“What can you eat?”, “Where do you get your protein?”, “Is fish vegan?”

You have likely heard at least one of these questions or some form of these!

These tips will help you enjoy the holidays! We have the power to shape our happiness and those around us.

I can’t stress this enough—the more you prepare, the better off you will be in general!

1. Start the day with breakfast!

It’s the most important meal of the day because it dictates your nutrition decisions later on in the day. Make sure the meal is balanced, which means protein, fat, and carb.

2. Hydrate

It is extremely important to get your daily water intake, it offers so many benefits. It may help you keep feeling fuller for longer in between meals throughout the day. Also, the more water you drink, the less water you retain.

3. Don’t skip your movement/workout

I know times can get crazy around the holiday season, but you have to take the time for yourself. Even if it’s 10 minutes a day, do the movement. You will feel amazing that you did the workout!

4. Bring your own food to eat

The best way to ensure that you enjoy the food and drinks that you want is to bring them yourself. There’s no shame in bringing food just for yourself—if anything, the host(s) will be happy that you have something to eat!

Always contact the host before the event, so that you’re on the same page. They might go out of their way to get something vegan for you or not enough for an actual meal.

5. Don’t get caught up in the vegan soapbox

I would not suggest talking about veganism unless it comes up naturally in the conversation. If the conversation does get into veganism, speak authentically about what veganism has meant to you personally. Focus on the positive—some examples are maybe you’ve been able to cut down on your grocery bill, maybe you’ve discovered new meals, maybe you’ve lost weight, maybe you have more energy, etc.

8 tips for navigating holiday meals as a vegan

6. Know the common holiday vegan food item(s) culprits

It’s important to know what ingredients tend to “ruin” certain meals that seem like they should be vegan.

  • Butter – Ask the hosts to use vegan butter if possible. Also, watch out for butter in/on rolls, vegetables, and desserts.
  • Milk/cream – Again, milk/cream is typically in mashed potatoes. It’s also used in some green bean casserole recipes. You can also expect it in many desserts.
  • Gelatin –Many cranberry sauces use gelatin. Look for ones made with pectin or make your own.
  • Cheese – You might find cheese on vegetables or even on top of rolls.
  • Eggs – Most homemade or store-bought desserts use eggs. It’s probably best if you bring your own dessert.
  • Stuffing –You can ask if the host can bake it in a casserole dish instead or just skip it.
  • Gravy – Usually made from the juices made by the cooking of the meat. If you want gravy, you’ll likely need to bring your own or buy some ahead of time.

7. Play it cool!

I get it. I know from experience that this can be difficult. But losing your cool is not the answer. Unfortunately, many people already have stereotypes of vegans due to previous encounters or just misconceptions. If you keep your cool, you can feel proud about giving vegans a good name. For better or worse, people will judge all vegans based on their interaction with you, so try to be patient.

8. Enjoy the moment

If you try to focus on the connections you’re establishing and connecting with friends and family, you won’t be concerned so much about being nourished yourself.

Also, if you have an amazing time with everyone, even if you were disappointed in the food options, you will come away having made a much better impression than if you dwell on the fact that you could only eat a salad.

Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN