Whether this is your first family holiday meal as a vegan or if you’ve been trying to navigate family holidays for years and still haven’t gotten the hang of it, we have some tips to make the upcoming holiday meals a much more pleasant experience for you and everybody else!
1. Don’t Expect Your Family to Understand Your Food Requirements
Just because you’re now a certified expert in which foods are vegan and which ones aren’t, that doesn’t mean your family and friends have anywhere near the same wealth of knowledge you do. As a matter of fact, I can guarantee that at least 5 people at the family dinner think vegan, organic and gluten-free are the same thing. Try not to be frustrated or disappointed when the other dinner guests wonder why you won’t eat the greens (Just pick the meat out!) or insist that you take a slice of the sweet potato pie (What? There’s no meat in it!). Just know that veganism is a mysterious phenomenon for most people and so it will take some time for your family and friends to fully comprehend the ins and outs of plant-based eating.
2. Bring Your Own Vegan Food to Eat
If the aforementioned greens are any indication of the kinds of food you can expect at the holiday dinner, it’s definitely time for you to bring your own vegan food to eat! Your meal can be as simple as a couple of stuffed acorn squashes or as extravagant as a meatless turk’y with all the trimmings. There’s one important thing you need to know, though, if you’re bringing vegan food to a family gathering: The non-vegan dinner guests are most definitely, going to eat your food - and I mean all of your food! Here’s how it will go: First they’ll ask what you’re eating, then they’ll ask to taste some, and before you know it, the non-vegans have eaten all your food and are raving about how delicious it was. The moral of this story is if you bring your own food, make sure to bring extra for everybody else to eat!
3. Any Food You Share Should Be Delicious
While we’re on the topic of sharing vegan food with non-vegans, I feel very strongly that if you’re going to expose people to vegan food for the first time it should be the most delicious vegan food possible. You would be surprised at the positive impact eating delicious plant-based food can have on people’s attitudes towards veganism. Many times, being exposed to vegan food that tastes amazing is the key that opens people up to the idea that maybe they could give up animal products too. And eating bland, uninteresting or downright nasty plant-based foods often does the exact opposite - giving people an excuse to reject the idea of giving up animal products because they believe living vegan would eating awful food for the rest of their lives. There are many times when vegans will throw together some bland, boring dish because we don’t feel like putting in the effort to make something more exciting, but holiday meals should not be one of those times!
4. Educate People Gently About What Vegan Means
People are inevitably going to have commentary and questions about your diet that make no sense whatsoever. “But you still eat fish, right?” “But milk is healthy!” and every vegan’s favorite, “How do you get your protein?” How you answer people’s questions could be the difference between sparking an interest in veganism that may blossom into someone changing their life one day or antagonizing someone and turning them off from veganism completely. Remember, this is obviously a lifestyle that you believe in and feel proud of, so make sure that pride and positivity comes through when you educate people about what veganism means to you. While it can be extremely frustrating to answer the same questions over and over again, it’s best to reserve those angry responses for strangers on the internet and try to practice patience with family and friends at holiday events (within reason, of course).