Thanksgiving is about family and being thankful for what we have. In an effort to thank the planet for being our home and take a load off its back, consider skipping the bird and serving a vegetarian meal this holiday.

Studies have shown that producing meat adds more to our carbon footprint than growing and harvesting vegetables. If everyone in the country went vegetarian once a week, it would save the amount of greenhouse gasses produced by some 12 billion gallons of gasoline according to Meatless Mondays.

Eating less meat is also good for our health, something worth being thankful for. Studies have shown that eating more plant-based foods lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.

If you'd like to spare a turkey this Thanksgiving, here are four entrée alternatives.

Related: Going Vegan? 7 Things to Know Before You Start

Tofu, not tofurkey

If you want an alternative to tofurkey this Thanksgiving, take a look at Veggie Belly's Tofu Skin Roulade with Sage Mushroom Stuffing. The tofu skin, usually found at Asian stores, forms when you simmer a pot of soy milk. The skin is sturdy enough to hold the sage mushroom stuffing and make it through the steaming process. You can even make it the night before and reheat right before dinner.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

We found this gorgeous dish on The Kitchn.

Ingredients

  • 1 winter squash
  • 2 to 3 cups of filling
    • 1/2 to 1 cup protein — tempeh, or baked tofu1 to 2 cups veggies — onions, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, greens
    • 1/2 cup cooked grains and/or nuts barley, quinoa, millet, farro, rice, walnuts, almonds, pecans
    • 1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese
    • 1 to 3 teaspoons herbs or spice

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Slice the squash in half from stem to root and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves cut-side-down in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to fill the pan about 1/4 inch. Cover loosely with foil and place in the oven. Roast until very soft and tender when poked with a fork or paring knife, 30 to 50 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size and variety of your squash.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the filling. Cook any raw vegetables and combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust the spices, salt, and pepper to your liking.

Flip the cooked squash halves so they form bowls. Rub the inside with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide the filling between the halves — it's fine to really stuff the wells and also to mound the filling on top. Re-cover the pan with the foil and bake the halves for another 15 to 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Top with extra cheese and serve immediately.

Related: 10 Surprising Ways to Help the Planet

Vegan Green Chili Mac and Cheese

vegan mac n cheeseWho doesn't love mac 'n cheese no matter what the occasion? This recipe comes from Minimalist Baker.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces large macaroni shells
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight, then drained
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 4-ounce can diced chills (scoop half into the sauce, reserve half for the finished mac 'n cheese)
  • Fresh cilantro for topping

Boil macaroni according to package instructions. In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, sautée the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, stir and cook until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Set aside. Add the onions and garlic to a blender with the remaining ingredients, omitting the tortilla chips and adding only half of the green chilies. Blend until smooth, using the “liquify” setting if you have it. Otherwise blend for up to a minute, scraping down the sides as necessary, until smooth and creamy.

Drain the noodles, set aside and cover with a towel. To the same pot you boiled the noodles in, add the cashew cheese and cook on low, stirring frequently until slightly thickened. Add the noodles to the cheese along with the remaining green chilies and stir. Serve immediately, topping with cilantro. (Photo: Minimalist Baker/Minimalist Baker)

Vegetarian Mushroom Thyme Gravy

This gravy, via Food52, can dress just about anything on your table.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dried mushrooms (shiitake or mixed)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • Salt & pepper

food52 vegetarian gravyBring vegetable stock to a boil. In a small bowl pour stock over mushrooms. Let soak for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms from bowl, setting the stock aside for later. Mince or thinly slice the mushrooms. In a medium saucepan melt the butter. Add the minced shallot and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add the flour to the butter/shallot mixture stirring constantly. Cook for a 2 minutes.

Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved vegetable stock (leaving mushroom sediment out), stirring well to incorporate after each addition. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add the reserved mushrooms, soy sauce, cream, sherry & thyme to the gravy. Cook for a few more minutes until heated through and thickened to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt & pepper. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

Related: 8 Ways to Save Money on Healthy Foods

Muriel Vega is a writer with a passion for budget travel and staying safe while abroad. A Georgia State University graduate, she has over 6 years of editorial experience and has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Billfold, among other outlets. In her free time, you can find her baking pies, playing with her two dogs and cat, or planning her next vacation. She spends way too much time on Twitter, one of her favorite social media channels. Her favorite safety tip: Make sure you have all the necessary shots before you go abroad.