3 ideas for a joyful veg-friendly holiday

My wife and I have been lucky enough to have family and friends that have been endlessly patient, accepting and accommodating to our food preferences over the years. But I know our experience is an uncommon one, especially in a country so heavily invested, both emotionally and economically, in keeping animal products front and center at every major holiday meal.  Many people who choose to abstain from eating animals or their bi-products find the holidays to be quite challenging.

Three primary challenges await veg-friendly holiday diners:

1. Not knowing how to prepare tasty and comfort inducing plant-based alternatives.

2. Showing up to someone else’s house with no animal-free options to choose from.

3. Having family members or friends that are vocally uncomfortable, sometimes even hostile to your food preferences.

Some unfortunate souls have to juke, duck and leap through all three of these flaming hoops, making holidays a virtual nightmare for them!

I am here to tell you that these types of family get together’s do not have to be so challenging, in fact, with a little preparation and patience, they can be an absolute blast!

How do we create delicious and comforting plant-based alternatives to the traditional meat and dairy based staples.

The internet is an endless sea of vegan and vegetarian holiday recipes and you could literally spend a lifetime combing through all of them.

I will recommend a few websites that will serve as a one stop shop for all of your holiday culinary needs:

     1. The first is Oh She Glows, a vegan food blog created by Angela Liddon that has quickly become mainstream due to the caliber, creativity and pure deliciousness of her recipes. The link above will take you directly to her Thanksgiving recipes section which are nothing short of spectacular.

     2. I want to also recommend the Veg Kitchen, a food blog created by Nava Atlas, who also authored a very popular holiday cookbook called Vegan Holiday Kitchen and recently collaborated with Tofurky on a holiday mystery box challenge. These two resources alone will take care of both Thanksgiving and Christmas (if you celebrate them) and will have your family and friends begging for more.

What if you will be spending the holidays at someone else’s house without vegan or vegetarian options to choose from?

The solution seems simple and yet can be quite difficult if you do not have access to stores like Whole Foods or another grocer that provides healthy, pre-made, plant-based foods that can be purchased and taken with you.  This is where the patience and preparation come in.

     1. Bring your own holiday meal.  Many chains like Whole Foods will make pre-ordered Thanksgiving or Christmas dishes that you can pick up the day of to enjoy.

     2. Offer up your favorite recipe and bring the ingredients.  It’s an opportunity to expose people you love to delicious alternatives they may have never thought were possible.

And what about that potentially hostile family environment?

Your veg-friendly presence at the dinner table may make others feel like their food choices are called into question and they may feel a bit threatened or judged by you.  Consider these guiding principles:

    1. Give straight forward, honest information.  If you choose to live your life outside the safe confines of tradition, you must be prepared to field questions, some legitimate and thoughtful, others born of anger, ignorance and fear.

     2. NEVER PREACH.  I will say it again.  Never preach.  I don’t care what cause you are fighting for, no one wants to be told what to do, how to live, and especially be made to feel guilty about their choices.  Preaching about your convictions is the best way to make sure that no one takes you seriously and will, in fact, entrench your family members and friends even further into their habits.

     3. Lead by example.  Remember that you have become, a spokesperson for the plant-based movement by way of your food and lifestyle choices.  If you show people just how easy and fun it is to enjoy this food and lifestyle, you will have laid the foundation for many enjoyable holidays to come.

Our collective investment in a compassionate and sustainable future is humbling. Please do, share your holiday experiences or questions in the comments below.

Aaron Stuber, RN, is a Registered Nurse out of Boulder Colorado, specializing in cardiovascular care. He has enjoyed the myriad benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle and is currently a competitive, ultra endurance athlete, husband, father and avid world traveler.

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