The holidays are here in full force, and somehow it seems like we skipped right past fall, raced through Thanksgiving and dove face-first into a punchbowl of eggnog. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not mad about it. The holidays are a chance to gather with loved ones, to indulge, to celebrate, and to fill our hearts and bellies with what matters most. That said, while many of us look forward to holiday meals and parties all year long if you follow a plant-based diet the face-stuffing is a bit more complicated. You’re not sure what you can eat. You’re uncertain what dishes fall within your dietary restrictions. You’re hungry. You don’t want to be a burden, but you also don’t want to accidentally eat something you’re uncomfortable consuming. And if you’re hosting a celebration the stress level over your menu offerings is no joke. As if the holidays aren’t stressful enough (we’re looking at your family drama and awkward reunions with ghosts of relationships past).
While the busy holiday season can come with its fair share of anxiety, the delicious food you serve and enjoy shouldn’t be a part of that. Even if you’re a vegetarian trying desperately to navigate holiday parties designed for meat-eaters. After all, we all need survival tips to help make it through the season. And if you’re a veggie-loving foodie looking to celebrate stress-free, we’re here for you. Consider this your go-to guide to living your best plant-based life this holiday season.
Don’t Be Rude, But Don’t Be Shy
First of all, you absolutely should not be embarrassed about the fact that you are a vegetarian. Not only are you not alone — reports show that the number of vegetarians and vegans in the US is on the rise as interest in plant-based diets is soaring among millennials — but you’re also not a burden. Research indicates that in 2019 US retail sales of plant-based foods have increased by 11 percent, making it a $4.5 billion industry (billion!), according to the Plant-Based Food Association (PBFA) 2019 report. Clearly you are not the only person contributing to that bottom line by only eating plant-based or vegetable products. So why should you feel bad about your dietary choices just because you’re at a holiday gathering where roast turkey is the main course of choice?
We’re not saying that you should show up at your aunt’s holiday dinner and shame her for serving meat. But you certainly don’t have to be ashamed to ask if there is chicken stock in the stuffing recipe, or to politely decline the main course and instead bulk up on appetizers and vegetable side dishes. Remember that the holidays, wherever you are from and whatever holiday traditions and dishes you typically enjoy, are about sharing, caring, togetherness, and family. It’s about appreciating what you have and also celebrating as a unit of loved ones. Sure, it’s totally normal to worry about feeling left out if you’re the only one at the table not digging into the baked ham or the turkey and gravy. But who cares? You’re there; you’re together, you’re healthy and happy. Focus on all that you have and don’t stress about what you don’t.
Eat Before You Arrive
If you’re attending a holiday party and you’re not familiar with the host or other guests, or perhaps you’re worried that there might not be many plant-based offerings on the buffet table, then plan ahead. Eat a snack or a small meal before you go so that you’re not starving when you arrive and you’re not worrying about what you can and cannot eat. If your belly is full or at least satisfied before you arrive, you’ll also be less tempted to cheat on your diet and dig into a dish you wouldn’t normally try. It’s always easier to stick to a dietary plan when you’re not famished — similar to how you should never go grocery shopping when you’re starving. By planning ahead and making sure you are satisfied and fueled up on healthy, fulfilling vegetarian-approved foods, you’ll be better able to enjoy the company, the conversation, and the festivities without worrying about what you can and cannot eat while you’re there. And if you’re really desperate, sneak some snacks into your purse for emergency munching situations.
Repeat After Us: Hydrate Before It’s Too Late
This rule really applies to anyone attending any holiday gathering, regardless of their diet of choice… do not forget to hydrate. Seriously. Drink water before, during, and after that holiday meal. And no, eggnog, wine, and other holiday cocktails do not count where hydration is concerned. It’s so easy to forget to drink water while you’re eating, chatting, toasting, and celebrating one champagne glass clink at a time. But if you don’t hydrate, you’ll regret it later, and possibly for days to come. And if you’re worried that there aren’t many vegetarian dishes for you to fill up on, then it’s especially important you stay hydrated and don’t guzzle too many alcoholic drinks because they will hit you a lot faster and a lot harder than someone whose belly is full of beef.
Plus, staying hydrated during the holiday season and during holiday gatherings is an easy and fool-proof way to minimize weight gain, boost your mood, increase feelings of satisfaction, increase energy, and prevent anxiety and fatigue, according to nutritionist Kate Geagan, author of Go Green Get Lean, in Shape
Bring A Dish Everyone (Even You) Can Enjoy
Who doesn’t love a potluck gathering? You get a taste of several different dishes, you get to see all of your friends and relatives flex their culinary muscles, and you all get a chance to contribute to the overall holiday merriment. Plus, if you follow a plant-based diet, you have the perfect opportunity to bring a popular dish that everyone (including you) can enjoy. That means there will be at least one dish that you know without a doubt is made using ingredients that are vegetarian or vegan-approved. And trust us, no one will even know or care that it is a plant-based dish; in fact, it will probably be the hit of the party, so make sure you grab some while you can.
Must-Try Vegetarian Dishes For Your Next Fiesta
Whether you are hosting the holiday gathering for your family, planning the ultimate Friendsgiving, or you’re bringing a favorite dish to a potluck party, there are a ton of options when it comes to plant-based goodness. Contrary to what you might have worried about in the past, you’re not limited to a bland veggie casserole or a boring salad. These days nearly every kind of dish and flavor and craving can be satisfied with a plant-based recipe. And they are good… like, really good.
We love this Vegan Stuffing recipe (because everyone knows that stuffing is truly the star of the holiday menu), which uses vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and is chock full of fresh chopped veggies and herbs
For appetizers your options are endless. From the absolute BEST Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip to these adorable and crispy Vegan Cauliflower Cakes, you literally can’t go wrong and you can also fill up long before the ham is even sliced.
For main dishes, skip the meat and serve a creamy, comforting (and dare we say easy to make) Vegetarian Lasagna that will blow people’s minds and is perfect for entertaining large groups. For cold winter nights, this Vegetarian Chili is perfect, and it’s even better the next day, so feel free to make it in bulk. And when in doubt, you can never go wrong with fresh Roasted Vegetables as the perfect healthy side dish.