Thanksgiving with dietary restrictions is hella hard.
Mini pumpkins, fall leaves, hauling out my cozy socks and sweaters. Ahh yes, fall is here.
But, then I think about Thanksgiving dinner and go: “oh f*ck.”
When it comes to the dinner, I start to sweat a bit.
There is turkey, stuffing, gravy made out of cornstarch, and pumpkin pie. Ok, so nothing I can really eat. Well, I can technically eat the cranberry sauce, so there’s that. (And maybe brussel sprouts too). Hello, scarcity mindset and feeling like an outsider at the table.
Now, with extended relatives or your partner’s family, this situation can get a little hairy.
People like to ask prying questions, get defensive over why they eat meat, and maybe these situations make you feel more #awkward than #blessed.
I’ve been to so many Thanksgiving dinners as a plant-based, celiac, non-alcohol-drinking, oat, soy, and corn-free party attendee. So, don’t fear - I’ve got you covered on how to navigate Thanksgiving dinner with whatever dietary restrictions you’ve got.
How to navigate Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s house:
#1. Bring your own pumpkin pie and side dish that you can eat.
Worst case scenario, you’ll have two dishes that you can eat at the party. Also bring your own serving knife so no cross contamination happens.
#2. Be upfront with the host.
I usually tell them outright and say: “thanks for the invite! Just a tiny reminder that I’m gluten-free, vegan, and allergic to soy, corn, and oats.” Try to ask them what they’ll be making and what they’d like you to bring. If possible, talk to them on the phone because the host might want to go over some ingredients and double check that you can have them.
#3. Eat before you go.
I like to eat half a meal so I’m not starving when I get there. Otherwise, I’ll try to convince myself that it is ok to sample the organic cheese plate and see if I react. Bad call.
#4. Bring food in your bag.
I’m not a dainty, little, delicate flower. I get hungry (read: hangry) all the time and I love to eat glorious food! Now, at Thanksgiving, I’m going to be hungry like everyone else. So, I stash nuts, a Vega bar, or some dried fruit into my handbag. If I didn’t get enough food at dinner, I’ll haul it out and munch on it. If you don’t feel comfortable eating it at the table, just snack on it in the restroom. I’ve done that many times.
#5. Be unapologetic about your dietary restrictions and needs.
I never say, “oh my god, I’m so sorry to be a bother, but I am celiac.” I simply say “I’m celiac.” It's not my fault that gluten makes me sick. I can’t control it! Also, don’t apologize if you need to eat your own food at a party. 9 times out of 10, your host won’t be offended. If people ask me: “what are you doing?” I just say: “I have severe allergies” and that’s the end of the story. I am past the point where I worry about looking impolite or unmannered. So, just take care of yourself, do what you gotta do, and have fun! This is a party after all!
#5. Have your “explanation” ready for nosy people.
I am frequently asked why I don’t eat meat / gluten / dairy / or drink alcohol / yadda yadda yadda. I would love to tell people to just mind their own business, but you can’t exactly tell your boss’ partner to f*ck off. When people ask me why I don’t eat meat, I say: “well, eating animals makes me sad” (thanks to Nicole Antoinette for this tip). That is literally all I say. Then, you don’t have to get into a long, uncomfortable debate about meat. For my allergies, I simply say: “I’m allergic” or “alcohol doesn’t make me feel good.” The point is that your answer can be one sentence and you don’t need to keep talking about it if you are uncomfortable.
I promise you, it's totally doable. (Even if it feels awkward at first).