Plant-Based Eating – Tackling the Turkey

Categories: Nutrition

Thanksgiving menus are individualized to the family and the feast is usually based on taste, preference, tradition, and culture. In a twist on the traditional approach to Thanksgiving, swap the main feature on the menu from turkey to plants. Replacing animal protein with vegetables not only provides protein, but also adds vitamins, minerals and plant-based nutrients called phytochemicals, which are protective to the body. There are many wonderful options for a veggie holiday menu, from legumes to nuts. Although pre-prepackaged turkey substitutes exist, choose to create your own entrees controlling for added sugars, sodium, and preservatives and providing your family with a healthy, nutritious substitute for the traditional bird.


As the name implies, Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that has a meat-like quality and resembles shredded meat. Use it as a substitute for pulled pork or pot roast.

Jackfruit Pot Roast – Food with Feeling


Seitan, made from wheat gluten, has a meaty texture and savory taste which takes on the flavor of the seasoning in the recipe. High in protein, seitan is a versatile ingredient served sauteed’, grilled or roasted.

Vegan Seitan Roast (Baked or Instant Pot) – My Quiet Kitchen


Tofu is soymilk that has been pressed into solid white blocks. A complete protein, tofu has all the amino acids your body needs. Firm tofu has a meaty texture, easily absorbing the marinade and seasoning in the dish, making it a popular choice as a turkey replacement.

Tofu Turkey I Recipe | Allrecipes



Lentils, a legume high in protein and fiber, make an excellent meat alternative. They contain a large range of phytochemicals providing protection against disease. Lentils do not need to be soaked and cook within 5-20 minutes.

Festive Butternut Roast | the ultimate vegetarian Christmas dinner (

Vegan Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf (Gluten-Free) – Stacey Homemaker

This recipe uses traditional Thanksgiving foods and seasonings mixed in one, making a great meatless dish.

Thanksgiving Bowl

Serves: approximately 4


1 -12 oz. package fresh cranberries

½ cup fresh orange juice

Zest of one orange

¾ cup 100% pineapple juice

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup lentils, rinsed

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tsp thyme

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ tsp black pepper

2 cups cooked brown rice

¾ cup shredded carrots

¾ cup chopped mushrooms

¾ cup chopped celery

¾ cup chopped onion

1 large, sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized cubes

1 large package Spring mix

Extra virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil.
  2. Make cranberry sauce by combining cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, pineapple juice and maple syrup in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes until thick.
  3. Place cubed sweet potato in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Place the rinsed lentils, broth, water, thyme, garlic and pepper in a pot. Boil for 2 minutes, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes.
  5. Heat saucepan and add oil. Sautee’ onion until translucent. Add carrots, mushrooms, and celery and sauté. Add ¼ cup broth. Bring to a soft boil, then reduce to medium, cover, and cook until vegetables are tender. Add the cooked brown rice. Warm rice through then mash with a potato masher until stuffing textured.

To Serve: Place spring mix in individual bowls. Top with, lentils, sweet potato, brown rice stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Adapted from: Vegan Thanksgiving Power Bowl – Feasting on Fruit

This Thanksgiving, make sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains to pump up the nutrition in your feast. Try a new plant-based recipe to accompany or replace turkey this year!

About the Author

Lisa Cooper is a dietitian specializing in prevention and wellness at Orlando Health.  She is a registered and licensed dietitian with a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University and a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University.

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