The holidays can be super stressful….especially for vegans. In this post, discover 6 vegan holiday survival tips to make family gatherings more enjoyable and help keep them stress-free!
Holiday Survival for Vegans: 6 Tips to Help You Get Through Holidays and Family Gatherings
Surviving the holidays as a vegan – surrounded by non-vegans – doesn’t have to be stressful. So this first tip is super simple – start by DECIDING that it won’t be stressful. YOU are in control of YOU – and your feelings – and the way you respond. Be the BIGGER person. I WISH I had used this approach when I first went vegan. Because #Mindsetiseverything, and this leads us to….
Don’t be worried about what people will “think” about you being vegan (I see so many new vegans struggle with this). PLEASE be proud and confident in your decision to be vegan. You ARE doing the right thing – whether you are vegan for the animals or your health.
One important vegan holiday survival tip is to let the host know in advance that you don’t eat meat or poultry, eggs, or dairy. Yes….this can be awkward, but the reason this is helpful is that you don’t want them making extra food for you. If they make extra food for you, and then you can’t eat the food, both you AND the host will likely end up feeling bad or uncomfortable.
And trust me – most people do NOT know what vegans can or can’t eat (and many think that it involves gluten for some reason?!). So a gentle explanation would likely be very appreciated!
It can also help to tell the host, “please do NOT worry about me; I will bring my own main dish to eat”. I then typically bring a delicious homemade – or store-bought! – vegan meal that can be shared. A delicious vegan dessert is also nice to bring – and it’s such a great example of how delicious food can be without eggs or dairy!!
If the host insists they make something for you, just say you would love to have some of their bread, salad, or vegetables – but gently remind them that you don’t eat dairy, eggs, cheese, or meat. (You can also offer to bring a vegan butter, milk, or cheese substitute for the host to try and use as a substitute if they are open to it!)
Be prepared that people WILL likely ask you questions about being vegan…and have opinions! These can include questions and comments like:
”Where do you get your protein/calcium/iron??”
“Don’t you miss bacon/turkey/cheese? I could not LIVE without cheese!!”
“Our bodies NEED meat!! Look at our teeth! We are carnivores!!”
“It’s too hard/expensive/complicated to be vegan”
It’s not helpful to get defensive (I learned this pretty fast!). Try to recognize any questions you are asked as an “educational opportunity” about the benefits of being vegan – benefits for the animals, for our health, and the planet.
I often will recommend documentaries on veganism or plant-based eating so that they can learn more. This is especially helpful if people start asking you questions you don’t know the answers to or if you start to feel overwhelmed. Simply respond, “I don’t remember the exact answer, but you should watch ‘The Game Changers” movie on Netflix! It will explain it SO much better than I can, and it is such a good movie!”. (Other great documentaries to recommend are “Forks Over Knives”, “Cowspiracy”, “What The Health”, and “A Prayer for Compassion” – this last one can be especially helpful if religion is brought up).
Remember most people who get defensive towards vegans are usually feeling judged for their choices – think about them with this in mind. Just like you, THEY too might be feeling vulnerable, because they feel like our vegan lifestyle is challenging the only way they have lived their entire lives (and honestly, they have very likely never thought about their food and where it comes from). Unless you were raised vegan since birth, you should be able to understand where they are coming from. They very likely don’t know how the animals are treated, or what the health implications of meat and dairy are.
If you prefer to not discuss your vegan lifestyle at all – or someone is challenging your choices in a hurtful way – you can always say that you have health issues that required you to change your diet (for me, even though I went vegan for the animals, improved health has been an AMAZING side effect of this lifestyle!!). Explain how much better you feel living this way! OR you can say that you have allergies to dairy (because FYI – most people DO! – did you know that approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy? – and this percentage is even higher – up to 100% – in people of Asian descent). MOST people will not challenge you about health concerns – and if they do, honestly they are jerks – and this will be obvious to everyone around them – so just smile and ignore them!! 🙂