Thanksgiving Advice for Vegetarians

Your relatives eat meat, but you don't - what to do?

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Thanksgiving may be the hardest time of year to be the family's lone vegetarian. "You don't want turkey?" family members might pry. "Just try it." Meanwhile, you're doing everything you can to explain to them that no, your vegetarianism is not just a phase, and no, you don't want a taste, because it will not change your mind. Luckily, there are usually plenty of veggie options on the table for anyone foregoing turkey day's namesake dish.

Corey Colwell-Lipson, who, along with her mother Lynn Colwell, has been my source for all things Thanksgiving for the past few days (See How to Have a Green Thanksgiving and Save Money, and my Guide to Starting Green Thanksgiving Traditions here), has been a vegetarian since she was 15 years old, and has been subjected to questioning about her diet at traditional Thanksgiving dinners. "I've been there, I've had those conversations with grandparents," said Colwell-Lipson. "I think the best way to diffuse it is with humor."

Vegetarians usually needn't fear having nothing to eat at Thanksgiving - there are an abundance of side dishes that will pass muster. At the same time, it's often polite to ask if you can bring your own vegetarian or vegan dish to make things less uncomfortable for your host.

"I was very lucky to have celebrated Thanksgiving with college friend who was vegetarian," said Colwell-Lipson. "It always struck me how abundant their table was, with beautiful foods made from seasonal squash, especially."

You could even bring the vegetarian Thanksgiving staple, a Tofurky. "Give people a taste - they're often so surprised because they've gotten better over the years," said Colwell-Lipson. Another option is Quorn, a meat substitute made of mushrooms.

As proud as you may be to have become a vegetarian, Thanksgiving is probably the wrong time to lecture family members about how going meatless can save them money, improve their health and lessen their impact on the planet.

"I think that Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to have a conversation about the reasons you may be a vegetarian," said Colwell-Lipson. "There should be conversations about that in the family, but Thanksgiving dinner may not be the time. Just say, 'I'm so enjoying this lasagna. Thank you for making it. Next year, I'd love to bring my special recipe.'"