanksgiving holidays have been a struggle.  Thanksgiving 2013 was my first year as a vegan and my husband and I visited friends in San Diego.  I didn’t want to inconvenience the cook so I chose not to mention my dietary preferences, she felt awful after realizing that she had only one menu item I could eat. The only thing on the menu free of animal products was brussel sprouts (which luckily I love, but I highly discourage eating a huge plate of them...the gas was unreal!!), but I could tell that she wanted nothing more than all of her guests to enjoy their meal with a plate full of food.  Needless to say it made us both feel uncomfortable, and I now know that she would have been happy to accommodate me by using vegan alternatives in the sides.  Thanksgiving 2014 my Mom visited my husband and I in Los Angeles, and I got into an awful fight with her in Whole Foods over having turkey…my Mom and I NEVER fight, she is my best friend, she was my maid of honor.  I lost the debate probably because I failed to properly explain to her why I was so appalled at the thought of her purchasing a Turkey.  I let my emotions take over instead of remaining calm and stating facts and calmly expressing my feelings. Last year, was the first Thanksgiving I felt like I enjoyed in a while, it seems like my family has realized that my veganism is not a phase, I’m obviously not dying of a protein or vitamin deficiency, they can see that I am feeling great so most of the nutrition questions have stopped.  I think one of the main reasons we all enjoyed each others company was because food was not the focus, we focused on each other instead. We enjoyed that we were all in the same city, under the same roof, sitting around the same table.  Regardless if this is your first or fifth Thanksgiving as a vegan you know that this day can be tough but I've vowed to make this year as good as the last, and I want to help you do the same.  
Tell the host!  If you are dining in a home other than yours I highly recommend letting them know what you do and do not eat.  You can offer to help them cook the day of or even offer to bring a few dishes.  Whichever you choose you should at least give them an opportunity to accommodate your needs, and show your enthusiasm at whatever adjustments they make for you. 

Love! If you choose to join your family for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, try to focus on the love at the table not the food.  This might be the first time in months that these people have all been in the same room together, enjoy that, relish in their company. Loving your family while they do something that you now feel strongly against does not mean that you support their food choices.

Don’t Protest! (Remember this advice is for enjoying your day, and you will not enjoy it if you are fighting with everyone) Unfortunately, Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by family and friends, is the wrong time and place to protest consuming animal products. Trust me, I’ve tried…it doesn’t work out well!  It is similar to discussing politics (which to be honest you should probably avoid this year as well!) Unless you’ve been vegan your entire life you once sat and enjoyed all of the food they are eating, so don’t talk about the horrors of factory farming or the environmental effects of eating meat.  This will not make others see your point of view, in fact your doing so will probably turn them away from veganism.  If you feel that you can't avoid protesting then I suggest skipping the meal portion with your family or having a Thanksgiving with your vegan friends.  

Be Informed / Prepared! When I first went vegan I was bombarded with many questions that I did not know the answer to- how do you get calcium, protein, B12, Iron? God gave us animals to eat, why don’t you eat them? When put on the spot, I couldn't even express why I went vegan except that I now knew that consuming animals was wrong. If someone asks why you’ve chosen to be vegan during the meal, by all means tell him or her! (You WILL get asked this...start preparing your response now!) Assuming they are genuinely intrigued, try to answer kindly and not make them feel guilty or uncomfortable; for example, you could simply say it’s the healthiest lifestyle for the animals, the planet and me. You could even attempt at humor; perhaps saying, my Mom always told me to eat more veggies! The point is keep it short during dinner, if someone expresses genuine curiosity let him or her know that you’d be happy to discuss after they are done eating.

Don’t apologize! Be confident in your choice to give up animal products, apologizing for that incredibly admirable and important choice sends the message that there is something wrong with it.  There is nothing to apologize for!

I hope this advice helps you to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving with your family and friends, I hope that you have the courage and compassion to be the vegan you would have wanted to meet before you started this lifestyle, and more than anything I hope your words and actions influence your family and that they will leave Turkey off of the table next year.

 How are you planning to survive Thanksgiving? I always love hearing you! AllthingsMelissaAnn@yahoo.com @allthingsmelissaann

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  1. This was a wonderful read, thank you so much!! I feel more confident being the only vegan at the table. I have so much love and passion for veganism but get tripped up when put on the spot. I plan on bringing my big ol' vegan bowl of goodies along with sides to share.. they will have love the beautiful food!! Thank you again!! -Steph

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to give feedback Steph! Making delicious vegan food for friends and family is one of my favorite ways introduce them to veganism!


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