Vegetarian holiday meal guide

MEATLESS HOLIDAYS A REALITY. The meat substitute aisle at Oliver’s market in Cotati, CA is fully stocked with products made from soy, vital wheat gluten, mushrooms, and pea protein. Many brands of meat substitutes make special roasts for Thanksgiving. Santa Rosan Editor-in-chief, Tara Elsa, says that last year her family “had several different vegetarian turkey brands to try out… we decided that Quorn is the best one and we’ll most likely have that for this upcoming thanksgiving as well.”

Article and photo by Molly Murphey, Web Editor

In my seven years of vegetarian Thanksgivings, there’s one question I dread the most: how can you possibly resist the turkey?

The benefits of going vegetarian are obvious and many. Vegetarians require 75% less farmland to be fed compared to meat-eaters and have a significantly lower risk of heart disease and stroke, according to research conducted at Oxford University. Yet, during the holidays, when the family cook has so much to do already, having a vegetarian over for dinner can feel overwhelming for the host and make the guest fear that they are a burden. 

It doesn’t have to be this way! Today, there are dozens of meat substitutes available at the grocery store and thousands of vegan and vegetarian holiday recipes online. Vegetarian and Vegan Santa Rosa High School students’ have plenty of tips to help you with your holiday meal.

Senior Linnea Rydell says that she started eating vegetarian in January of 2021, after realizing that “she just didn’t really need meat.” She added that her concern for the animals and environment motivated her to make the switch. This year, Rydell’s mother is working on a vegetarian version of her Swedish meatball recipe by switching the meat for mushrooms. It’s still in the test phase and Rydell says that the first version “just tasted like a mushroom ball.”

Senior Kelly Fleischer, who is a vegan, says that during Thanksgiving her family makes two separate meals, one with animal products and one without. Her family’s vegan meal last year included mashed potatoes made with non-dairy substitutes and a cauliflower turkey substitute.

If you’re having a vegetarian or vegan over for holiday dinner this year, there are a few things you can do to make them feel comfortable. First, make sure that the dishes containing meat and/or animal products are clearly designated. In my family, we usually put the vegetarian dishes on one side of the table and the ones with meat on the other. If you’re serving at the dinner table, seat vegetarians and vegans at the opposite end of the turkey.

Second, swap out any unnecessary meat. Does the stuffing really need sausage and chicken broth when there’s also turkey and ham? Try substituting meat in the side dishes for mushrooms, which are full of flavor and plant-based protein. Make roasted squash with olive oil, a simple and nutritious vegan side dish. Research recipes beforehand so that your guest won’t be stuck with salad and dinner rolls. 

Third, resist the urge to talk about how little they are eating or how difficult it was to accommodate them. Focus on spending time together. They’re grateful for all you’ve done to make their holiday fun and, thanks to this article, you haven’t had to work too hard to make their holiday special.

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