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Is It Possible to Enjoy Thanksgiving Without a Turkey – You Bet!

October 26, 2017

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If you or a loved one recently committed to vegetarianism or chooses not to eat meat for medical reasons, you might be wondering if Thanksgiving can still be the same without turkey. Of course it can! As any longstanding vegan vegetarian can attest, the magic of Thanksgiving lies not in the food, but rather in the thankfulness, the togetherness and the celebration itself. What matters most is that you’re enjoying the company of family members and friends, some of whom you may not have many chances to see during the rest of the year. So, whether you’re going meatless or not, you can still enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving feast.

Of course, great food goes a long way toward a memorable holiday – no matter what sort of dietary restrictions you’re adhering to. If you’re expecting vegetarians at your Thanksgiving table for the first time this year (perhaps including yourself), you can make sure that your holiday spread has much to offer by planning the meal in one of two ways. The first is to serve enough vegetarian side dishes that your non-meat-eating guests can make a meal of them. The second is to prepare a vegetarian main dish that respects the meatless mandate.

This might prove to be much easier than it sounds. Actually, of all the wonderful foods that are typically eaten at Thanksgiving, many people will tell you that turkey is the one that they are least attached to. And, many traditional side dishes and desserts are already vegetarian friendly (just watch out for “stealth” ingredients like chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and marshmallows). Here are some ideas:

  • Salad
  • Cornbread
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green bean casserole
  • Creamed spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet corn
  • Butternut squash
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Pumpkin pie

If you’d like to replace the turkey with a main dish, you might consider a veggie-packed shepherd’s pie topped with mashed potatoes or pie crust. If you want to serve it with gravy, you can make it with sautéed onions and mushrooms – just add a vegetable broth, thicken with cornstarch and flavor with soy sauce. With so many tempting options for vegetarians on your table, you might even notice the turkey-eaters jumping on board as well.

And, that’s not such a bad idea. Whether people commit to vegetarianism for ethical, religious or medical considerations, or out of concern for animal rights or the environment, they will likely benefit in terms of better health. In fact, the consumption of a high-fat, low-fiber Western diet is believed to play a role in the development of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.

If you’d like to learn more about how your diet may influence your risk of developing colorectal cancer, you are welcome to speak with the experts in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To get started, call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.