Recently, I’ve had an influx of questions from both clients and through DM’s on Instagram asking me how to be vegan during the holidays. While we all love to have new vegan recipes (which I have plenty of here and here!), the questions more specifically ask how to eat vegan during the holidays when surrounded by those who aren’t vegan. Maybe it’s friends, family, or coworkers who you feel may be judging you on your decision. Maybe it’s the pressure of feeling that you have to explain to others why you’ve made this choice. Either way, I’m here to offer you my best tips for eating vegan during the holidays happily while enjoying the most out of more time spent with family or friends. For a post focused on how to eat intuitively over the holidays, stay tuned!
I want to make it clear before we dive in that I’m not saying we should not be advocates. If you feel that someone is genuinely open to the idea of shifting to a more plant-focused or even vegan diet, then wonderful! However, from my experience, the people who are the loudest about ‘debunking’ others’ food choices are the ones who are the least willing to change. To me, it’s not worth my breath. Instead, I focus my energy on inspiring those around me who do seem receptive to change.
With that in mind, I think it’s important to remember that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Instead of focusing on my own (and other’s) food choices during this time, I focus on how lucky I am to get to spend more time with family and friends. With that in mind, remember…
1. You don’t have to explain your choice.
Your food or lifestyle choices are not necessary for you to explain to others. In fact, you don’t need to talk about them at all if you’re not comfortable. For the first few years that I was transitioning to veganism (yes, it took me years), I didn’t really tell anyone. Sure, people eventually caught on that I was passing on the cheese boards, fried eggs at brunch and milk in my coffee, but it wasn’t something I explicitly talked about unless someone asked. It was easier for me to work through my decision without constant opinions from others. When people did eventually begin to notice, I was happy to give the reasoning that I just ‘felt better eating this way’. This was absolutely true, but it wasn’t the whole story. As confidence in my choices and comfort talking about them increased, I was able to divulge more details as to what led me to these choices, such as the environmental impact, animal welfare, and health benefits. But I chose who I disclosed this information to, making sure I was in a safe space, with people I loved and knew were asking out of genuine curiosity, not to start an argument.
All this to say, you get to decide what you feel like disclosing and who to. If you don’t feel like getting into it around the dinner table, simply say ‘I just feel better eating this way!’, and leave it at that.
2. Choose the high road
There are going to be people in your life who want to start an argument over your food choices, but you can’t have a one-sided argument. From my experience, people who are the most critical of other’s food choices, particularly pertaining to veganism, are those who are especially insecure of their own. Instead of arguing back with people who are spouting faulty facts, I try to diffuse the situation with a simple ‘Huh, that’s an interesting perspective. Anyway, how’s work going?’. Acknowledging that someone has a different perspective than you, without giving or taking away validity, lessens the potency of the argument and allows you to redirect.
3. Make something everyone can enjoy
I have to admit, I’m extremely lucky. I’ve never experienced backlash or judgment based on my food choices from my immediate or extended family. In actuality, my family is extremely receptive to plant-based diets, and even goes out of their way to make certain foods plant-based and are eager to try new recipes. However, I know that this type of acceptance isn’t the norm.
When I’m faced with situations or events that center around eating and I know not everyone (or no one) is plant-based, I make sure to bring something extra delicious that everyone can enjoy. You don’t even need to tell them that it’s vegan! Contributing ensures that there will be something that you can eat, while also opening others to the opportunity to try something that they may never have tried before. Instead of dreading time spent with family or friends who might not understand your choices, try to see it as an opportunity.
If you’re looking for ideas for eating vegan during the holidays, may I suggest my Easy Vegan Mac and Cheese, Chickpea Noodle Soup, Coconut, and Sundried Tomato Braised Chickpeas, or Easy Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes?
4. People want to be inspired, not persuaded
Persuading people to go vegan isn’t my mission. My mission is to inspire. Personally, I know very few people who decided to make the lifestyle switch to incorporating more plant-based foods into their eating pattern through arguments or persuasion. From my experience, more tend to include more plant-based foods because they’ve been inspired by seeing others do it in a positive way.
Because of this, I think it’s also important to be extra-encouraging to those we see making positive changes in their lives. Your uncle uses oat milk instead of regular milk in his coffee now? Amazing! Your friend swapped her usual turkey sandwich for chickpea mash? Awesome! Your parents use vegan butter instead of regular? Perfect! The more we acknowledge and praise others for their efforts, the more they’ll be willing to come to us when and if they want to make more changes. Plus, I’m truly of the belief that every bit counts.
5. Show compassion
Most of us didn’t grow up vegan or plant-based, and eating vegan during the holidays may be especially unfamiliar. For most of us, that switch to vegan, vegetarian or plant-based happened over time. Remembering that we all once were at a place where we weren’t ready to make a change, and may have even been outwardly resistant to it, is important.
6. Recognize that we’re a lot more similar than we are different.
It may be easy to focus on what divides us from our loved ones during this time of year, but instead, I encourage you to focus on what brings us together. Yes, food can have a lot of attachment, values, and traditions tied up in it. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to spend time with loved ones over this holiday season, I encourage you to embrace it.
Thinking of going plant-based in the new year? Or need some guidance on your already-occurring journey? Schedule a FREE 15-minute nutrition counseling discovery call to see how I can help you!
Want easy, fuss-free, delicious and nutritious recipes to enjoy over the holidays? Check out my Everyday Vegan Soups Ebook!