There’s no question that the holidays can be a stressful time. And navigating the holidays as a vegan can be even more stressful: wondering if there will be anything you can eat at family gatherings, obligatory company functions, and holiday parties. Hoping to avoid awkward conversations to explain why are you not eating. These can lead to feelings of being judged or that you are judging others (as many give “thanks” by taking innocent lives). Or feelings that you are breaking precious family tradition.
Whether you’re new to the plant-only side of the menu or a seasoned veteran, managing the holidays as a vegan (or any other time) shouldn’t have to be an extra burden. Here are a few tips for navigating the holidays and ways to encourage those around you how to make more peaceful choices.
Plant Ahead: Bring a Crowd-Pleasing Dish | Veganize ‘Grandma’s Famous Mashed Potatoes’
There is no better way to introduce others to yummy, healthy, cruelty-free food than for them to experience a delicious dish for themselves. And who better to introduce them to veganliciousness than YOU?! Do you have a favorite vegan recipe that you make regularly? Why not wow your friends/family with it? Or perhaps try veganizing a family tradition with alternative ingredients (got allergies? Not to worry. Not every alternative is soy, gluten- or nut-based; there are even alternatives to the alternatives – coconut, beans, chickpeas..).
Unless you know your way around the kitchen, I suggest starting with a dish that is simple that includes ingredients you are familiar with and can easily shop for – no experimenting. Starting with a recipe that calls for pressed algae, for example, may not be the best first vegan experience for your guests.
Not sure where to start? There are literally thousands of recipes and resources you can turn to for help – even Betty Goes Vegan!
Use the Buddy System
You know that old expression, ‘misery loves company’? Well, that would be the meat-eating group. They already have too many on their team. But if you’re really concerned about unavoidable awkward encounters, try teaming with a plant-strong ally or supportive friend/family to help redirect uncomfortable conversations, gush to others about the amazing plant-based dish that you brought, or simply keep you company at the outcast (aka ‘the kid’) table (which is typically the funniest table anyway). Create a ‘positive loves company’ group!
People Who Care Should Know
OK, not all occasions are an open invitation to bring your own food – packing your own tofurkey sandwich to a wedding, for example, may be frowned upon. Sometimes, you are just expected to show up and eat – you don’t want to offend anyone by declining their invitation or refusing to eat their food that they worked hard to prepare. So now what?
First, if such an occasion arises where you are such an important guest, then your hosts should know you well enough to be aware of your lifestyle and care enough to include vegan-friendly options for you. Second, depending on the occasion, food should not be the sole anchor. Your company should be what matters most – not that you are picky about the menu. And anyone that invites you to a pig roast and is offended when you decline, probably isn’t really your friend (unless the invitation is to peacefully demonstrate and advocate for veganism).
Betty Goes Vegan
Focus on the Positive | Let Curiosity Lead the Discussion
I am guilty of leading many innocent conversations to the deep dark realities of the unbearable animal cruelty, excessive use of growth hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, unbelievable processing standards (think bleaching, fillers, pink slime..), and the endless myths that comprise the ‘animal agriculture industry’ – when suddenly, after it is too late, I realize that I’ve ‘lost my audience’ having come across as too aggressive. Those conversations almost never end with a positive, open-minded perspective. And instead of simply encouraging others to eat more vegetables, they feel attacked and become defensive about their meat-eating ways.
Alternatively, I’ve found conversations to be more engaging by focusing on the positive health benefits, easy substitutions/alternatives, to-die for dishes, and answering questions. Allowing others to lead the conversation will naturally lead to the place that they are ready to talk about. Sometimes we need to absorb things in bite-size bits (no pun intended) and to make subtle changes. If given the opportunity, curious-carnivores may ask more, absorb more, and even walk away ready to more veggie-based living!
I always say: if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we should all have a healthy appetite to know where our food comes from, how it is handled, and how it is processed.
Justice, reminding all of us to eat our fruits and veggies!