Vegetarian Living

How to Handle Family Thanksgiving Dinner

You’ve just become a vegetarian, and you’re expected at Grandma’s for Thanksgiving Dinner.  You haven’t yet told your Grandma about your new food preferences, and you’re worried that she won’t understand.  What are you going to do?

The first thing to remember is that Grandma is not really serving turkey. She’s serving love and it’s way more important to make her feel loved in return than to eat her turkey. Even so, holidays can be a challenge, since the big family meal is often the focus of the whole holiday. The most important thing to your family is that you are present, warm, and friendly to everyone present (even if some might make snide comments about your eating habits).

If your vegetarianism is still a new idea, you may need to let people know very gently. You could say, “Don’t go to any special trouble. I’ll just eat the side dishes.” At a big dinner, you’ll probably find plenty to eat, but if you know that the stuffing will be cooked inside the turkey and the beans will be cooked with bacon, then you may wish to bring something else to eat.  Perhaps you could bring your own meat-substitute dish, such as a Tofurky or Celebration Roast.  Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could prepare something different, such as a stuffed squash, that others would be happy to enjoy alongside their turkey.

If it would break Grandma’s heart for you not to eat her turkey, then you may consider taking a very small portion, and remember that this only happens once a year. Plenty of people think of themselves as vegetarian while making the occasional compromise to avoid hurting those they love the most.

But if, as many do, you feel strongly about not eating any turkey even just this once, you will need to explain your decision in a way that gets Grandma to support your decision while minimizing hurting her feelings or getting too defensive. One way to do this is to ask for her help. You can explain that being a vegetarian is very important to you and that you’re asking for her help with being comfortable at the dinner.

The key is not to leave planning to the last minute. With a little planning and preparation the Thanksgiving dinner can be as enjoyable for vegetarians as anyone else. Good luck!

Based on an extract from Say No to Meat – the 411 on Ditching Meat and Going Veg.


About Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians of Washington is a large non-profit vegetarian society based in Seattle, WA. We encourage people to discover the advantages and experience the pleasures of vegetarian food. We welcome everyone, whether you're an experienced vegetarian, a beginner or just curious. You don't have to be a vegetarian to join our organization, or to follow our blog! We run the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, Seattle's Vegfest, held in the Seattle Center in March each year. We also host monthly dining events and give free nutrition and cooking classes. We've written several nationally published books, including our latest book "In Pursuit of Great Food: A Plant-based shopping guide", which provides valuable information on what to buy and how to choose great food. Our other books include "Say No to Meat" which gives the information and real-world advice that new vegetarians need the most, in an easy question-and-answer style, the fact-filled "The Vegetarian Solution", and a wide range of delicious recipes in "The Veg-Feasting Cookbook". All our books are available in local bookstores, and via our website or


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