How Not to Be a High Maintenance Pain in the Neck at Thanksgiving Dinner.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Nov 19, 2012
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Source: via Kate on Pinterest

Ah, Thanksgiving!

Such a great holiday for vegetarians, vegans and those who eat gluten-free!

Yeah…not so much. Over the years I’ve approached this holiday a few different ways depending on whether or not I was hosting. I’ve hosted an all-vegetarian Thanksgiving. I’ve hosted an omnivore Thanksgiving with locally raised turkey when I was a meat eater. I’ve attended family gatherings and just eaten the sides I thought would be okay. I’ve talked with the hostess and gotten as much information as I could about the various dishes. I’ve said little and eaten just salad and hoped for the best.

Thanksgiving shouldn’t be stressful!

Or if it’s going to be stressful, it should be stressful because of awkward discussions with that cousin you only see once every few years or the post-election tensions between family members of different affiliations—not because of the food.

A few tips if you are going to be a guest and you have specific dietary needs:

1. Discuss it ahead of time. If the hosts are close friends or family members, they probably already know what your needs are. If they don’t, the polite thing to do is to call at least a week ahead of time and let them know, while also offering to bring a dish or two.

2. Bring something that you can eat to share. This is a great opportunity to let people know that being vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free doesn’t equal “weird” or gross food. When I was making this dish last night, my (omnivorous, non-Celiac) children kept picking at it and trying to eat it while I was taking the picture.

Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa

Butternut Squash & Kale Quinoa

This is one of those recipes that came about by the happy accident of throwing in a bunch of what was around.

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped.

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cups apple cider

1 1/2 cups quinoa

several handfuls of washed and chopped kale

sea salt, sage and nutmeg to taste.

Start with the coconut oil and onion in a large pan over medium heat. As the onion begins to caramelize, add the cider and the chopped butternut squash.When the squash is soft enough to break with the spoon, add more liquid (water, cider or vegetable broth) and the quinoa. When the quinoa is nearly cooked, add the kale and seasonings. This way, the kale keeps its bright green contrast to the squash and doesn’t become soggy.

For Thanksgiving, I would recommend bringing one savory main/side dish and one dessert item.

3. Don’t make a big fuss or speech about what you can and cannot eat at the meal. It’s rude. It’s annoying when people are doing it because they are doing Atkins or whatever diet-of-the-month, and it’s also annoying when you are proselytizing about your way of eating. Skip it.

4. If you aren’t sure what’s in something, and it would make you ill to eat certain items, ask! When I was first diagnosed with Celiac, I didn’t want to make a big fuss or put anyone out. If something seemed like it would be gluten-free and I was at someone else’s house, I would often risk it. I would also often be sick for the next few days. The last thing your hosts want is for you to be ill because of what you ate at their party. You can be discrete about it, but ask!

5. Say “thank you” for any and all efforts made by your hosts to accommodate you. This should be a given for all guests, regardless of dietary restrictions, but we often forget to show our gratitude. Go old-school about it and send an actual snail mail thank you card the next day.

And next year, consider hosting Thanksgiving yourself!


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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


16 Responses to “How Not to Be a High Maintenance Pain in the Neck at Thanksgiving Dinner.”

  1. Padma Kadag says:

    Good article Kate…While I am vegetarian I have always followed the rules of respecting those hosts who may not know you are vegetarian by eating the food placed in front of you whether it is meat or not. Which for me, is the hospitable thing to do. My choice is not confused and does not create any misunderstandings. I can pray for the flesh of that animal to be reborn in a home where the Dharma wil thrive or better yet pray that the animal be liberated completely from Samsara. Sometimes tolerance is the greater path which will be positive for one's self and others.

  2. That is a beautiful way to approach it! Thanks!

  3. Robert says:

    I'm considering coming to your house. It would be a lot easier.

  4. Yes! Except this year, I am going to Nashville.

  5. Chris Grosso says:

    Me likely. I hope Alanna reads this before she comes this week. Damn Gluten Free's 😉 Happy Thanksgiving Kate!

  6. Ha! I'll send it to her & remind her that there's no Whole Foods in East Haddam.

  7. shaydewey says:

    I hate going to Thanksgiving dinner, I am completely grain-free and vegetarian,so when dining in a group meal I just feel like a huge pain in the ass, but yet it's rude if I stay at home so I travel to another state and end up with an iceberg salad wedge, next year I am staying home.

  8. edieyoga says:

    Loved it….like the old school snail mail card. Lovely…and definitely trying the recipe.

  9. I'm starting to think next year I need to host a grain-free, animal-free Gratitude Day elephant fiesta at my house!

  10. shaydewey says:

    Great idea!

  11. LynnBonelli says:

    This is perfect. I'm going to my brother-in-laws house for Thanksgiving (for the first time) and I got a message from his wife wanting to know what my 'restrictions' were…I am vegetarian but lean Vegan (no cow's milk but I can do eggs). I told her I would be fine eating the sides as long as she didn't prepare them with meat or animal broth (I'm always worried that soups and/or mashed potatoes are made with chicken broth)…but also not to worry too much about me. I am bringing a Turkeyless roast with me that has stuffing and 'gravy' so I can share with them too.

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