Although the holiday season is a time for joy, it can also bring on lots of stress. Chances are that at least several of the folks you celebrate the holidays with are not plant-based, which we know can bring on some uneasiness. While there are many reasons why the holidays can be stressful, choosing to eat plant-based need not be one of them. We've compiled a list of tips and advice to help you navigate the season's winter wonderland of friends, family, and food for a harmonious plant-based holiday.
Tell guests in advance.
Whether you are planning an entirely plant-based menu or bringing a vegan appetizer to your aunt and uncle's house, tell your guests in advance. If you are hosting, tell your guests that the menu will be plant-based at least several days in advance. If you are bringing a dish, tell the host that it will be plant-based at least several days in advance and make sure guests know that your dish is plant-based before they start digging in. That way, the expectations are set and guests have time to mentally prepare for a more positive experience. Otherwise, it may come off like you are trying to dupe them or impose your values upon your guests.
Bring something homemade.
If you are able, try to make or bring a homemade plant-based dish. Your guests will appreciate the work you put into it, and it could make them more open to trying something new. Besides, everything tastes better when it's made with love!
Be prepared to explain why you are eating plant-based.
There's always that one family member who asks questions. You know the one—the one who asks why you've been single for three years or why you didn't become a doctor like your brother. This year, that person may either ask or make comments about your dietary choices. First, mentally prepare yourself to receive questions like, "why did you stop eating meat?" "why did you make the casserole with fake cheese instead of real cheese?" or the guilt trip question, "you're not going to eat grandma's famous ham?!"
To answer these questions, be honest and simply state your reasons politely and non-judgmentally. You could say that you are concerned about animal welfare, you want to lessen your carbon footprint, or you want to be healthier (or all three!). Whatever your reasons, just keep your answer short and truthful and keep calm while you say it. The more you show that it's not a big deal, the less of a fuss they are likely to make over it.
Avoid shaming and blaming.
No one likes to be shamed or blamed. Just as you wouldn't want to shamed about your plant-based eating, avoid shaming others for eating animal-sourced foods. It is everyone's right to choose how they fuel their bodies, and shaming or blaming others only polarizes your viewpoints further. The more you show compassion and understanding toward your loved ones, the more likely they are to do the same for you and the more open they may be to hearing other viewpoints.
Stick to your guns.
It is normal to feel uncomfortable when you are in the minority, especially around loved ones. If you are one of the only plant-based eaters, don't let the discomfort overwhelm you. Be confident in your values and your choices. Chances are, your friends and family are thinking about what you are eating much less than you think they are. Focus on spending time with your loved ones instead of letting negative thoughts (or, if they arise, negative comments) get to you. Remember, a better world starts with you!
From all of us at Compassion in World Farming, have a joyful, heartwarming holiday season.
Need recipe ideas? See the Eat Plants. For A Change. resource library