Give Thanks for Health This Thanksgiving

acorn-squash-bakedA great way to give thanks for health this Thanksgiving is to celebrate with great plant-based dishes that provide a spectrum of nutrients and do not disappoint in the taste department. Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into the Thanksgiving menu can be a welcome departure from processed and unhealthy foods that seem abundant during the holiday season. Even if you are not celebrating Thanksgiving with all vegan foods, incorporating a couple of these recipe ideas will add interest and flavor to your celebration.

Get the Kids Into Construction

All but the very youngest of children can get into construction on Thanksgiving. What they will be doing is building a big turkey, out of vegetables! This epic crudité tray will need to be huge to build a proper bird.

First, start at the center bottom of the tray and place two celery sticks each cut one-third of the way up twice. These form the legs and feet of the turkey. Just above the legs, cluster cucumber slices to form the turkey’s body. Next, take a yellow summer squash and hold it with the bulbous side up. This will be the head and neck of the turkey. Arrange it towards the top of the cucumber body and place two black olive pieces for eyes and a strip of thinly sliced red pepper for the waddle. Above the cucumbers, place a row of tomatoes, then above that arrange green, yellow, and red sliced bell peppers in a crescent formation.

Now that you have the turkey’s body built, you can arrange carrot and celery sticks around the body for the tail feathers. Tuck ruffly lettuce pieces under the last row of tail feathers for a finishing touch, and you are done. All that is left is to get the dip, and Hampton Creek has done all the prep work for you. With their line of vegan dressings such as Just Ranch and Just Mayo Sriracha, there is a dip to appeal to everyone.

Hearty Options

It is always a good idea to have at least one hearty option on the table that guests can sink their teeth into. If you have someone to watch the kids while you are preparing the feast, you may want to try your hand at making a seitan roast stuffed with mushroom, walnuts, and cranberries. This tasty entrée takes the undivided attention of a person that has time to complete multiple steps to attain the finished product.

If you are somewhat strapped for time but still want to make a great sweet and savory main dish, try the Apple, Fennel, and Sage Lentil Loaf. Carrot, celery, onion, and garlic combine with the lentil and herb mixture to make a hearty entrée that would go great with mushroom gravy and potatoes.

A Gourmet Touch

For a salad with clean, vibrant flavors, try pairing some pre-dressed kale with some seasonal touches of cranberries, pomegranates, and clementines, then toss in a little extra spices and dressing of your choice. If you have a few minutes extra, toast some walnuts on the stove to add as a garnish on top of the salad. Be careful with the toasting process because walnuts burn easily.

To add to the appeal of the fall staple of baked acorn squash, you can stuff it with a dressing of sautéed carrots, onions, and brown rice along with your favorite spices. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Add a splash of maple syrup to each squash if you wish just before serving.

Showstopper Side Dish

The Haricot Verts and White Beans With Shallot Vinaigrette is a plated showstopper with its vibrant color contrast. Laced with cloves, garlic, and onions with a multi-dimensional dressing, this dish is a flavor standout as well. This recipe will have extra appeal for the Thanksgiving chefs because much of it can be made ahead, which frees up the kitchen for other meal preparation activities. If you want to add a dessert full of nutritional ingredients, try an Apple Pie Shake to have a sweet, but healthy , ending to your Thanksgiving dinner without worrying about the unnecessary sugar.

While being low in cholesterol and saturated fats, these recipe ideas are high in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Focusing on unprocessed produce, whole grains, legumes, and nuts in your meal plans helps up the nutritional ante for you and your dinner guests. Incorporating vegan dishes into your Thanksgiving meal plans will promote your healthy lifestyle and the health that you are giving thanks for.

Image: Alexis Lamster

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