The holidays are here again. For most, this means family, fun and food. The ever growing popularity of a plant-based diet means that the traditional American celebratory fare is changing too. If you or your loved ones are avoiding meat, there are some easy ways to embrace everyone’s needs as well as some hidden ingredients you will want to avoid for a vegan Thanksgiving and holiday season.
Planning your menu
Endless dishes can be easily prepared completely plant-based for holiday meals. Of course, the simplest approach is to have an array of fresh fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways. Seasonal, locally grown vegetables such as beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, leeks and turnips can be slow roasted with olive oil and sea salt.
Traditional favorites don’t have to be skipped! Try shopping for vegan products to replace animal ingredients in your old family recipes. From almond milk to coconut oil and more, there are so many plant-based options, that being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite holiday foods.
Make smart substitutions
While it is obvious any meat or meat-based dish is not vegan friendly, if you are not vegan yourself and are aiming to prepare plant-based foods for your guests, there are a few ingredients that may slip past you, so it’s important to be aware.
Mashed potatoes should be prepared without dairy milk, butter or margarine, as margarine may contain animal-based ingredients. As a healthier alternative, make vegan cauliflower mashed potatoes. You can even serve them with a drizzle of turkey-free gravy.
If sweet potato casserole is on the menu, skip the marshmallow topping, as marshmallows contain gelatin, an often overlooked animal ingredient. Or, you can replace traditional marshmallows with a vegan version.
For a plant-based stuffing or dressing, be sure the bread or breadcrumbs don’t contain milk, whey or other animal byproducts, and prepare it with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Cranberry sauce seems simple enough to make without animal ingredients, but make sure to use vegan sugar. Some refined sugars are processed with bone char to remove colors and impurities. Turbinado or coconut sugar are safe options.
Don’t ditch the season’s star dessert, either. Vegan pumpkin pie can be made by swapping out condensed milk and other dairy products for coconut milk, cashew cream and maple syrup.
Watch for hidden animal ingredients
In all, it’s best to stay away from prepackaged and processed foods, as this is where the majority of hidden animal products will be found. If you want to have a truly plant-based and vegan-friendly feast, you will do best to prepare fresh, whole foods yourself.
Whey, lactylic stearate, animal-based glucose, lecithin and lard can be found in a variety of baked goods, crackers, cereals and tortillas. Foods like cookies, ready-made pie crusts and refried beans can contain lard, or animal fat.
Keep an eye out for sneaky animal-based products, too, such as Worcestershire sauce, some salad dressings (Caesar dressing often contains anchovies), beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), candies containing red and yellow food dyes and items made with artificial or even natural flavors that aren’t specified on ingredients lists.
There are many recipe books, blogs and online vegan shops that can be of great use as you are learning to feed yourself or others on a plant-based diet. Don’t be overwhelmed as you will find many of the most flavorful and delicious foods need no animal products at all.