Influenced by documentary films like “Forks Over Knives” and the unparalleled “Blue Zones” longevity study as reported on by National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner, the Vegan (plant-based) food movement is gaining momentum and predicted to become a multi-billion dollar industry in the coming five years.
Essentially, the Vegan diet takes food choices one step beyond vegetarian (meat-free) to encompass a plant-based, meat-free, and dairy-free food philosophy. Some folks go the Vegan path because of the extensive research that has shown it can prevent or even reverse heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disease. Others choose a commitment to support food, clothing, cosmetics, and other product choices that are animal cruelty-free. Regardless, Vegan diet is quickly gaining mainstream attention and media coverage by leading health advocates including Dr. Oz and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
As complicated as it already is to put together holiday dinners that suit guests and their variety of likes and dislikes, for those hosts who are not familiar with the Vegan diet, it may be intimidating when it comes to planning on how to accommodate a Vegan guest for a holiday party, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Years ago tofu used to be labeled as the main staple of those eating a Vegan diet. Today there are so many options making their way onto the shelves and into the freezer sections of grocery stores across the country, making plant-based options more accessible and affordable.
Plant-based proteins range from tempeh, seitan, and jackfruit to branded meat alternatives like Gardein, Boca, and Tofurky which offer items ranging from “Fish-less Filets” and “Crab-less Cakes” to Vegan burger patties and Oven Roasted sandwich slices.
Small adjustments in cooking ingredients and side dishes can help accommodate the dietary needs of Vegan and non-Vegan guests alike. Vegetable oil-based buttery spreads serve as a plant-based alternative to butter. Almond or coconut milk provides a healthy plant-based milk for baking or cream sauces. Fresh sliced avocado or guacamole offers an excellent source of healthy fats that everyone can enjoy—whether on toast topped with a tomato slice or served with pita chips and crackers. Hummus is another filling plant-based source of protein and healthy fats and can be served with pita bread or alongside a relish tray of carrot and celery sticks in lieu of traditional ranch or blue cheese dips.
When grocery shopping for a holiday party that will include Vegan guests, there are signs and symbols that make choosing the right products easier. Just like Non-GMO and Gluten-Free products are now labeled and certified, the Vegan heart symbol (a heart with a “V” inside of it) helps distinguish products that have been certified by the Vegan Awareness Foundation as plant-based, meat-free, and dairy-free. Many local grocers such as Whole Foods, Earthfare, Publix and ℹ️ The Chattanooga Market carry many of these products.
Bringing It All Home
For those choosing catering for their holiday parties, Chattanooga has several outstanding Vegan restaurants that cater or offer take-out options that rival the level of quality found in big cities like New York City or San Francisco.
Cashew Plant Based Vegan Cafe
River Street near Coolidge Park
Open for lunch on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and available for catering, ℹ️ Cashew’s menu includes loaded sweet potatoes, a couple different versions of their own spin on the popular “Buddha Bowl,” and jackfruit sandwiches, just to name a few favorites. Cashew also offers a full line of bakery items for those who have a sweet tooth for vegan and gluten-free cupcakes, cakes, pies, and vegan donuts.
The Happy Carrot
East Brainerd Road in the Brainerd Hills Center
ℹ️The Happy Carrot is Chattanooga’s newest vegan and vegetarian restaurant, providing vegan takeout lunches on Mondays through Fridays, ranging from BBQ jackfruit to Indian wraps. They also prepare family-sized vegan casseroles and side dishes for takeout, catering, and delivery.
Plant Power Cafe and Juice Bar
Lee Highway, just up the street from Nutrition World, same side of the street
Opened last fall by brother and sister duo, Rony and Aurellia Lagramada, ℹ️ Plant Power Cafe and Juice Bar offers a diverse menu with daily soup specials, salads, nachos, veggie burgers, wraps and popular sandwich plates include the vegan patty melt and jackfruit BBQ. For dessert, they offer fresh made vegan brownies and cookies as well as a guest favorite called “Nice” cream made in chocolate, blueberry, strawberry, mango, or pineapple flavors. Plant Power also offers a full menu of fresh, made-to-order juices and smoothies that boost immunity, refresh, and energize.
Cherokee Blvd. in North Chattanooga
Chattanooga’s original vegan restaurant and bohemian hang-out on the Northshore, ℹ️ Sluggo’s offers a full array of vegan favorites including the Popeye Bowl and Sweet Thai Chili Bowl, curry lentil soup, spicy “cheeky” wings, and a favorite vegan version of the reuben sandwich called “The Berliner.” Sluggo’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers brunch on the weekends and is also known for hosting indie music events late nights.