Vegan Holiday Cheer! ~Ryan and Lindsey

How ya goin’? (as they’d as in Oz. When I first heard ‘how ya goin’? I literally thought they were asking me how I was getting to a certain place. NoNo. It’s actually ‘How are you doing?’) Just a little Aussie lingo for ya!

I have just been BLOWN away from all of the amazing posts which have been going up on my site and Katy’s site.

We have an another AWESOME one for you…how to survive the holiday spread whilst staying vegan. Ryan @ GreensforGood and Lindsey @ Soundeats have tagged-teamed up to share their ways navigating the Thanksgiving Feast and staying Vegan. Great tips, fantastic insight and lovely ideas. T

Thanks so much Ryan and Lindsey…you are making me think twice about gobbling up turkey on Thanksgiving!

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Vegan Holiday Cheer! ~Ryan and Lindsey

The holidays are a time to step away from every day life and cherish time with your family and loved ones. Holidays also tend to be centered around the delicious food that is prepared, much the same as any family gathering. For those of us undergoing dietary lifestyle changes, this time of the year can prove to be difficult. Food typically holds fond memories around the holidays and it can be hard to let that go. It can also be challenging to deal with family member’s questions, comments, arguments, discomfort and disapproval of a new lifestyle. People tend to be faced with many family members they may not have seen since last year’s holidays. Those same people haven’t been around for the entire transformation that he/she has undergone since then and therefore it may come as a shock. How do you deal with this, no matter what your diet change is?

We’ll be discussing veganism. specifically, in light of #veganweek, but we feel our tips will be helpful to anyone who may encounter a difficult time at the holiday dinner table this year. Since this will be our (Lindsey and Ryan) first holiday season as vegans, you better believe we are mentally gearing up for it! Ryan will go first with some tips for handling the holiday/family situation in general. Lindsey will then provide you some excellent food-related ideas to help you eat well around the holidays.

Dealing With Family Holiday Dinners

  • How do I prepare? I once read in one of my favorite vegan support books, Vegan Freak, that “meek vegans suffer”. What does this mean? It means that if you expect people to inherently cater to your new needs, you aren’t going to get what you want. Family members, especially, are guilty of doing what’s always been done. They’ve known you as the turkey-eating, pumpkin pie munching person your entire life. To suddenly change that is strange to them and they definitely won’t be used to your new restrictions overnight. You must be very clear about your needs. You must be willing to ask for substitutes or willing to make and bring your own. In the case of being vegan, most people do not know what that means. It took a long time for my dad to realize that I was choosing not to eat Greek yogurt anymore and that that I wouldn’t taste his cherished cheesecake when he made it for his birthday this year. It’s an adjustment for everyone in your life, but you have to be at the forefront of that adjustment. Communication is probably the most important aspect of being vegan (or anything other lifestyle). No one is going to go out of their way to take care of you and learn about your restrictions when they have 20 other people to please. Communicate and plan, and you’ll be fine.
  • I don’t want to do away with traditions! You don’t have to completely get rid of your old traditions when you eat differently at holiday dinners. Making mock versions of old holiday favorites is one way to maintain traditions. Another way is to simply create new traditions! The first year will probably be tough (I’m certainly expecting it to be), but keep in mind that you can create new traditions for yourself by making new dishes that are just as extravagant and decadent as their counterparts. Make them once a year for the special occasion and in a couple of years, you’ll come to expect those particular dishes as ones that are now fondly surrounded by family memories.
  • How do I explain my choices? First of all, be confident. Second of all, do your research. Committing to veganism should not be taken lightly. Doing a test run for a week or so is wonderful for some insights on the lifestyle and to test the waters a bit, but after that, I think you really need to have your ducks in a row. Understanding and knowing why you’ve decided to make this change will be everything when you’re trying to justify and explain your decision to others. It will also serve you well if and when you begin to second guess why you are putting yourself through the trouble of eating vegan at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Being confident in your choice to live a healthier life will make others more confident that you’re doing something good for yourself. Backing up your reasons with research and facts is even better.
  • What if my family gets angry with me because I won’t eat the turkey? First of all, your family probably isn’t going to actually get angry with you because of your dietary switch. They may seem angry, but it’s likely that they are more uncomfortable than upset. Change makes just about anyone uneasy, especially when it comes to healthy dietary changes. You can unintentionally make others feel guilty about their own food choices simply by explaining your own or choosing not eating particular dishes. This discomfort and guilt is usually what upsets people or makes them argue with you. Keep that in mind when you start feeling the heat from family members and you’ll feel more at ease.
  • What if someone brings up my diet while everyone is eating their meal? Try not to talk about it if you can. You’ll create more hostility towards your diet by talking about it while people are eating. No one wants to hear about how the turkey was treated before it got to the dinner table or how much fat is in the buttery, cream-filled mashed potatoes when they’re sticking it in their mouth. You’ll come off preachy and no one likes a preachy vegan. Being abrasive will get you no where. Instead, politely say, “I’d love to talk about it after dinner if that’s okay with you”. They’ll get the point and you’ll let them enjoy the meal they’re choosing to eat while you get to enjoy the meal you’re choosing to eat. Fair enough?
  • Overall, try to be understanding of your family members shock over your new diet. Don’t get defensive, don’t get upset. Your family loves you and they’re just trying to understand. They will come around and you never know, in time, maybe you can be a healthier influence in their diets too!

