Give Thanks with a Vegetarian Meal!
By Angel McNall

Thanksgiving conjures up so many wonderful thoughts, memorable time spent with family and friends, wonderful smells of food cooking, football games, and the beginning of the holiday season. Whatever Thanksgiving means to you, every celebration has one thing in common, food! Optimally our food should be nourishing, meeting all of our body's requirements; it should be appealing, and it should be free of harmful substances. Unfortunately most of our food misses the mark dramatically. This year, let's make our holiday food something really special, prepare healthy supporting meals for your family and friends to show them how much you care for them.

The typical holiday meal is laden with fat and cholesterol from many sources, some of these include: the fatty broth we use to make gravy, the butter or margarine we spread on our bread, turkey (white and dark meat), the lard in the pie crust and the eggs and milk used to make the pies, egg nog, margarine in the stuffing, milk and butter used for mashed potatoes, vegetables cooked in butter or margarine, etc. All of this dietary fat and cholesterol turns the blood to sludge and that's why many heart attacks happen after large, fat-laden meals.

Your entire body is affected by your food choices, not just your heart and your waistline. Every time we load up on the wrong kind of fuel our organs, bones, tissues, and even our moods are affected by what we eat. If you don't have good eating habits to start with, holiday meals and desserts are just adding insult to injury.

The good news is that there are many ways to cut down on your fat and cholesterol intake without cutting down on taste. You can have vegan holiday meals, desserts, and treats! Vegan food is food that contains no meat, dairy, eggs, honey, or refined sugar. A vegan diet is completely free of cholesterol, and as long as you limit your intake of fatty margarines and oils, it is also low in fat. Now you are probably wondering what a vegan eats, and especially during the holiday season. Well, vegans can enjoy the same dishes that most people do. Vegans eat dairy and egg-free pumpkin pies, gravy made from vegetable broth, stuffing made without animal fat, rolls with margarine made from vegetable oil, lots of vegetables, yams, and yes, even 'turkey!'

In recent years interest in vegetarianism has grown so much that there has been an explosion of meat substitute products in the market. Some of these products can be found in regular grocery stores, and others can be found at Whole Foods markets and other health food stores. Since there has been such a great interest in these products there is competition among the brands, and the results are great tasting, incredibly 'meat-like,' low-fat, cholesterol-free products. They are also free of the pesticide and antibiotic residues that are so concentrated in animal products. These substitute meat products can be used to replace things such as, turkey, ham, ground beef, chicken, steak, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pork, pastrami, etc. The possibilities are endless. (Not all vegans eat these products, but they are delicious, and very helpful for anyone trying to make the transition to a healthier diet.

Last year we had a vegan Thanksgiving meal at our house for our vegetarian friends, as well as anyone else who wanted to come by. Everyone was impressed with how good a vegan Thanksgiving meal could be, and they were equally impressed at how good they felt after eating it. You will feel good too when you realize how easy and time efficient this kind of meal is to prepare. There is even a product out called 'Tofurky,' which is a package that contains 'drumsticks,' seasoned baked tofu, stuffing, and the best mushroom gravy you've ever tasted! All you have to do is thaw it out, heat and eat. It couldn't be easier! Here are a few suggestions on how to liven up your holiday feast.

Replace turkey and ham with meat substitute products such as 'wheat meat,' seasoned tofu, or 'Tofurky Drumsticks.' Serve lightly steamed veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots; you will be surprised at how many people will be happy to see them on the table. Make sure you use as many organic vegetables and ingredients as possible.

Add some fiber to your meal by serving whole wheat or multigrain dinner rolls. Use vegetable broth for your stuffing, and for delicious, fat-free gravy. Spice up your stuffing and boost nutrition by adding pinion seeds or corn; be creative! You can dramatically improve mashed potatoes by using rice or soy milk, margarine made from non-hydrogenated vegetable oil (Spectrum Brand margarine is incredibly butter-like), and leave the skins on.

Then, when everyone is trying to muster up enough willpower to avoid dessert, you can assure them that a little vegan pie won't sabotage their figure. To reduce fat and take cholesterol out of your desserts use rice or soy milk, and replace eggs with soft tofu. Cookies can be made with unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. You will also be pleasantly surprised to discover that yams don't need marshmallows because they are naturally sweet. There are so many ways to make a more healthful holiday meal, and to continue this good work in your everyday food choices.

To learn more about how your food choices affect your health, animals, and even our planet, call Angel's EarthKind Kitchen for a schedule of classes on veganism. Angel's EarthKind Kitchen also offers private cooking lessons, and for those that don't enjoy cooking, we offer vegan catering.

To find out more about these services, the products mentioned in this article, or for vegan holiday recipes, please contact Angel at (818)343-4123 or online at: Happy Holidays!

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