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A Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Would You Go Meatless on Turkey Day?

If you're like us, Thanksgiving is the holiday where you load up on carbs like gooey mac and cheese, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, and plenty of pumpkin and pecan pie.  You'll notice we left out the requisite turkey and ham, and pig tails are sauerkraut which is an oddly popular side dish in our family.  Since we don't eat poultry, pork or red meat, unless we bring grilled salmon and a salad with us, we're left with the calorie-filled carbs. 

A meatless Thanksgiving? Image by Ohmyveggies

But maybe there's a way to get your family and ours on board with a healthier and happier Thanksgiving holiday. Here are a few tips from Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Lifestyle Coach Vanessa Chamberlin:

Have fun planning a menu. Don’t limit yourself by thinking only of traditional foods. If you’re cooking for a larger group and they’re expecting their holiday favorites, there are ways you can emulate those foods with a healthier recipe, like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. But if your guests are adventurous, go outside the box! There are tons of amazing seasonal recipes you can make to celebrate harvest time without loading them full of meat and dairy, and you can also look to other cultural dishes to really explore the world in your menu.

Get physical. Keep in mind that your holiday can still incorporate your healthy habits. There’s no reason why post-Thanksgiving fun can’t be a walk around the block or an hour at the park. You can even pick up a football and play together. 

Take time for yourself. It’s not uncommon for us to spend so much time trying to make an enjoyable experience for our children and loved ones that we end up exhausted at the end of the day or weekend. Make sure you have time to unwind. Get in a workout, meditate, and relax. Whether you enlist help making food or spend some time prepping for your meal in the days before, do what you need to do to keep from getting burned out during the holiday.

Here is Chamberlin's favorite holiday recipe for cauliflower mash to get you inspired for your plant-based Thanksgiving.

Cauliflower Mash

• 1 lb. bag frozen or fresh cauliflower
• 1/4 cup fat-free soymilk
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
• 1 tsp poultry seasoning
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• 2 Tbsp water to mix with corn starch
• 1 Tbsp fresh parsley

In a pot, steam cauliflower for 10-12 minutes or until very soft. Drain well using a colander. In a saucepan, combine soymilk, garlic, 1/4 cup water, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning and yeast over medium heat. When it begins to boil, slowly mix the cornstarch/water mixture into the sauce, stirring constantly until thickened.

When cauliflower is cool enough, squeeze as much water out as possible. Place the cauliflower in the processor or high-powered blender and blend for about a minute. Add sauce and fresh parsley to cauliflower and process until creamy and smooth. If it’s too thick, you may adjust the consistency by adding a little bit of soymilk. Makes 4 servings.

Vanessa Chamberlin is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Lifestyle Coach and author of The Fire-Driven Life: How to Ignite the Fire of Self-Worth, Health, and Happiness with a Plant-Based Diet. For more information, visit, www.vanessachamberlin.com and connect with her on Twitter, @vkchamberlin.

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