Whether you’re brand new to the lifestyle or you’ve been vegan for many years, the holiday season can be tough. Let’s be honest, the holidays can be a challenging time regardless of dietary choice!
Although more individuals across the globe are converting to a plant-based regimen each day, the odds of you finding yourself at a party full of them are probably slim to none. Between a large meal (most likely centered around a roast of some kind) to being surrounded by friends or relatives who are bound to be curious as to why you skipped the main course, you’re going to be a bit out of your comfort zone. But don’t let any of this get you down- even if you get some serious side-eye for not touching your aunt’s infamous stuffing. You can survive the holidays with your sanity still intact, and also without going hungry, if you simply follow a few survival tips.
Proclaim your veganism
Whether you’re going to be visiting family or friends, make sure to inform the host that you’re vegan- and what that means if necessary. Feel free to be specific, but try not to overcomplicate things for him/her. Offer to bring a dish or two and let the host know that you have no intentions of disrupting any plans that were already in place. By informing them of your situation, this will help to avoid the potentially awkward experience of refusing (politely, hopefully) to eat anything you’re served. Simply explain this as your intent.
Pre-fill if necessary
If you know the party that you’re going to isn’t going to have many meat-free options available, eat a light meal beforehand and just stick to sides, which are more likely to be vegan friendly. Watch out for sneaky dishes, however! Confirm with your host which foods are safe to eat to avoid any trouble… which brings us to our next tip.
Be informed! You might be surprised to find that some foods you thought would be okay, like store-bought cranberry sauce, are actually not vegan.
You probably consider yourself pretty knowledgeable regarding vegan-friendly foods, but holiday foods are an entirely different ballgame. Prepare yourself by doing a little research into common dishes that you may be presented with. You might be surprised to find that some foods you thought would be okay, like store-bought cranberry sauce, are actually not vegan. This way, you’ll know what foods are good-to-go or, at least, how to make them vegan friendly to bring yourself.
Bring a dish that everyone will enjoy
Cooking vegan can be challenging for someone who hasn’t done it before, and can also pose as a risk for you. No offense meant to the other party, there’s just a lot to know when it comes to substitutions and such. Point being: don’t expect the host to make everything, or anything for that matter, plant-based just to satisfy your needs. Instead, as mentioned before, offer to bring a dish or two that everyone is welcome eat. If all else fails, you’ll know that you’ll at least have something to munch on and still feel satisfied.
Prepare for questions
You’ll probably find it hard to avoid a stream of questions about your veganism since food in general is a big part of the holidays. Especially if you are a new vegan, but even if you aren’t, prepare yourself for this. Some questions and statements may be totally reasonable, while some may be pretty ridiculous. Vegan vets can attest to this. While you obviously don’t need to know the answer to everything, ready yourself for some of the common questions that are likely to come up.
Don’t turn your nose up at non-vegan foods
This one is pretty straightforward. Just as you would like others to be respectful of your dietary choices, be respectful of theirs. Besides, being courteous is much more likely to spark a genuine and appreciative conversation that will allow for you to educate them on your reasoning behind the lifestyle. Is your goal to convert others? Take this route rather than spewing meat-hatred and scare tactics throughout the room. We promise it will be more effective. Yes, you can persuade more future vegans or simply get others to understand and accept your choices when you do it with taste (pun intended) as opposed to distance and disgust.
Avoiding temptations is often the hardest part about surviving the holidays for new vegans. The problem is that one small bite can have a snowball effect, and before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire pumpkin pie and completely fallen off the wagon. Stay strong, fellow herbivores! If you know that you may be tempted, when offering to bring a dish choose to bring the one that you crave the most (often dessert) but in vegan form!
If you simply don’t feel like explaining or defending yourself (something vegans often have to grow quite accustomed to), steer the conversation throughout the day or night towards something non-food related. Focus on catching up with old friends or cousins you haven’t seen in awhile. Show family and friends that you still value all of their traditions (whether you can participate or not). The more they see that you are simply still you, the more relaxing the holidays can be for everyone involved. And just remember, there’s tons of amazing plant-based holiday substitutions that are equally as delicious as your old favorites. Browse through our recipe list on the site for inspiration- like these delicious Maple Spice Cookies!