Americans know that Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with family and friends, to give thanks, and to eat turkey. Right? Until I became a vegetarian a year ago, I would have agreed with that simple list. This year, I'll be celebrating and giving thanks, but skipping the bird altogether. It's a declaration that has caused more than a few people to gasp. How do you "do" Thanksgiving without turkey? Read on for tips.

Understand Your Guests' Dietary Needs

If you're expecting vegetarian guests for the holiday, discuss the menu early. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions! You'll want to understand if your guests are vegetarian (no meat), vegan (no animal products at all), or pescetarian (eats fish). You may also want to ask if they would be willing to bring their favorite vegetarian dish to share (more than likely, they'd be honored).

If you are the one hosting the dinner, decide how you'll approach the menu โ€” strictly vegetarian, or will you also serve meat? Is it an option to have a guest bring the meat or poultry entree? Personally, I think that it's wise to inform your guests that you'll be serving vegetarian fare โ€” forewarning is fair warning!

Plan a Veg-Friendly Menu

Even when I was a meat-eater, I enjoyed the side dishes more than the main course. Serving a vegetarian meal does not have to mean a table full of boring salads. Roasted root vegetables, hearty grains, and yummy soups are tasty and filling. You'll want to prepare at least part of the stuffing outside of the turkey, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and choose vegetable oils for cooking.

I'm not a huge fan of tofu, so tofurkey doesn't hold any appeal for me. When planning your menu, it's great to discuss whether or not to offer a "faux-meat" entree. Tofu, seitan, and tempeh are all great meat alternatives. Keep in mind that it's not necessary to serve a meat-like dish at all! Consider veggie lasagna, stuffed squash, or grilled mushrooms as the main dish.

A few of my favorite sources for vegetarian recipes:

Don't Forget Dessert

Let's be honest โ€” desserts are the real stars of any holiday celebration. Check with your guests about dairy-restrictions and ask for their input on alternatives. Better yet? Invite everyone to bring their favorite treat!

Celebrate and Give Thanks

Keeping in mind the true spirit of the holiday is important. Spending time with friends and family, and giving thanks is more important than the meal. Plan to share thoughts on gratitude before you all dig in to your delicious veggie meal!