Oh, the holidays. So delightful – yet so stressful all at once. You travel hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles to eat, mingle, exchange gifts, and avoid conversation with family members you haven’t seen in a year (only kidding on that last point). And it all starts with every foodie’s most highly anticipated event: Thanksgiving.
If you’re like most Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday. It’s a tradition. A tradition you’ve commemorated on the fourth Thursday of November since before you can remember. A tradition that includes football, mom’s pumpkin chiffon pie, dad’s savory mashed potatoes, and grandma’s famous biscuits. Not to mention, the turkey. Say it with me, “The turkey!”
Just smelling those delicious scents wafting from the kitchen at 8am on Thanksgiving Day are enough to send you into a tailspin of nostalgia. But this year, things are different. Turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie are no longer on the menu. These Thanksgiving staples have been replaced by new (delicious) plant-based foods that align with your vegan meal plan. Right about now is when you might be thinking, “How will I survive the holidays as a vegan?”
I’m so glad you’re having these thoughts. Seriously! If you really felt no hesitation approaching the holiday season as a newly minted vegan, I’d be worried. In all honesty, the holidays have a way of making a vegan meal plan difficult to maintain. But, with the right attitude and a few tips to guide you, you will indeed survive the holidays as a vegan. Here’s how:
Are you the host?
Veganize your old favorites. With a few substitutions you can still enjoy the classics like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Telling your guests that what they’re eating is meat and dairy-free is optional. Personally, I like to divulge that secret after my guests have already taken their first bite to gauge their reactions.
Pack the flavor. Cook your quinoa in vegetable broth, go crazy with fresh herbs, and pump up the sweet or savory in every dish. Don’t forget the salt! Your guests won’t even miss the meat and dairy when they realize how tasty a plant-based meal can be.
Are you a guest?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Social situations bring their own set of challenges when you’re following a vegan meal plan, and the holidays are no exception. Casually inform your host ahead of time as to what you can and cannot eat so you don’t have to refuse certain dishes at the dinner table.
Offer your help. The last thing you want is a stressed out host who has to worry about feeding a vegan among a table of omnivores. Make the task less intimidating for both of you by offering to bring a dish to pass, help with substitutions in their recipes, or plan the holiday menu together.
Not falling off the wagon is the hardest part about surviving the holidays as a vegan. “Just one bite!” you think as you take a scoop of mashed potatoes from your grandpa’s plate. The problem is that this turns into a snowball effect. One bite and you’ve already slipped up for the day, so why not have a slice of pie for dessert? After a nap you head into the kitchen for leftovers and you find yourself reaching for the turkey and cranberry sauce. Before you know it, you’ve completely fallen off the wagon.
So, how do we avoid these temptations?
- Offer to bring dessert. If you know you’ll want something sweet at the end of your holiday meal, bake a vegan version of your favorite dessert, like our Vegan Pumpkin Pie, and bring it to share with the group. We promise, they’ll love it.
- Leave the room. It sounds funny but it actually works. For me, if I can’t see it, I won’t want it nearly as badly. Physically remove yourself from the dining room until your craving passes.
- Find something healthy to snack on. It will remind you of why you chose to follow a vegan meal plan in the first place. To feel happy, healthy, and not sick to your stomach from eating processed meat and dairy products.
Not so fast!
These common holiday foods may appear to be vegan (or maybe you’re just hoping they are and you’re planning to plead ignorance) but they usually contain butter, milk, cream, eggs, or a combination. Steer clear of these temptations to maintain your vegan meal plan with confidence. That is, unless the chef has confirmed they are meat and dairy-free.
- Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
- Cranberry Sauce
- Green Bean Casserole
- Pumpkin Pie
This guide may make it seem like your food options are limited on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, and any other holidays you celebrate this season. This is definitely not the case! There are tons of amazing plant-based substitutions left on the table that are equally as delicious as your old favorites, yet align with your vegan meal plan perfectly. Stay tuned to the Well Vegan blog over the next few weeks as we share our favorite vegan holiday recipes that are sure to impress even the most discriminating palate at your dinner table.