Bah Humbug. This will be my first holiday season as a vegan and I’ve been dreading it since I adopted the fully plant-based lifestyle a few months back. If your family is anything like mine, there’s not a thing on the menu that doesn’t have meat, dairy, or at least an egg — with the sole exception of cranberry sauce. But I refuse to let my strides in good health be compromised by glad tidings and seasonal cheer. Here are six tips to help you survive the holidays as a vegan.
DON’T ARRIVE HUNGRY
Rule number one of resisting cravings as a vegan any time of the year is to never go hungry. Grab a snack before you head to your company holiday party. Eat a hearty breakfast before Thanksgiving dinner. Arrive with a stomach full enough that you have the willpower to turn down your grandmother’s crab stuffing.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
Rule number two of resisting craving as a vegan is to always come prepared by bringing your own food. This might already be instinctual for those of us who’ve been a vegan for some time. We simply don’t expect everyone to accommodate our dietary needs, so we do it ourselves. To avoid being stuck eating the salad — the one dish you prepared — make a few dishes. Make enough for you because it might be all that you can eat at Thanksgiving dinner, but also bring enough for your family to try.
EMBRACE TEACHING MOMENTS
This might be the first time you’ve seen your family, friends, or in-laws in quite some time. And the fact that you don’t eat meat might be completely foreign to them. Don’t feel shamed for opting out of some of the holiday favorites for your own healthier alternatives. Instead, take this opportunity to teach your cousins about your new lifestyle, the health benefits, and share with them some of your awesome vegan food. You don’t have to preach to them dairy’s nasty effect on fibroids or how the meat industry is the primary culprit for global warming. Just let them have a bite of your amazing vegan celery root mashed potatoes, and they can discover the rest away from the dinner table.
REMEMBER WHAT YOU GAIN, NOT WHAT YOU LOSE
The holidays are a time of celebration and family. No sense in being gloomy because you can’t try the turkey. Focus on meeting your niece for the first time, or still having grandpa around to tell his jokes. Another year with those you love most is not a loss, but a gain. And if you still feel like you’re missing out on some of your holiday traditions, create new ones. Create new favorite dishes. Host Thanksgiving so you can make as much vegan-friendly food as you want. Create new memories worth celebrating with the ones that you love.
REMEMBER WHY YOU BECAME A VEGAN
Reminding yourself why you chose your lifestyle might be the lifeline you need to make it through the tempting holiday season. Whether it was a moral, spiritual, or health reason, I’m sure it outweighs the excuses you’re making to justify just a taste of the honey-baked ham. You put all this effort into changing your lifestyle — embrace it, don’t negate it.
ALWAYS BE PREPARED
The key to surviving the holidays as a vegan is to always be prepared. Be prepared for relatives trying to spoon feed you turkey and gravy. Be prepared to explain to your boyfriend’s mom why you brought three of your own dishes to Christmas dinner. Be prepared to actually crave some of the food you see around you. If you’ve eaten meat for any portion of your life, there will always be nostalgia, especially during the holidays. But don’t be afraid to make new traditions this holiday season.
And if you really want to try a piece of your dad’s famous ham and can’t talk your way out of it, try the ham. Shoot, and the mac and cheese. At the end of the day, it’s about being sound in who we are, our beliefs, and our choices. Although the holidays last a couple of months, we have to live with the choices we make 365 days of the year. So, whether you survive the holidays may come down to this one question: crab stuffing or your health?