How to Survive & Thrive this Holiday Season as a Vegan

Thanksgiving is less than a week day away! Christmas is less than a month away. Holy (vegan) cannoli! Time sure flies fast when you are having fun in dental school, huh?? The holiday season is upon us, and for those that eat unconventionally/alternatively, it can be a challenge to navigate Holiday gatherings. Suddenly everyone wants to know how you can possibly survive without meat, thinks you are protein deficient, and tells you that your kids that you don’t even have will hate you for not feeding them junk food (seriously?? I am not with child).

I am going into my second year of being a vegan over the Holidays, so I have navigated this once already and definitely have learned a little bit over the past 2 years. The purpose of this blog is to share what I have learned along my journey and help others to find what works for them. So, if you are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or even just like to eat healthy and don’t want to indulge in the typical holiday fare, then these are my tips for you!

Two of those descriptions above describe me: vegan & gluten free. Most people think that sounds pretty tough. For me, it is a joy and privilege to eat the way I do, but that is a post for another time. Today I want to talk about how easy it is to be vegan over the Holidays!

The Holidays don’t have to be scary, confrontational, or awkward as a vegan. Here are my tips to navigate situations that may be less than comfortable so you can not only survive, but thrive this holiday season!

1.Focus on things other than the Food

Lots of holidays seem to be centered around the food, and while that is important to many people, there are others ways to enjoy the season other than the food. Instead of focusing on the food, focus on catching up with your family, friends, and relatives. Ask your cousins about school, their jobs, or their hobbies. Play with your nieces and nephews. Listen to your Grandma’s stories. Offer to help set the table or assist the host. Help your Mom clean up after the meal. Enjoy the time that you have with the people you may not get to see that often.

2. Show Confidence in Your Decision

You know why you are vegan right?? Get comfortable voicing it! In a non-confrontational, kind way of course. Do not apologize for valuing your health, the environment, or animal welfare. If you are too nervous/scared/ashamed to admit that you are vegan, then you are sending the message to other people in your life that there is something to be ashamed of. People that aren’t vegan don’t know what it is like to be vegan, so you have to be an example for other people. Show them how easy, rewarding, and satisfying being vegan can be. Show them that there are tons of delicious foods that you can eat. Be a positive example for this lifestyle. Own your choices. If other people see how strong your convictions are and that you are well educated on the topic they will likely back off.

3. Politely Re-Direct the Conversation to Something Else

*Me any other day of the year*. If people are generally interested in talking veganism, alternative eating, or vegan transitioning, they will come to you and ask for your expertise.

This is not the day to talk about the horrors of factory farming, how much water is used in beef production, or that animal protein causes cancer. While those things are true, most people will not want to hear about that while chowing down on turkey and cheese potatoes. Sure, some of your relatives may make snarky comments, joke about your choices, or try to defend their own. The jokes are just a manifestation of their own discomfort. Do not take the bait.

Also, remember, this is thanksgiving dinner, not an animal rights protest. There is a time and a place for vegan activism, but the Holiday dinner table is not it. If someone questions you about your lifestyle in a kind way then for sure answer their questions! I advise giving a short, concise answer like “living this way makes me feel my healthiest and gives me so much energy and mental clarity”. If they still want to know more tell them that you would be happy to talk about veganism at another time or recommend some good books or documentaries.

4. Bring a Couple of Dishes to Share

Don’t depend on others to provide the vegan dishes! Some people don’t really understand what that means or may put butter/other animals products in the dishes by accident.

Notice how I said a couple of dishes. Hey, even 3-4 if you are into cooking! Know that people may or may not accommodate you. Most people aren’t even aware of what vegans eat, so don’t expect there to be much for you to eat. Most people don’t realize that vegans don’t eat eggs, honey, milk, butter, etc. Instead, cook up some of your favorite healthy vegan dishes and bring them along. If there happens to be a lot of vegan dishes at your gathering already then double yay! The more the merrier!

5. Inform your Host that you are Vegan

If for some reason the host does not know that you are vegan, let them know in the most concise, straight to the point way. Tell them the foods that you can/cannot eat and offer to bring a few dishes. Tell them that you are super excited for them to host and want to contribute some delicious dishes that you know other people will love as well. Most people have no experience cooking vegan food and probably wouldn’t even know where to start. Don’t stress the host by expecting them to cook for you, but be sure to let them know so they aren’t surprised when you arrive and don’t eat 85% of the food there. Make sure to thank the host as well for all of their hard work- you don’t want people thinking that they are unappreciated or be offended that you didn’t try their dishes.

After I typed this post up I realized that these tips pertain to so many people that may live a little unconventionally. Whether you eat differently than your family, have different world views, or value different things, you can still enjoy their company and have a great time. If we only interacted with people who had the same views as us, the world would be a pretty boring place!

I hope that these tips help you if you find yourself getting stressed over the holidays or over analyzing how the thanksgiving or Christmas dinner will go. Remember to relax, have fun, and focus on the positive things about the get together.

Do you find yourself getting stressed over the holidays?? Do you always bring a dish to your family get together? How do you navigate the difficult conversations at the Holiday table?? let me know in the comments!

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