Vegan holiday survival guide

By Nikki Schaffer

An example of a typical vegan holiday feast.
An example of a typical vegan holiday feast.

For those of you who forgo eating animal products, the holidays can become a time of fight-or-flight survival mode. As you gaze upon the flesh-filled dumplings and dairy-laden casseroles that can be found adorning the tabletops, what’s a vegan to do? Thankfully, with a few careful preparations, you will be ready to defend your lifestyle and get by at family gatherings with these simple tips from vegan nutritionist, Heather Nicholds.

If you are the guest:
Know Your Research

1.The best way to defend your dietary habits is by backing up your veggie tendencies with research and information that has been published in respected medical journals. Often times, holiday dinners can become a time of interrogation. Family members will ask “Where on earth do you get your protein/ calcium/vitamin D/B12 from?” As any vegan knows, these questions are a reflection of decades of misinformation and can be very frustrating to repeatedly hear. However, these questions will open doors for you as you respond with a cool fact like, “Did you know that 100 calories of broccoli has 11.2 grams of protein compared to 100 calories of steak which has 5.4 grams of protein?” By researching beforehand, you will have a quick answer that may just shock your grandma.

Bring a Homemade Dish

2.How can the omnivores know what they are missing without acquiring a taste of your delicious vegan cooking? By bringing a dish, you are not only enabling your survival by ensuring you will have something to eat, but you will be creating allies from those who agree to taste your dish. Your host will surely appreciate your effort to make their life easier, as they are probably already stressing wondering if you are going to starve or not at their dinner. Serving your own dish is the best way to spread the knowledge that a vegan diet does not mean compromising taste or satisfaction. Bonus points if you can recreate a traditional dish!

Avoid Temptation

3.There are many dishes laden with cow’s milk, eggs or gelatin that you may be unaware of. If you are unsure, it is best to ask what ingredients are in a dish. You will want to avoid dishes like mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, biscuits and pumpkin pie, all of which are made with animal products. Surprisingly, cranberry sauce is often thickened with gelatin, which is sourced from animal bones, and should be avoided. The best way to avoid eating these old favorites is by indulging in the foods that you can eat, so you are not left hungry and tempted.

Just because you are vegan, it doesn't mean you have to forgo dessert.
Just because you are vegan, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo dessert.

If you are the host

Flavor First

1.Although you may be used to preparing healthy versions of your favorite vegan meals, it is best to fatten up dishes so that guests will find your dishes more satisfying. Don’t be afraid to add more sugar and salt to dishes to enhance their flavor so that they resemble something closer to what someone eating a standard American diet (SAD) is familiar with. Although these creations will not be as healthy as they could, it is a way for people to transition and appreciate a healthier plant based meal than they would normally have chosen.

Be Understanding & Positive

2.Do not expect everyone to rejoice at becoming a temporary vegan for dinner. Instead of making a big deal out of the fact that the meal is vegan, allow the food to speak for itself. If you have done the job right, your party will soon forget that the meal they are enjoying is completely devoid of all animal products! Negativity will get you nowhere. Most likely, guests will have questions about your lifestyle. List the benefits of the lifestyle before you go into an ethical debate. Guests won’t be able to argue with the positive benefits you have experienced and it will give them something to think about.

By keeping these tips in mind at your next holiday bash, you should feel equipped for any situation, and you may even increase your vegan audience by next year’s holiday meal.

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