how to handle thanksgiving when you're new to plant based eating

This past year, you’ve evolved. What you’re eating this holiday season doesn’t look the same as it did last holiday season. You don’t want to be a burden to other people or you’re unsure how you’re going to navigate the upcoming questions from family and friends.

I want to let you know that you’re not alone! The holidays are HARD the first few years of being plant-based. The spread consists of meat, buttery potatoes or rolls, bacon-wrapped vegetables, mac and cheese, basically anything and everything has meat or dairy, am I right? It can be incredibly difficult to find vegan options or even convince your stubborn family members to make something vegan.

I remember going through this and am STILL face with questions, eight years in, with concern about the food I eat. I want to instill some confidence in you this holiday season to continue eating foods that align with YOUR health and beliefs, not anyone else’s. So here are my top holiday tips.

1. Remember Your Why

Remember WHY you’re eating more plant-based and if you feel compelled, share your “why” with those who ask. This is the big one for the first year especially when you may still be transitioning and the non-plant-based options are really tempting. Remembering your why keeps you strong in your resolve to eat more plant based.

2. Bring A Dish to Share

If it’s not already potluck style, ask the host if you can make something to bring to share – and then find an amazing plant-based recipe that will wow everyone! (just do a google or Pinterest search for Vegan holiday food and you’ll be sure to find something)

3. Focus on the Veggies and Make your own Protein

Most Thanksgivings have a veggie dish and perhaps some bread or butter-free mashed potatoes. Load up on the veggies and maybe just prepare your own protein for the evening. A simple seasoned piece of tempeh/tofu, a lentil loaf, or seitan roast are some good options. And you can always freeze what you don’t eat to pull out at Christmas time too.

4. Ask the Host to Veganize Something Simple

Ask the host ahead of time what’s on the menu. And if something can be easily veganized for you, don’t hesitate to ask. Like setting aside some potatoes before the butter/milk gets added. Or maybe some green beans without the bacon wrapped around them. Simple things like this hosts usually don’t mind doing! They just need to be made aware of what your restrictions are and I’m sure they’ll be happy to accommodate if it’s not a bunch of extra work on their part.

5. Host Your Own

Host your own Thanksgiving or Christmas! Make it an all-vegan event or if you’re worried how people respond to that, make a few vegan dishes and the rest be potluck style so people have options they are comfortable with. Heck, you don’t even have to advertise that all your food is vegan. You might be surprised how much people enjoy it! Hosting your own eliminates the need to transport the food you make too so you have a little more freedom with what recipes you make.

6. Focus on the Friends and Family

Thanksgiving is about gathering with friends and family so it might help if you make the social aspect the focus and take your mind off the food and all the eating that happens. Mingle and talk to family you maybe haven’t seen in a while. Enjoy their company, eat a plate of food for dinner, but then take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to un button your pants like everyone else does!

7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you slip, don’t beat yourself up. Thanksgiving is meant to be enjoyed and if trying to remain 100% plant-based stresses you out too much, don’t get discouraged if you had a little meat or cheese on your plate. You’re working towards a bigger goal and that is a process. If your first Thanksgiving you still want to eat a little turkey but avoid the butter and dairy-based desserts, that’s okay (or vice versa). As long as you are striving to reach your goal and taking small steps to get there, YOU GOT THIS. Just do the best you can.

The first few years are the hardest, but you learn something new each year. If you need an extra vote of confidence this year, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Eating more plants can come with its challenges. There’s a lot of nutrition noise out there, everyone has an opinion, and it can be confusing to figure out what works best for YOU. Working through these challenges and learning how to easily incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet and lifestyle can be helpful. Working with a plant-based dietitian to guide you through your unique journey and surrounding yourself with other like-minded people who are on a similar journey can be monumental. When you join my nutrition coaching program, you’ll get a highly customized, one-on-one experience to help you confidently and sustainably eat foods that taste good and make you feel good. Click the button below to learn more about my approach and see what other clients have to say.