Dealing with Holiday Food

  • What do I do? First of all, don’t panic! The holidays are a time to enjoy with your family, and while it can be frustrating when you can’t mindlessly spoon heaps of the typical holiday fare on your plate, you can enjoy just as equally if you take the time to prepare. Below you will find some typical holiday fare with vegan substitutions

  • Mashed Potatoes. So easy to veganize! Everyone has their own ways of making their mashed potatoes, so just use a vegan margarine (i.e. Earth Balance or Smart Balance Light or Organic) or extra virgin olive oil instead of butter and a milk substitute (i.e. soymilk, almond milk, rice milk) instead of cream or milk. Feel free to season with fresh herbs, kosher or sea salt, roasted garlic or anything else. You can even find vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese if you flavor your mashed potatoes with those!

  • Squash. There are countless squash recipes for the holidays! One simple favorite of mine is mashed butternut squash. Roast your butternut squash with organic brown sugar and Earth Balance, mash it (with milk substitute if desired) and done!

  • Green Bean Casserole. This one may be a little harder to make a vegan duplicate of if you’re used to the standard green bean casserole loaded with condensed cream of mushroom soup and the canned fried onion rings. In the spirit of being thankful for good health, why not try to healthify the recipe a bit? Make a sauce of soymilk, mushrooms, roasted onions and top with whole wheat bread crumbs or whole wheat panko.

  • Stuffing/ Dressing. Use any kind of stale or day-old bread that your family prefers. Make with your standard herbs (don’t forget the sage perfect for Thanksgiving!), vegan margarine, organic vegetable broth, and all your other add-ins. If your family likes to make an apple sausage stuffing, keep the apples and add some Tofurkey Sausage. The variations are endless! Also, it’s dressing when it is in a container on the side and it becomes stuffing when it is stuffed in something, usually the turkey. Try stuffing your dressing into a baby sugar pumpkin or a small squash for a seasonal flare!

  • Cranberry Sauce. Easy! Most varieties you make yourself are vegan! I can’t find the information online, so I’m not positive about the canned, jellied cranberry sauce, so just check your favorite brand to verify it does not contain gelatin (gelatin is not vegan!).

  • Sweet Potato Casserole. However your family makes sweet potato casserole, stick with the family recipe. Instead of eggs, use tofu (1/4 cup silken tofu per egg), use your preferred milk substitute, vegan margarine, etc. If your family is from the south like my husband’s family and y’all put marshmallows on your casserole and you can’t live without, check out these Dandies Vegan Marshmallows.

  • Turkey. Ok, so this little part of a holiday meal is tricky. And ok, ok so the turkey is actually a big part of holidays like Thanksgiving. Many vegans will be ok with just eating sides, but if you really want a protein “star”, check out these Tofurkey Roasts.

  • Pumpkin Pie. For pumpkin pie, or any favorite holiday dessert, you should be able to easily google a vegan recipe and come up with many alternatives! One dessert that is always a holiday favorite for us is pumpkin pie. Check out Lindsey’s blog, Sound Eats, for a fantastic vegan pumpkin pie she just tested and is revealing today!

All in all, it does not have to be difficult to be a vegan at your family’s holiday celebrations. Be open-minded, plan ahead, and plan to make enough of your vegan-friendly holiday favorites to share with your family. Even your family may be surprised at how much they enjoy the vegan recipes! If you have any holiday-specific, or vegan in general questions, feel free to contact either of us at ryan@greensforgood.com or lindsey@soundeats.com. Happy Holidays!

7 thoughts on “Vegan Holiday Cheer! ~Ryan and Lindsey

    • Lindsey @ Sound Eats says:

      The vegan pumpkin pie recipe will be on my site tomorrow morning (sorry for the delay!). It is FABULOUS and after creating and testing several recipes, I am completely sold on it. I could eat this entire pie myself. 😉

    • Mish says:

      We are so thankful that you were willing and able. The tips that you wrote have honestly made me think that I am going to keep up the Vegan lifestyle through the holidays. We’ll see though. And the pumpkin pie…I can’t wait WAIT to have it. Can you tweet or e-mail it to me. I would love to have it as part of Vegan -4-A- Day 🙂

  1. kilax says:

    Great post of solid tips! It makes me happy that we are hosting both holidays! I know I am avoiding it, but it is my first year as a vegan too, and my in-laws don’t quite get it yet 🙂

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