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Ideas for Plant-Based Thanksgiving Meals & Sides

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Ideas for Plant-Based Thanksgiving Meals & Sides

Interested in a more plant-based Thanksgiving? It’s a healthy and sustainable way to add wholesome nutrition while creating new family traditions. Here are some key tips.

As Michael Pollen suggests, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” So, this year, put a plant-forward spin on the holiday feast.

When it comes to a classic Thanksgiving spread, turkey is commonly the star of the show. It also tends to be accompanied by a not-so-plant-based supporting cast, ultimately making it challenging to respect a veggie-filled lifestyle. Gravy. Honeyed ham. Macaroni and cheese. Loaded green bean casserole with bacon. It seems like every dish gets transformed to include meat or dairy ingredients.

While you don’t have to (nor should feel any pressure to) cut out animal products entirely, adding more plants can help support your family’s health goals without sacrificing flavor. But, of course, you choose the amount that’s right for you! For example, I love cheddar cheese in my mashed potatoes but prefer cashew cheese over crispy air-fried broccoli. It’s about expanding your taste buds while exploring the flavors and many benefits of eating more plant-based foods! So, this year, revolutionize your holiday table to include more plant-based Thanksgiving recipes that are colorful, flavor-filled, and abundant in feel-good nutrients.

Get Your Kids Involved in Cooking Plant-Based Thanksgiving Dishes

Prepping for Thanksgiving is far from a one-person job. So, ask your little sous-chef to grab their apron and lend a helping hand. Getting your children in the kitchen can help improve their relationship with food, inspire adventurous eating habits, and spark their culinary creativity.

This year, allow your children to help choose and create plant-based Thanksgiving recipes for the big day. They may just find a new favorite food! For an extra-fun step, stop by the farmer’s market to find new ingredients. Then, look up recipes to find tasty ways to incorporate them into your holiday meal. But, if you are simply looking for some veggie-filled food-spiration, check out these easy tips below.

Add Some New Plant-Based Thanksgiving Sides!

Create new holiday traditions by experimenting with different plant-based Thanksgiving sides recipes. Kick off your holiday meal with a fiber-filled vegetable soup loaded with beans and legumes to satisfy some hungry tummies! Try blending in northern or cannellini beans to thicken up soups and boost protein, fiber, and phytonutrients. Then, cook up a storm with roasted root vegetables, amaranth cornbread, kiwi cranberry sauce, quinoa holiday stuffing, and other drool-worthy dishes.

Or, get creative with tofu, tempeh, or legume-based recipes to fill the table with hearty plant-based proteins. To get started, check out these simple ways to add a nutritious boost to these fan-favorite holiday side dishes.

1. Make a Potato & Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Experiment with cauliflower mashed potatoes! Instead of solely relying on potatoes for your mash, swap 1/3 of the mix for pureed cauliflower. This killer combo helps slash the calories while giving your dish a fibrous boost. Shh…no one will even notice!

2. Say Hello to a Veggie Gravy.

That’s so groovy. Combine vegetable broth with herbs for an aromatic, phytonutrient-rich, tasty side dish. Cater to your tastebuds by keeping it light with white wine or thickening it with all-purpose flour.

Enjoy a Vegan Thanksgiving Turkey

It’s all about that baste…’bout that baste…’bout that baste. Revolutionize turkey day by swapping it for veggie-filled ingredients seasoned with herbs or spices. Or keep it simple by opting for vegan turkey alternatives available at the grocery store. Experiment with different options a try to find your family’s favorite plant-based Thanksgiving meal.

TIP: When tasting a meat alternative, frame it as a new and unique dish rather than a meat substitution. Keep an open mind; you may enjoy it!

Easy Swaps for a More Plant-based Thanksgiving

Many Thanksgiving dishes are mostly plant-based but contain a small number of animal products. If you are embracing a more plant-forward Thanksgiving, try these easy swaps to veggify all the classic favorites.

  • Change your base. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
  • Go nuts or be a fungi! Swap bacon bits for roasted pecans or roasted mushrooms.
  • Choose something butter! Swap out a portion or all of the regular butter for a plant-based oil or a healthy plant-based butter substitute.
  • Embrace whole grains. Use whole grain bread for your stuffing.
  • Air fry it. Serve up crispy marinated tofu or veggie chips as an appetizer.

Experiment with Plant-Based Desserts

Making plant-based desserts is possible and delicious. Check out how to make simple swaps in your favorite dessert recipes:

  • Lard substitute: Create a flaky pie crust by substituting in olive or canola oil mixed and macademia butter.
  • Butter substitute: Experiment using applesauce or sweet potatoes instead of butter in baked goods such as cookies, sweet dessert bread, and brownies.
  • Egg substitute: Flax or chia seeds soaked in water make great vegan egg replacements!
  • Milk substitute: Rather than cow’s milk or cream, swap it out for a plant-based alternative made from soy, almonds, cashews, oat, and more.

The Bottom Line

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the seasonal bounty, spend time with loved ones, and cultivate gratitude for our lives. Since food is a special part of the holiday season and helps bring families together, show some love by creating healthy holiday choices. Give thanks to all of Mother Nature’s creations by prioritizing plant-based ingredients and revolutionizing the Thanksgiving feast.

Are you looking for more plant-based ideas? Check out my cookbook, The Plant-Based Boost, 100+ Recipes for Athletes and Exercise Enthusiasts.

the plant-based boost cookbook by melissa halas

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About the Author

Picture of Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's in nutrition education. She is the founder of SuperKids Nutrition Inc. Read more about her Super Crew children’s books and her experience as a registered dietitian on the About Melissa and Shop page. Discover how nutrition can help you live your best health potential through her plant-based books and newsletter on Melissa’s Healthy Living.

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