Elizabeth Kovar by Elizabeth Kovar

The holiday season can be stressful. From shopping to controlling one’s diet and exercise regimen, everyone experiences some form of stress this time of year. Vegans, for example, may find holiday parties particularly challenging as many holiday favorites contain both dairy and meat.

Fortunately, there are plenty of meat and dairy-free alternatives that vegans can enjoy throughout the holidays. Navigate your way through the holiday season with these six tips and tricks.

Define Your Boundaries

Veganism is a lifestyle that eliminates the use of animal-based (or testing) products, while vegetarianism is a diet that does not include meat. Most vegans choose the complete dairy-free approach, although some vegans who frequently travel for work are vegan at home and are O.K. with eating vegetarian on the road if they cannot find vegan-friendly food. They don’t actively seek out dairy, but find it acceptable if a soup or pastry has dairy in it. They consider themselves “flexible vegans.”

While most vegans might disagree with the previous statement, choosing to be vegan is an individual choice. Thoughts and ideas about food vary amongst urban and rural landscapes, and families not exposed to mainstream veganism may have questions. Vegans who go home for the holidays should define and express their eating boundaries, which helps families prepare for the big meal.

Consult With the Host

Consult with the host of the holiday party to see what foods will be prepared. At this time, vegans can ask whether or not the meal can be prepared dairy free or with dairy-free alternatives. This opens a dialogue for the host to ask any questions they may have about veganism, and together both parties can discuss possible food options. Pitch in to help, whether that means making notecards to label vegan options or helping to plan the menu.

Prepare Your Own Meal or Food

being a vegan during the holidays

Family members who do not know how to cook vegan can find it a stressful ordeal. Many do not understand how to use certain ingredients, or they may find replacements foods to be costly. Vegans should be ready to prepare certain foods that they will find enjoyable to eat at a party. This helps take the stress off the host and offers something different for everybody. Ideas include Tofurky meat replacements, sautéed green beans with toasted almonds, cranberry-orange wild rice or vegan pumpkin pie.

Offer Your Alternatives or Specialties

Does everyone love mom’s green-bean casserole? If a family member insists on cooking their favorite dish, offer to bring a dairy-free version the same dish. This way, everyone can enjoy the meal without either party feeling guilty.

Do you make amazing sweet-potato brownies? If so, bring them. Families can also try the vegan alternative to see if it’s something they’d enjoy for the following year. This shows that vegan food is healthy and tastes good.

Host a Potluck

Do you want a dairy-free holiday celebration? If so, host a potluck. Hosting a vegan potluck is a fun way for people to explore a new method of cooking. The host can provide attendees with specific recipes. Or they can create a meet-up or an online discussion that looks at recipes from vegan books or food blogs.

Educate People

Use the holidays as a time to educate your friends and family about why you have chosen veganism. Avoid being condescending about other people’s lifestyles, but share the positive notions about veganism such as feeling healthy, having more energy or helping the ecosystem. At the end of the day, everyone can benefit from eating more fruits, vegetables and whole foods, which contributes a large part to the vegan diet.

Navigating the holidays takes time, planning and education. Don’t feel guilty about your choices, but offer to help out or share your favorite recipes so everyone has an enjoyable holiday experience.

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