Holiday Survival Guide: Vegan & Vegetarian Edition
The holidays can be tough for vegans and vegetarians. With so many classic holiday dishes centered around meat and/or dairy, it can be tricky to figure out how to navigate what to eat, and how to explain our food choices to others. Whether this is your first holiday plant-based, or whether you're a seasoned vegan looking for some extra tips and morale, I hope you find some of this information useful.
1. Best Food Forward
Bring a delicious plant-based dish with you. I’m all for whole food plant-based meals, but other people might not be used to eating in this way. In fact, this may even be some people’s first exposure to a plant-based dish. So, make sure people don’t get the impression that vegan food is bland and boring. Whip out a showstopper! Show people that their favourite dishes can taste just as good vegan.
Minimalist baker’s lentil shepherd’s pie (Pictured here!)
Sweet potato soul’s pumpkin pie
The perfect vegan stuffing
A savory lentil walnut roast
My favourite holiday meat substitute: Gardein Holiday Roast
2. Prepare Polite Responses
First of all, consider what you want to focus on at dinner. For me, it’s connection. So, I try to keep advocacy to a minimum over meals. Instead, I’ll just enthusiastically present my plant-based dish, and have polite and simple replies prepared for common questions.
My family has, over the past couple of years, warmed up to my new lifestyle, and are now fully supportive. In fact, this year we’ll actually be having a vegan Christmas! Give your family and friends a bit of time to warm up. At one point, the lifestyle probably seemed weird to you, too. In case it’s helpful, here’s how I typically reply to certain common questions.
“Don’t you miss XXX meat or dairy-filled food?” or “Don’t you feel restricted?”
You know, I thought I would at one point, but I was surprised at how many delicious alternatives there are. I’ve never felt better eating this way, too.
“Why are you vegan?”
I’m not sure how much detail you’re interested in, but, overall, it’s most in line with my personal values. It’s a decision that makes me happy.
“Don’t you worry you’ll be malnourished?” or “Where do you get your protein?”
A plant-based diet can actually be one of the healthiest diets on the planet! I find it easy to get my protein from plant sources, like beans, tofu, and broccoli. Plus, I get fiber and other healthy nutrients from these sources, too.
For more specific nutrition-related questions, I usually forward the genuinely curious to nutritionfacts.org, which has an easy and searchable index of most nutrition questions you could dream of. The site provides well-researched, reliable information. All proceeds go to charity, meaning no sketchy ulterior funding sources.
“Are you some kind of a [*insert word of choice*]?”
No reply needed, if someone isn’t genuinely curious.
Most people are more accepting than you would think. Besides, it’s the same you, just with a different lifestyle. There are plenty of other things to connect with people on.
If someone is giving you a particularly hard time, recognize that they are probably coming from a place of defensiveness. This is an inevitable consequence of a minority movement gaining momentum: members of the majority group may feel threatened. No matter how you present the lifestyle, being vegan or vegetarian may suggest to some people that what they’re doing is wrong. Maybe at a subconscious level, they’re aware that their values and actions conflict.
4. Stay Hopeful
Depending upon your reasons for eating plant-based, it may be difficult to stay hopeful. For example, it might be difficult to be aware of widespread environmental, health or animal welfare issues, and feel that these issues are largely invisible to people who you are close to. Here are some things to remember, if you are feeling particularly sad:
Remember that change takes time. The shift towards large-scale factory farms is relatively recent (~1990’s). Every injustice takes time to change, and there are people fighting this battle with you.
See changes around you. Look around at the increase in vegan and vegetarian options becoming available. More and more people are becoming vegan and vegetarian each year.
Connect with like-minded people. If you don’t have any fellow vegans or vegetarians in your life, try finding people on social media, or join a veg group on meetup.org. Remember, you are part of a movement.
Focus on what you can do. Translate pain into action. Join an advocacy group, volunteer at a sanctuary, or share your favorite plant-based meals with friends. Find your advocacy voice. Advocates aren’t just people who give speeches, they’re also people who casually dispel myths and misconceptions by being their vibrant and lovely selves.