Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan choices spice up Thanksgiving dinner


Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets can complicate Thanksgiving dinner, but BYU students have learned how to adapt during the holidays and still enjoy foods they love.

Eric Smith is the BYU Vegetarian and Vegan Club President. He first chose to eat vegetarian on his mission and shortly after became vegan. His favorite Thanksgiving dish is potatoes or anything with quinoa in it.

“I’m not too picky, and my family is coming around in supporting me,” Smith said. He said there are always plenty of vegetables to eat at his family’s Thanksgiving dinners.

He said he may even be able to convince his family to get a Tofurky. Tofurky is a brand of vegetarian turkey replacements made from a combination of wheat protein and organic tofu.

BYU nutrition and food science professor Paul Johnston said Americans consume more turkey now than ever before, even though individuals like Smith choose not to eat actual turkey. Americans now average about 20 pounds of turkey per capita, as opposed to eight or nine pounds per capita years ago.

“Turkey is a genetic monster,” Johnston said. “(They’re being) made so large that they have to be artificially inseminated to reproduce.”

Johnston said turkey is indigenous to the western hemisphere, and Utah actually raises a lot of turkeys in Sanpete County. Turkey is now more likely than pork to be found in hot dogs, salami and bologna.

Gluten-free eaters, like vegans or vegetarians, may also have trouble with turkey at Thanksgiving. BYU senior Monica Russell said wheat is often used to prepare turkeys.

Russell found out she had Celiac disease three years ago. Her first Thanksgiving was spent at another family’s house after realizing she needed to eat gluten-free.

The BYU Vegetarian Club promotes its organization at Brigham Square on the BYU campus. (BYU Vegetarian Club)
The BYU Vegetarian Club promotes its organization at Brigham Square on the BYU campus. (BYU Vegetarian Club)

“Because it was kind of new and I was still switching from eating gluten, I just kind of ate what everyone else ate and felt really sick afterward,” Russell said.

Russell has since started making her own food. She invited others with food allergies over last Thanksgiving so she could make food everyone could enjoy.

“I love to feed other people,” Russell said. She said she loves seeing people’s faces light up when they are able to eat something that they’ve not enjoyed for a long time.

Russell used tapioca starch in her turkey last year to make it gluten-free. She said stuffing can be hard to make gluten-free, but Celiac-friendly websites have a variety of recipes.

Finding both gluten-free chicken broth and bread cubes is necessary for gluten-free stuffing. One recipe can be found here.

Vegetarian and vegan eaters on campus can join a support group by emailing . Gluten-free eaters can visit the former BYU Celiac Club’s blog at

The blog includes many gluten-free recipes, such as quinoa salad with black beans and mango, that vegetarian eaters might also enjoy.

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