The holidays are a stressful time. Seeing your family, braving the mall to buy presents, and all the traveling breeds a general level of anxiety. And the only thing that can make you more stressed out about the holidays than you already are is having to worry about whether you’ll be spending the next few days with an empty stomach. That’s right: surviving Christmas as a vegan can be challenging.
Whether you’ve been enjoying the benefits of being vegan for a while, or it’s a recent lifestyle change, the holidays can be a tough time to try and maintain your healthy behavior. Christmas has always been filled with meats, butter, and lots of things you’ve deliberately kept out of your diet, after all. You’ll probably also find it hard to avoid an inane amount of questions about your veganism since food in general is a big part of the holidays.
But don’t let any of this get you down, girl — even if grandma gives you some serious side-eye for not touching her perfectly cooked ham. Not only can you get through the holidays with your sanity, but you also won’t go hungry if you follow a few simple survival tips.
This is the first step because it’s the most important. You’re already stressed enough — you don’t need to stress out about what you’re going to eat or how you’re going to answer everyone’s questions. Take a few breaths and chill out. This also means you’re going to have to be chill about maintaining your usual eating habits. I’m not saying you need to give up or give in, but you’ll need to remember that not everyone will understand or accommodate your diet. Just go with the flow, and try to enjoy the holidays.
2. Help Feed Yourself (And Take Some Pressure Off)
My family’s Christmas meal always consists of meat, meat, and more meat. Not to mention creamy mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, and lots and lots of buttery, dairy-based desserts. Needless to say, not a ton of options for vegans. So, do yourself a favor and help feed yourself, while also taking some stress off your Christmas host. I’m sure your parents will have no problem if you offer to bring a dish or two with you. Unless they’re also vegan, chances are your mother was worrying that you wouldn’t be eating anything. And if the family member or friend hosting Christmas dinner likes to do all the cooking, offer to give them a few recipes for delicious vegan food — who knows, they might love it!
3. Be Informed
You’ve probably made yourself a walking library of knowledge regarding vegan-friendly foods, but holiday foods aren’t things you encounter every day. Do a little research into common Christmas feast dishes to make sure you’re keeping up with your diet. You might be surprised to find that some foods you thought would be OK, like green bean casserole or store-bought cranberry sauce, actually aren’t. You’ll also want to be informed regarding substitutions, like subbing the milk and butter for coconut oil and almond milk in a pumpkin pie. That way, you'll know what foods are good-to-go or, at least, how to make them more vegan.
4. Be Confident and Non-Judgmental When Answering Questions
Even if you’ve been vegan for a few years, you’re bound to get some questions from family and friends you haven't seen in a while. And although veganism is nothing new, people still have a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a vegan. Don’t shy away from answering any questions people have — just be confident in your answers. Be honest about why you chose to live a vegan lifestyle, whether it was for health reasons or ethical reasons or what, but don’t preach. Your loved ones won’t appreciate you telling them how bad you think eating meat is while they have a large plate of roast beef in front of them.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Indulge
Much like relaxing, it’s OK to allow yourself some indulgences. It is the holidays, after all, so eat whatever it is you want, however you want it — no matter what anyone says to you. If there's a piece of decadent chocolate cake staring you in the face — vegan or non-vegan — then you should go for it, if you really want to. Don’t feel like you’re throwing away years or months of commitment on a single meal. But just like most things: take everything in moderation.