Thanksgiving is the time of year to get together with your loved ones and celebrate everything you’re thankful for…or more accurately, it's a convenient excuse to eat more food than you probably should! (Hey, we aren’t judging.)
Whether you've committed to #EatPlantsForAChange or are just working to embody a little more compassion, you may be wracking your brain to figure out what you will eat this year. Well, worry not—there are boundless ways to celebrate “Turkey Day” without a side of factory farming. (Did you know turkeys could have been our national emblem?)
Are you the lucky dinner host this year? We’ll help you throw the tastiest plant-based party your guests have ever attended! Are you heading to a holiday potluck? Pick one of these satisfying dishes set to impress!
Regardless of where you’re eating this year, we hope you'll use this guide to construct a tantalizingly compassionate menu built to please:
1. Start with Higher-Welfare.
The simplest way to fill your Thanksgiving meal with a little more love is to take factory farming right off the menu—and that doesn't have to mean cutting out animal products entirely; even cutting back a little goes a long way.
Choosing meat, dairy, and eggs from higher-welfare farms can be quite tricky thanks to misleading label claims like "all-natural" or "humane." To make sure that what animal products you do purchase are truly more compassionate options, look for one of the following meaningful third-party certifications:
- Global Animal Partnership (GAP): Primarily found at Whole Foods Market, Global Animal Partnership is based on a five-step rating system. The ratings range from Step 1, “no crates, no cages and no crowding” to Step 5+, “animal centered—where animals spend their entire life on the same farm.”
- Certified Humane: The product meets the Humane Farm Animal Care program specification where no cages that excessively restrict movement are permitted. Animals must not be overcrowded and must have indoor enrichment, such as perches for laying hens and straw for pigs. Access to the outdoors is not required for pigs and poultry, but is required for other species.
- Animal Welfare Approved: No cages that excessively restrict movement are permitted. Access to pasture is a must, and animals are allowed to exhibit their natural behavior.
For a more in-depth breakdown of food labels and what they actually mean for farmed animals, download our free Compassionate Food Guide.
2. Plantify the classics.
This one's easy. Pick your favorite Thanksgiving food. Chances are it’s not the turkey, it’s one of the sides! And guess what—you can turn just about any side dish into a compassionate delicacy by scaling back the meat, milk, and eggs with minimal effort. Here are just a few examples:
- Mashed potatoes? Make them creamy with plant-based butter and soy milk!
- Stuffing? Simply switch out the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
- Sweet potato casserole? Top with vegan marshmallows.
- Green bean casserole? Replace the can of cream of mushroom with a homemade plant-friendly version.
- Bread? Buy plant-based crescent rolls or a hearty loaf of Italian bread and slather on the plant-based butter.
- Don’t see your favorite on here? Do a quick internet search for a recipe and you’ll be eating away in no time.
3. Replace the turkey.
Looking to go full-on veg? There are plenty of reasons why you might want to. (Did you know that factory-farmed turkeys must be artificially inseminated because they’ve been bred to grow so big, they struggle to mate naturally?) This year, consider cutting out the animal entirely and power your post-meal snooze with a protein-packed, plant-based alternative!
Some tasty homemade options:
4. Diversify the vegetables.
When in doubt about your menu, create a cornucopia of fresh vegetables! As we mentioned recently, fall is a great time for fresh produce. Pick up whatever is on sale or looking delicious—remember: Imperfect produce is just as tasty! Steam it. Roast it. Cover it in oil. Throw it into soup. Prepare it however you like. Here are some foods for thought:
- Stuffed acorn squash
- Creamed onions
- Brussel sprouts
- Maple-Glazed Carrots
- Cranberry sauce
- Creamed Corn
- Butternut squash
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Harvest Salad
5. Break out the dessert.
You may need a nap first, but dessert is absolutely one of the most important components of any holiday meal. Luckily, regardless of how plant-forward you want your spread to look, the mouthwatering dessert options are limitless! With dairy-free ice cream and whipped plant-based toppings now available in major retailers, you can satisfy your sweet tooth just like you always have (Cheers to that!). Here are some traditional recipes:
The most stressful part of Thanksgiving should be navigating the awkward family investigation into your relationship status—not navigating store shelves or your diet! By following this guide, you’ll have everyone full and happy by the time you lock the door behind them.
Make a compassionate Thanksgiving spread? Share it on social and tag us using @CompassionUSA —we may even share it too!