fforkHolidays as a vegan or vegetarian can sometimes be tough. Although any great holiday recipe can be made without animal products, our families might refuse to make adjustments or, even worse, be openly antagonistic about our decision not to eat animals. If you’re vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons or one of the 215 million Americans trying to cut back on meat, it can also be emotionally difficult to watch your family celebrate life over a meal that you know was created out of just the opposite.
That said, I’ve found there’s a lot of joy in being a vegan over the holidays, too—nothing makes me feel more prosperous or empowered than knowing “surviving the holidays” doesn’t mean ensuring an animal didn’t. It’s also a great opportunity to share delicious vegan food with friends and family, but you’re going to want to come prepared. Here are my top suggestions for surviving the holidays as a vegan or vegetarian.
Vegan Substitutes That Will Fool Your Family
The holidays are a wonderful time to expose your family to some of the best vegan substitutes on the market (extra points if you don’t tell them what they’re eating is vegan until they don’t notice the difference).
For a holiday cheese plate, Miyoko’s Kitchen’s 2018 Holiday Gift Box will convince even the biggest vegan-cheese skeptics. If a popcorn tin is a holiday tradition, this Sweet Vegan Popcorn Pack comes in kettle corn, chocolate, peppermint, and “magical moo-fetti” varieties kids will love.
I’d also recommend stocking the family fridge with some of the best veganized staples out there, introducing your extended family to foods they might not try otherwise. Kite Hill yogurts and cream cheeses are reliably impressive, while Follow Your Heart’s creamy salad dressings and sour cream, GoVEGGIE’s Parmesan cheese, JUST’s cookie dough and mayonnaise, and Miyoko’s butter are all indistinguishable from their dairy counterparts (except that they are usually easier to digest). For lattes, Oatly’s barista edition is a consistent crowd favorite.
For vegan meat options, try Field Roast Celebration Roast, the Beyond Burger, Gardein chicken tenders or fish sticks, and Morningstar Farms bacon. On the sweet side, it’s also a good idea to have some vegan Baileys, vegan eggnog, and Coconut Bliss or Häagen Dazs dairy-free ice cream on hand.
Books to Share and Read Yourself
Books are probably the most crucial weapon you can have in your arsenal.
The new book The End of Animal Farming provides a hope-inspiring timeline rooted in extensive research on how a vegan world could come about—perfect for reminding yourself that you should be proud you’re an early adopter. If emotional eating around the holidays (or otherwise) is your struggle, the memoir Always Too Much and Never Enough by well-known vegan activist Jasmin Singer details her experience with disordered eating from a vegan perspective. And if you know your main struggle will be dealing with non-veg family over the holidays, Dr. Melanie Joy’s Beyond Beliefs: A Guide to Improving Relationships and Communication for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Eaters is a must-read that is also applicable to other areas of tension, like disagreements about politics.
Books also make great gifts for family: Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet is ideal for the 50+ relative who’s open to the idea but doesn’t know where to start. And The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook, and Vegan Christmas cookbooks all make amazing gifts that can get you cooking on Christmas morning. For the healthiest recipes, try Forks Over Knives: Flavor!, and Rawsome Superfoods.
Some Compassionate Style
Clothing is an effective way to communicate what you’d like to say without actually having to say it out loud. This “Believe in Kindness” tee benefits vegan nonprofit Mercy For Animals and is about as non-confrontational a message as they come. If you’d like to be a little more provocative, this variety pack of buttons features slogans ranging from the innocuous “Herbivore” to “Bacon Had a Mom,” and this “Eat Like You Give a Damn” apron will remind your family why you eat the way you do.
If you prefer to keep your distance from extended family over the holidays (no judgment here) but still want to represent compassion, these holiday cards are a lovely way to send non-sectarian season’s greetings, while a subscription to VegNews magazine is an excellent gift for anyone who might be curious about what vegans eat.