Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mealtime Magic: Five Tips for a Happy and Healthy Plant-Based Thanksgiving

by Vanessa Chamberlin

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. We take time to be with our loved ones and be thankful for our relationships, our health, and our opportunities. It’s a time to celebrate the harvest and all of the wonderful flavors and colors and textures of autumnal foods – and the best part? All of the best fall foods are plant-based! And there are plenty of ways to celebrate and incorporate them into the holiday season.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to give some of my best holiday tips so that you can feel joyous about the holiday and celebrate what Thanksgiving means to you while still doing what feels good for your body.

Here are five tips for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving:

Have fun planning a menu. Don’t limit yourself by thinking only of traditional foods. If you’re cooking for a larger group and they’re expecting their holiday favorites, there are ways you can emulate those foods with a healthier recipe, like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. But if your guests are adventurous, go outside the box! There are tons of amazing seasonal recipes you can make to celebrate harvest time without loading them full of meat and dairy, but you could also look to other cultural dishes to really explore the world in your menu.

Invite people who share your values. This might be easier said than done! It can be a fun way to recharge with people who actually share your values and will appreciate every second you put into planning and cooking for them. People are often busy visiting their families, but with many people living far away from loved ones, an invitation to a fun plant-based holiday gathering can be a great thing.

Start a new tradition. I love this! Traditions can be anything, whether it’s Frisbee in the park, watching a certain movie, or silly things like hiding something that everyone has to try and find. Have fun with it. If you’re not sure what to do, look up traditions of other cultures and use it as a teaching lesson for your kids.

Spend time with your loved ones creating memories. What may just be a silly song or movie time or a walk through a pumpkin patch today, could end up being one of our most cherished memories. Remember that the holidays aren’t just about food. It’s about spending time with your loved ones, celebrating the reason you can come together, and being thankful for what your blessings.

Take time for yourself! It’s not uncommon for us to spend so much time trying to make an enjoyable experience for our children and loved ones that we end up exhausted at the end of the day or weekend. Make sure that you have time to unwind. Get in a workout, meditate, and relax. Whether you enlist help making food or spend some time prepping for your meal in the days before, do what you need to do to keep from getting burned out and overscheduled during the holiday.

Keep in mind that your holiday can still incorporate your healthy habits. There’s no reason why post-Thanksgiving fun can’t be a walk around the block or an hour at the park. You can even pick up a football and play together! The most important thing is to take this time to recharge and take time to feel the joy of gratitude for your blessings, the things you’ve worked hard for, and the people who love you.

Here’s my favorite holiday recipe for Cauliflower Mash to get you inspired for your plant-based Thanksgiving!

Cauliflower Mash

• 1 lb. bag frozen or fresh cauliflower
• 1/4 cup fat-free soymilk
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
• 1 tsp poultry seasoning
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• 2 Tbsp water to mix with corn starch
• 1 Tbsp fresh parsley

In a pot, steam cauliflower for 10-12 minutes or until very soft. Drain well using a colander. In a saucepan, combine soymilk, garlic, 1/4 cup water, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning and yeast over medium heat. When it begins to boil, slowly mix the cornstarch/water mixture into the sauce, stirring constantly until thickened.

When cauliflower is cool enough, squeeze as much water out as possible. Place the cauliflower in the processor or high-powered blender and blend for about a minute. Add sauce and fresh parsley to cauliflower and process until creamy and smooth. If it’s too thick, you may adjust the consistency by adding a little bit of soymilk. Makes 4 servings.

Vanessa Chamberlin is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Lifestyle Coach and author of The Fire-Driven Life: How to Ignite the Fire of Self-Worth, Health, and Happiness with a Plant-Based Diet. For more information, please visit, and connect with her on Twitter, @vkchamberlin.

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