I’ve been vegan for almost three months now, so this will be my first set of holidays as a vegan. With Thanksgiving next week and before we know it Christmas will have arrived. Here is how I’m planning to take on the holidays at home as a vegan.
Everyone in my life know just how much I love the holidays. From the apple pie at Thanksgiving to all those cookies for Christmas, I have 21 years of experience fully embracing the season. I only have three months of veganism under my belt.
Although my family has been pretty supportive, I’ve spent most of the last three months at school in Chicago so we haven’t had extended periods of sharing meals. Thanksgiving and then the three whole weeks of winter break could be a bit of a challenge.
Armed with the knowledge of the last three months of vegan eating and wielding the power of the internet, this how I’m planning to get through the holiday season, and you can too!
Be Clear With the Host About What You Can’t Eat
My family has been really supportive of my decision to go vegan. It was well timed with my mom’s decision that her college-age children could feed themselves rather than her trying to corral us for family dinners. My dad decided to go (mostly) vegan with me back in September, so I’m fortunate to not be the only vegan at the dinner table.
Since my dad has been paving the way at home, my immediate family is pretty familiar with the constraints of the vegan diet. We already have a fridge fully stocked with substitutes from vegan butter spread to almond milk.
As long as your host is aware of what you can and can’t eat, they can more easily accommodate you. If you’re not cooking (and lord knows I can’t), then offer to bring substitutes for the chef or recommend recipes. Sam from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken has a bunch of adapted recipes for common sides.
Bring Your Own Food
The best thing you can do is to bring a dish that everyone can share, so that you have plenty of food that you can eat. It puts less stress on the host, and limits the number of questions you’ll get because people will be too busy enjoying it.
There are tons of awesome vegan dishes. This Lentil Loaf looks delicious and festive. I’m planning on making this pumpkin pie. Many supermarkets have a couple vegan options you can pre-order. My family is ordering a couple things from Whole Foods this year.
Know What to Look Out For
If you don’t let your host know ahead of time, make sure you do your research to know which sides probably have non-vegan items.
Common culprits include:
- Mashed potatoes- butter, milk, or cream can be substituted with non-dairy milk and butter spread
- Gravy- instead of the juices from the turkey, you can make this mushroom version
- Cranberry sauce-the canned version and many recipes include gelatin, but this one doesn’t
- Green bean casserole-the milk and cheese can be substituted out
- Homemade biscuits-the butter can be swapped for non-dairy butter spread
- Pumpkin pie-eggs, cream and butter can be substituted.
- Stuffing-can be made outside of the turkey
Be Prepared for Lots of Questions
Social meals as a vegan can often raise a lot of questions for your friends, and my experience is that the best thing you can do is emphasize how it makes your body feel rather than the moral or environmental reasons. Especially at large family gatherings like the holidays, diverting conversation away from it is your best move. If people keep asking, offer to speak to them after dinner. Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to talk about slaughterhouse practices.
After your first month of being vegan, you probably have all the answers down for the most common questions about nutrition. Keeping the focus on your health rather than the societal and environmental repercussions of your decision makes it difficult for them to argue with you.
The holidays can be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your family and get some much needed rest. By planning ahead, you can make sure that your dietary preferences don’t take away from it.
There are so many recipes for delicious vegan meals that you can share with your family. Who knows, you might even surprise someone?
What should I know going into my first holiday season as a vegan? What did I miss?