For many people, Thanksgiving is definitely a food-based holiday. But, even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, there’s no denying that autumn itself is a season of culinary traditions fueled by a wave of delicious seasonal produce and an obsession with all things pumpkin spiced (some healthier than others). Thanksgiving is also a time when omnivorous and plant-based eaters may clash (admittedly, this may occur at any mealtime, but the holidays seem to exacerbate dilemmas of dietary differences). The omnivorous host is often torn between two options: does one simply plop a vegan turkey substitute on the table, or hope there will be enough side dishes to satisfy all parties? While some people are more prone to appreciating imitation meat products than I, it seems a shame not to take advantage of fall’s bounty of delicious, seasonal crops. By making fresh vegetables the focus of your dishes, if not the stars of the meal, you can avoid some of the headache and take pride in contributing to the heart health of your guests.
To choose your recipes, it helps to know what is in season. Foodland Ontario has a handy guide to get you started. Artichokes, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts and other cabbages, carrots, corn, eggplants, cranberries, pumpkins and squashes, plums, tomatoes, pears, and zucchinis are some of the many seasonal options you can choose from. Some, like pumpkins and cranberries, are already well-established in autumn traditions. All of these choices are healthy and most are nutritional powerhouses. The brassica family, for example, (which includes cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, radishes, and more) tend to be high in fibre, vitamin C, and many are high in vitamin A and other nutrients.
Living in Niagara, we have some of the best produce easily accessible at farmer’s markets, fruit stands, and even some of the bigger grocery chains carry local goods. Buying in-season will help to ensure that you’re getting the freshest fruits and vegetables, save you money, and allows you to support local farmers.
Once you know which produce you want to highlight, you can start searching for healthy Thanksgiving meal ideas. I’ve compiled some recipes to get you started, but feel free to use these as a starting point for further exploration.
Appetizers, Sides, Salads
- Stuffed Baby Eggplant (with bell peppers, spinach, and tomatoes)
- Squash and Root Vegetable Slaw
- Beet-Cranberry Salad
- Mashed Cauliflower
- Harvest Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Maple-Sriracha Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Wild Rice
- Mushroom and Kale Lasagna (with rosemary cashew sauce)
- Thai Pumpkin Curry
- Steamed Eggplant and Mushrooms with Peanut Sauce
- Vegan Quinoa, Broccoli, and Kale Curry
- Pumpkin Chili (with black beans and garbanzo beans)
- Creamy (vegan!) Butternut Squash Linguine with Fried Sage
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie (includes a gluten-free crust recipe)
- Itty Bitty Carrot Cake Cookies
- Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes
By Aaryn Secker
Aaryn earned her BEd at McGill University and her MEd at Brock University. She is currently the Education and Communications Coordinator at Heart Niagara.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in blog entries are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Heart Niagara.