There are a lot of great things about Thanksgiving: getting to spend time with your family, the couple days off from school and, of course, the food. However, if you’re a vegetarian, Thanksgiving looks a little different to you.

I made the decision to become a vegetarian when I was five years old. After my older sister’s friend told me that meat came from animals, I immediately stopped eating it that day. Now, 16 years later, I still don’t eat it. It’s not something I think about a lot because I’ve been a vegetarian for the majority of my life, but I’m always reminded of how strange some people think it is around the holiday season; especially Thanksgiving.

I remember my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian. I was six years old and my family went down to West Virginia to see my relatives. After my aunt spent the entire day cooking we sat down at the dinner table and I asked, “What can I eat?”

She looked at me, a little confused. “What do you mean? You can eat anything,” she said.

I shook my head. “No, I’m a vegetarian!”

My aunt looked at my parents, who had completely forgotten to tell our extended family about my recent switch in eating habits. So my parents gave me a plate filled with mashed potatoes and few Pillsbury crescent rolls.

Since then, my family has adjusted to my vegetarian lifestyle. We started making our traditional Thanksgiving food, such as stuffing and green bean casserole, vegetarian friendly and we even added a few new dishes.

While my parents were able to grasp the concept of vegetarian Thanksgiving, not everyone understands it. It seems like anytime I spend Thanksgiving anywhere else besides my home, I send the host into a panic. I get infinite texts and calls about what I’m going to eat. Do you like pasta? Will you be happy with salad? You’re not vegan, right?

At the end of the day, it should not be that complicated. I’m happy with the classic Thanksgiving sides: mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce and absolutely desserts. The worst feeling is when people make a big deal over it.

Nothing bothers me more than when someone makes me a “non-traditional Thanksgiving food” to replace the fact I don’t eat turkey. I’ve been to Thanksgiving dinners where people have made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grilled cheese and even scrambled eggs. I don’t need anything special and, quite honestly, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to make extra work for anyone who is kind enough to invite me to Thanksgiving dinner.

My advice to anyone having a vegetarian over for Thanksgiving: ask them what they want to eat. If they are fine just eating the Thanksgiving sides, let them eat the sides. If they want something else they will let you know. Don’t stress yourself out worrying about what they will eat. In my experience, there is always something and I have never gone hungry.

DISCLAIMER: This article is the sole opinion of Erin McNemar

Erin McNemar can be contacted at emcnemar@kscequinox.com