The Vegetarian Diaries: How to Survive the Holidays

20 Dec

The holidays, while supposedly a time for eating, drinking and being merry with your family and friends, can be very stressful for vegetarians and vegans.  Actually with shopping, family obligations, and cooking to be done, they can be stressful for anyone. But I’m a vegetarian so we’re going to focus on that angle.

As I’ve mentioned before, I adopted the vegetarian diet about 6 years ago.  While this decision was not a huge shock to those around me (the idea of steak grossed me out to no end) my family wasn’t initially pleased with the idea.  The usual myths and stigmas surrounding my new lifestyle cropped up repeatedly.  “Where will you get your protein, iron, vitamins, etc…?” “What will you EAT?” and all the usual questions were quickly brought to the forefront, and I was singled out as a vegetarian as though it were a disease.

Roasted Garlic "Cream" Sauce, anyone?

Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic. But my family did voice their concerns and were cautious about supporting me on this.  When you grow up in a traditional omnivorous diet that is, for all intents and purposes, healthy your family members will have questions.  They will be wondering why you’re suddenly giving up the status quo in favour of something foreign to them. They will also be freaking out over what to serve you besides mashed potatoes and green beans. If you’re a vegan, they’ll most likely be freaking out over what to serve you at all. While this can seem exasperating and frustrating (and to me, mildly amusing), it pays on your end to be understanding and compassionate.

Paella works well, too!

No, I don’t mean to eat the turkey and grin and bear it.  No, this is your choice to live this lifestyle and you should be allowed to do so regardless of the time of year.  I just mean you should try to make it as easy as possible on your friends and family.  So here are a few tips to accomplish that.

1)      Let people know your dietary restrictions asap.  If you had a nut allergy or were a diabetic you would tell people.  Same goes if you’re a vegetarian, it’s the polite thing to do.  Just make sure it’s not the day before.  As soon as you receive an invite, or it’s decided that Aunt Mildred is hosting Christmas dinner, call them up and let them know you’re a vegetarian and specify what this entails.  I can’t tell you how many times it’s been assumed that I’ll eat fish. I don’t, and if you don’t either- tell them!

2)      Offer to bring a vegetarian friendly dish.  Typically, the vegetables and side dishes accompanying the big dinner will be perfectly fine for you to eat but the main dish poses a problem.  Rather than load more stress onto your host with this add-on to their menu, suggest that you are more than happy to bring a vegetarian main course dish that you can eat.  Make sure you bring enough to share with others so they can see just how delicious it is to go veggie once in a while. I sometimes even bring a copy of the recipe to give out- people have told me they have used it for their next party as they had a vegetarian coming!

3)      If you’re attending a cocktail party, eat something small like soup or a nutrient-dense salad beforehand in case there aren’t many vegetarian options available.  When you arrive, ask your host which items are vegetarian friendly and focus on those.  If you’re at a party with wait-staff, kindly advise the waiter with the pork-belly crostini that you’re a vegetarian. Once done, you can best believe every vegetarian-friendly tray will be brought to you first.  I find when you’re polite, people are only more than happy to accommodate you.

4)      Don’t be on the defensive.  As soon as you get defensive about your diet, people automatically assume you’re not entirely sure in your choice, or there’s something bad you’re not telling them.  I’ve rarely encountered someone who was extremely negative or overly critical on my diet choices.  Instead, they’ve merely been curious.  Be open, be confident, and be happy to answer their questions.  Misinformation is the basis for the negative stigma on vegetarianism so look upon this as your opportunity to set the record straight.

5)      Get off the damn pedestal.  While it’s all well and good to be open and share your opinions on vegetarianism, don’t get elitist on them.  If people ask, feel free to share. If they don’t ask, don’t go on and on about how great you are because you don’t eat meat and how awful they are because they do. You sound like a braggart and a snob.  Remember, you made this choice for yourself, let other people do the same even if you don’t agree with it.

Like everything in life, to survive the holidays it pays to be prepared and to go in with a positive attitude.  Be happy in your choices and everyone will think you’re just fine. Oh and if all else fails, chocolate.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your families!



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