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Whether you’re new to veganism or you’ve been a vegan for many years, the holidays can be challenging. Your family and friends may still pressure you or question you copiously. But fret not. We have a game plan for you so you can stick to your convictions while maintaining your sanity this holiday season.
When it comes to eating well during the holidays, you can either host your own gathering or offer to help the host.
If you are hosting your own gathering, you can request vegan dishes. If you’re inviting people who aren’t vegan, then recommend easy recipes or ingredient substitutions for family recipes (like Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie made with vegan butter and vegan whipped topping).
If you’re attending a gathering, consider talking to the host well in advance about what you can bring and what dishes can be easily veganized. Tread carefully here as you don’t want to offend the host, but know that most hosts want to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has enough to eat – and most hosts don’t want to do all the cooking and baking, anyway.
Here’s how you can ensure that you will eat well during the family, friend, or work gathering:
If your family or friend group are big meat-eaters, then you may only eat your own dishes. If your family or friend group are more open to new things, then it may be easier to offer new ideas and substitutions.
Bottom line: do what you can to ensure you have enough to eat without creating a five-course meal for yourself and offending the host.
Eating well during the holidays may feel overwhelming, especially if you expect to be asked a ton of questions about your lifestyle. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming with a little planning. Try these tips:
Just because you want to host a vegan gathering or want to bring vegan dishes to a family, work, or friend gathering, that doesn’t mean you need to make it all yourself. Delegate! You can ask friends and relatives to make a vegan dish for you (and everyone else). You can also purchase vegan dishes, snacks, and beverages to bring to the meal.
If you’re new to the vegan lifestyle and are nervous to tell your family before the holidays or at a holiday function about your lifestyle upgrade, ask someone for support. If you can invite a vegan friend for support in-person, do so. Or ask them for text, phone call, or video chat support.
If you have a family member who is supportive of your lifestyle, whether they’re vegan or not, tell them first and ask them to have your back during the gathering. If you’re wary of telling the host, ask your supportive family member or friend to join you – in-person, over the phone, or via video chat – as you speak to the host about your concerns about the upcoming meal. By telling family members incrementally, you will gain confidence.
You likely know what your family, friends, and co-workers will say about your lifestyle choices at the dinner table, so prepare your responses. Write down exactly what you want to say and then rehearse it.
If you have vegan friends or are a part of a vegan community, ask them for a few phrases and factoids you can rehearse in preparation for dinner.
For those unforeseen questions and comments, rehearse a few comments that will likely shut the conversation down before it escalates. Check out these comebacks by Nutriciously.
As you plan your responses, One Green Planet reminds us to focus on positivity and confidence:
“To me, the most important thing to remember is to show confidence, pride and happiness in your decision to be veg. If you don’t show pride, then no one will respect your choice. If you apologize for being compassionate or healthy, people will agree with you that you have something to apologize for. If you make being vegan seem difficult or inconvenient, then that is what people will think it is.”
You will probably hear questions and comments you won’t expect. But don’t argue.
You will probably have people tell you about their latest diet. Instead of pushing them toward veganism, congratulate them on their hard work to live a healthier lifestyle, especially if they have lost weight or have seen health-related improvements. By focusing on their success and showcasing your lifestyle, they will be more willing to learn about veganism later on.
The key, according to One Green Planet, is to “remember it’s a dinner, not a protest.”
“Remember, you can’t change anyone’s mind if they avoid you or tune you out (or never invite you again). People are more likely to listen to what you have to say when you express it with kindness and respect.”
With that in mind, focus on the big picture. How can you build and maintain good relationships with the people you are dining with? How can you educate them and excite them about veganism, plant-based foods, animal activism, and health?
It’s the holidays. Whether you’re spending a meal with friends, family, coworkers, or a different group of people, it’s important to focus on the people, not their views. So listen to them even if you disagree. Spend time with them. And, most of all, be grateful for the opportunity to be with them.
Wear vegan clothing. This can ignite a conversation that typically starts fewer proverbial fires than talking about food does. Just try to remember where you did get those cute shoes.
At Christmas, what about this vegan Christmas sweater?