I have a number of friends (myself included) that prefer not to eat meat. While this lifestyle choice is often motivated by the ethical decision not to eat animals, for many of us the decision is literally dictated by our gut. I feel better when I don’t eat meat. My stomach, my limbs, and my body actually feel better.

For a while, I was a good vegan. No animal products at all. No cheese. No butter. No milk. And how did I feel? Great. Energetic and light. I didn’t actually lose weight but I felt better every day.

In two weeks, millions of us will sit together, heads bowed in prayer, eyes drawn to tables filled with crisp brown turkeys, orange sweet potatoes with pecans, green beans, buttered rolls. We may taste multiple pies, enjoy numerous meats and cheese, and feel literally stuffed at the end of the day.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful Holiday. We actually celebrate the blessings of  abundance by indulging in abundance.

But what if we want to do it a little differently this year?

What if we want to celebrate our blessings, simply, without feeling stuffed or uncomfortable at the end of the day. Without supporting inhumane or unsustainable agricultural practices.

My suggestion. Thanksgiving dinner with simple foods that were produced in ways using methods we support. And maybe, a few more veggies. I don’t mean you should go buy a Tofurkey…. (although I like tofu) I mean, make green beans without bacon, or mashed potatoes without cream. Eat organic nuts and buy a turkey that was raised on a local free range farm, without hormones and antibiotics. Buy veggies that were grown in your state. Fresh veggies. Not canned. Add less sugar.

Want to serve a rich and satisfying drink before the meal? Juice your own apples.

Want to provide your friends with a crunchy, satisfying and indulgent side dish? Make brussel sprouts with crispy shallots.

I love tradition, but am not in favor of unhealthy ones. Just because you have always made and enjoyed a cheese ball does not mean you have to this year. Find a new appetizer that satisfies and inspires.

Eat less. Be grateful. You might even feel better.

I would also encourage all the athletes out there to start new family traditions. Join in your local Thanksgiving morning 5k like the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke, and bring the non-athletes along. You can walk, run, move your bodies and a new family memory is created.

I realize not everyone will be on board. This kind of Holiday will look different. It will feel different. It may require tennis shoes and less butter.  But it will still be a celebration of our family, and our abundant blessings. And isn’t that really the point?