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Cook a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal

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Since the time of the Plymouth Pilgrims, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in American homes. A day intended to express thanks for productive land and a prosperous year, today’s Thanksgiving meal may actually come at a significant earthly cost. This year, you can lesson the eco-impact of your meal and express your environmental awareness by choosing a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving menu. The planet will thank you.

How to plan a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal

When considering vegetarian options for your Thanksgiving meal, you can go one of two ways. Sticking with traditional Thanksgiving menu options, you can choose vegged-out versions of your favorites to maintain time-honored meal traditions. On the other hand, if you’re willing to strike out and try something new, you could opt for an entirely different menu filled with interesting and delicious dishes.

Cooking a traditional yet vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner

If you’re a traditionalist at heart and want your family to experience a classic Thanksgiving meal without the meat, have no fear! There are many ways to achieve a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving. If you’re a gourmet in the kitchen, than these recipes and meal planning ideas will be a great fit:

Thinking outside of the traditional Thanksgiving box

For something totally different than the traditional turkey, why not build a menu based on a particular international cuisine?

And, if cooking an elaborate vegetarian Thanksgiving meal is just too much work for you, consider eating out at a local green-certified restaurant serving local and organic fair, much of which may already be meat-free. Or, for a home-based, stress-free meal, hire an organic caterer to cook up an organic, vegetarian delight instead.

Find it! Ingredients for a vegetarian Thanksgiving

Finding meat substitutes can be as easy as making a trip to your local natural foods store. But if you lack such a venue, many items can now be ordered online.

Preparing a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal helps you go green because...

  • It reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emitted to produce your meals.
  • It protects tropical forests from being cleared for animal pasture.
  • It keeps pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and other chemicals, as well as animal excrement, from polluting waterways.
  • It opens up more land to be used for vegetable-based diets, which require less land, water, and fewer resources, thus enabling the production of more food for the world’s hungry.
  • It means fewer animals are required to live in cruel, inhumane conditions.

Americans consume more than 13 pounds of turkey every year, with much of being eaten around the holidays.[1] Though the ills of meat production are becoming more well-known, global meat consumption has increased rapidly over the last several decades. Sixty percent of the recent growth in meat consumption has occurred in the developing world, which collectively eats half of all meat.[2] Production of meat is set to double from 229 million tons in 1999/2001 to 465 million tons in 2050.[3] As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) recently noted: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”[4]

Local vs. meatless

A study by Carnegie Mellon University scientists has concluded that eating less meat will reduce carbon emissions even more than purchasing food locally.[5] The study found that transporting food is responsible for only 4 percent of food-associated greenhouse gas emissions, while production contributes 83 percent.[6] Researchers say that means that buying all local food is like driving 1,000 fewer miles in your car annually, which is what you get cutting dairy and meat one day a week. Go totally veggie and you'll slash a whopping 8,000 miles in vehicle emissions.[7]

Related health issues

Vegetarian diets are not only good for the environment, they’re good for your health. According to a position statement made by the American Dietetic Association, vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and can aid in the prevention and treatment of some diseases. In general, choosing a meatless diet means lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, higher levels of folate, fiber, and phytochemicals, as well as an increase in vitamins (especially C and E) and antioxidants.

By the numbers, vegetarians are nine times less likely to be obese, 40 percent less likely to develop cancer, and have 50 percent fewer instances of heart disease than meat-eaters.[8] One study estimated that the incidence of colo-rectal cancer decreases by about 30 percent for every 100 grams of red meat cut out of a person's diet per day (which is a near 50 percent reduction).[9]

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