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How To Plan Thanksgiving Dinner For Flexitarian Guests

A turkey is a symbol of US Thanksgiving dinner traditions. But how do you make flexitarians — guests who prefer vegetarian or vegan eating — feel welcome at your table? Here is a series of hints to welcome diverse guests and to cook with connections between industrial animal agriculture and climate crisis in mind.

No one knows food and personal culture like those in the kitchen, and Thanksgiving dinner 2022 is brimming with challenges and opportunities as you plan and serve the favorite family meal of the year. You need not cringe when some of your incoming guests remind you that they are primarily plant eaters, as much information and many innovations are available to help you create a memorable and environmentally responsive meal.

During this Thanksgiving dinner, you have the chance to join a broad public embrace of plant based eating. You can positively impact human and planetary health while opening up a world of culinary experiences. Don’t fret — you don’t have to attend SXSW food-focused panels to demonstrate your climate consciousness. Approach this Thanksgiving dinner as an occasion to combine comfort food with climate awareness so you make vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, and infrequent animal eaters feel welcome at your table.

Buy locally grown and sourced foods. You can demonstrate that you’re cultivating a regenerative food revolution by respecting the produce that is grown right in your area. Consumers have long been removed from the spaces where their food is grown. But many brands and farmers are really trying to connect their fields and places of business to consumers, and they see the power of links between eaters and the sources of our food. You can share stories at the table of meeting farmers and friends who appreciate how locally grown food creates important economic opportunities, provides health benefits, and helps to reduce environmental impact. It also helps bring the community together and gives people the opportunity to make a difference.

Target the next generation. Exposure in college student populations to climate change science leads to stronger beliefs and support for climate-protective actions — like choosing more alternative meats. Fast food companies are becoming experts at using advertisements and marketing strategies aimed at young people. So can you — by including a variety of plant-based, protein rich foods on your table. Plant-based alternative meats can be a simple accompaniment to a traditional food item like turkey, sausage, or ham. Mention during dinner conversations how mainstream plant-based selections are becoming in restaurants.

Infuse homemade plant-based recipes liberally. While adding processed plant products to your Thanksgiving dinner menu is easy, those freezer items are little more than a stepping stone to healthy plant-based eating. Express your fondness for your non-meat eating guests by cooking and baking yummy plant-based recipes like these from the Vegetarian Times Thanksgiving archives. It’ll show you’re part of a wholesale flavorful, healthy, equitable, and sustainable food culture.

Describe your plant-based recipes eloquently. Words suggest flavors that inspire your guests’ eating decisions, so your language of food will help build anticipation and even convince a hesitant guest to try something new. Nowhere is this language of food more important than in the realm of plant based foods. Draw upon a mélange of language, history, and food to appeal to flexitarians and others who may become intrigued by meatless meals.

Substitute ancient grains in one or more recipes. As the impacts of the climate crisis become starker, farmers across the world are rediscovering ancient crops. They’re developing new hybrids that might prove more hardy in the face of drought or epidemics. These grains offer higher nutritional importance than modern grains such as corn, rice, and wheat; they are excellent sources of fiber and protein. Some of the ancient grains reduce obesity through weight loss. They also add better flavor and textural appeal to recipes.

Speak about the benefits of eating plants for protein. The wonderful thing about getting protein from plant sources is that they are free from the long list of health risks associated with eating animal products. Plant-based high protein foods you can incorporate into your recipes include soy, beans, lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, brown rice, and green peas. (Check out these sample menus for plant-based protein diets.)

Celebrate plant-based equity endeavors. The plant-based food movement has been pretty good at reaching consumers in more affluent urban areas, but it hasn’t always been as accessible and affordable to folks elsewhere. Show how you are aware that the plant-based food industry is attempting to become more equitable, accessible, and approachable to more people.

Know the facts about plant-based attributes. Become one of the folks who are actively engaged in food systems and their environmental consequences. A veggie diet means 2.5 times less carbon emissions than a meat diet. As the climate crisis advances, your advocacy can become a beginning place to highlight the urgency of strengthening our food and agriculture systems.

Acknowledge the environmental effects of the red meat and poultry that you are serving for Thanksgiving dinner. There is an urgent need to curb the degradation of natural resources and to limit global warming to less than 2°C while providing a nutritious diet to a growing and changing world population. Meat and dairy production uses 83% of farmland and causes 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions but provides only 18% of calories and 37% of protein. A 70% reduction in GHG emissions and land use and 50% less water use could be achieved by shifting western diet patterns to more sustainable, plant based diets.

Casually name-drop famous vegans and vegetarians during the dinner conversation. Mention how you’ve learned that actor/ climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio has joined Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton in Neat Foods. Its pioneering approach to alternative foods makes DiCaprio just one of the famous vegans who talk the plant-based walk. As they swap meat and dairy for plant based alternatives, these celebrity vegans are helping the food marketplace to move in a more healthy plant-based direction.

Final Thoughts for Thanksgiving Dinner

A food culture can elevate the abundance of edible plant varieties around the world. It can also bolster food sovereignty and food justice movements by bringing attention to varied food traditions. As you amend the traditional recipes that have been served for Thanksgiving dinner for generations in your family by following hints in this article, you’re honoring the relationship among family, responsibly raised animals, plants, and soil health.

More and more people appear poised for a plant-based future. Your warm reception to flexitarians and other mostly plant eaters shows you take sustainability seriously and want to contribute what you can to a safer, healthier future planet Earth. Your guests are surely to appreciate your gestures and efforts toward helping us all to become citizen eaters.

 
 
 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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