Have a Holly, Jolly, Plant-Based Christmas

Dr. Matthew NagraArticles, Christmas, Plant-based Diet, Recipes, Tips

Image of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc.) arranged to look like a Christmas Tree.

As the leaves become slipping hazards and the air wafts that icy chill, we all know what’s coming – the holiday season! It’s a time of joy, family gatherings, and, let’s be honest, many food-centered celebrations. Whether you’re a veteran of the plant-based diet or a newbie, it’s normal to feel anxious approaching the holiday season. But fear not! I have the tips and tricks to help you stay festive and free of animal products as you navigate your overflowing holiday calendar. After all, who says you can’t enjoy the holiday season with a plate full of plant-based goodness?

Hosting a Plant-Powered Holiday Feast

Are you hosting a holiday party as a plant-based diet advocate? Now is your time to shine! Here are some ideas to transform traditional dishes into plant-based delights:

  • Reimagine the Classics: Don’t be scared; put your own plant-based twist on some holiday favourites. Try my friend and colleague, Desiree Nielsen RD’s, creamy mashed potatoes whipped up with rich veggie broth, aromatic garlic, and fresh herbs.
  • Gravy Goals: Worried about missing out on gravy? As the perfect complement to every savoury dish on the table, you don’t need to skip this traditionally animal-based favourite. You and your guests will love this rich mushroom gravy—a game-changer for herbivores and omnivores alike.
  • Vibrant Veggie Sides: Make vegetables the star of your side dishes. More than just an afterthought, you don’t need butter and cream to make vegetables shine. Consider roasting your veggies with ingredients like citrus juice, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs and spices. If you need some inspiration, try this green bean recipe topped with vegan Dijon butter.
  • Stuffing, Reinvented: Who said stuffing needs meat? Packed with herbs and spices, a veggie broth-based stuffing can steal the show. For a stuffing that’s not just free of animal products but gluten as well, try this delicious spin on a seasonal favourite.
  • Desserts with a Twist: Transform classic desserts with plant-based substitutes. Your guests won’t even notice the difference! Plus, you can avoid that sluggish, overstuffed feeling after a traditional Christmas dinner. Instead, you and your guests can leave the table feeling energized and satiated. This stale bread cake recipe from PlantYou feeds your chocolate cravings while making good use of leftover bread.

Navigating Non-Plant-Based Gatherings

Attending a holiday party where you’re not in charge of the menu? Here’s how to stick to your plant-based diet with confidence and grace: 

  • Positive Attitude: Keep a smile and a positive mindset. While some people have strong opinions regarding plant-based diets, you don’t need to defend your choices to others if you don’t want to. However, if you feel comfortable educating others – and are confident about your knowledge on the subject – you could share what you know and possibly inspire others. Otherwise, you could relay the benefits you’ve experienced since making the switch and direct them to Dr. Nagra’s Instagram page so they can see the science for themselves. 
  • Contribute a Dish: The holidays are a crazy time, especially for the party’s hosts. Bring a filling plant-based dish to share. One, it shows your appreciation and gratitude to the host. Two, it ensures you won’t go hungry. And three, it might even convert a few skeptics!
  • Chat with the Host: Don’t be shy; talk to the host to get a heads-up on what’s to come. They may be happy to try to accomodate. Think of cases of nut allergies or celiac disease. Of course most hosts would ensure there are some suitable options in those cases, and while it’s not exactly due to a life-threatening medical condition, they may feel similarly about including a plant-based dish or two to suit your dietary restrictions. Further, if you still feel you’re adding additional work for the hosts, you can offer to bring a plant-based dish of your own to share.
  • Lend a Hand: Offering to help in the kitchen is a great way to bond and subtly introduce plant-based options. This is also an effective way to learn what’s plant-based and what’s not before it’s on the table.
  • Appreciation is Key: If plant-based accommodations are made for you, try to show genuine gratitude for the effort.
  • Keep Conversations Light: Avoid heavy discussions about diet choices at the dinner table.  If you’re worried about a fight breaking out or stepping on toes, you can opt to bring a few vegan dishes to introduce your friends/ family to and leave the ethical and environmental talk for another time.
  • Bring a Vegan Buddy: If possible, bring along a fellow plant-based eater. It’s always easier when you’re not the only one.

Resisting Temptation

Staying true to your plant-based diet can be challenging, especially with tempting holiday treats around. Here are some tips to help:

  • Hold Onto Your Why: If the temptation arises, remember why you chose a plant-based lifestyle in the first place.
  • Eat Beforehand: If you don’t have any control over the menu (e.g., corporate events), have a small meal beforehand to avoid hunger-induced temptations.
  • Flexibility is Key: Be kind to yourself. If you’re new to this lifestyle, making mistakes and learning from them is the best approach for long-term success.

Happy Plant-Based Holidays!

The holiday season doesn’t have to be stressful for those on a plant-based diet. It’s all about perspective and preparation. Remember, the scenarios we often stress about are rarely as bad as the anxiety leading up to them. Embrace the holidays with a positive spirit, and you’ll find that maintaining a plant-based diet is not only doable but also enjoyable. And if you need more guidance or have questions about plant-based diets, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Nagra. Let’s make this holiday season a healthy, happy, and plant-powered one!