The holiday season can be a difficult time to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While this season is full of merriment and joy, it can be a stressful time to say the least. From the overwhelming number of social commitments to the cost of gift giving, it’s no wonder holiday stress can lead to overeating.1 Whether you’re trying to incorporate more plant-based foods in your diet or have adopted a strictly plant-based diet for health, environmental or ethical reasons, this time of year can be especially daunting, however, there are ways to maintain your healthy, delicious, plant-based diet this season. Here are 6 tips to help get you through:
1. Veganize Your Favourites
There’s no need to sacrifice your traditional holiday foods. One of the keys to staying plant-based through the holidays is remodeling the foods you love. Luckily, the internet is overflowing with healthy vegan alternatives. This year, explore some vegan twists on holiday cookie recipes: from the classic gingerbread to more unique cookie flavours such as “Chai Tea Eggnog” and “Hot Chocolate.” For a touch of savoury, crab cakes can be swapped for zucchini fritters, delivering that delicious flavour sans the animal products. Or try your hand at some gluten-free, plant-based stuffing with some vegan pecan pie for dessert. Ultimately, there’s a world of comforting, vegan-friendly recipes at your fingertips. Why not use this holiday season to try out some new ones?
2. Share Your Vegan Treats
Giving is a staple of the holiday season. Even if you’re the only vegan or plant-forward eater amongst your friends and family, you can still participate in sharing your homemade holiday treats. Bring your favourite plant-based dishes to your work parties, family gatherings, and get-togethers with friends. While more and more people are accommodating vegan diets, you never know what food is going to be there on the day. Bringing your own recipes not only sets you up for plant-based success, but it also gives you the chance to share your lifestyle with others and participate in the holiday cheer.
3. Eat Before You Go
While you may be towing some of your top-tier vegan treats to your workplace event, make sure you’re not ravenous when you arrive. Rather than be tempted with animal-based foods, eat something beforehand and then snack on your vegan treats throughout the holiday event, worry-free.
4. Host the Holidays at Your Place
Playing host gives you more control of the menu. Not only will you be comfortable in your own setting, but you can also supply as many healthy, vegan treats as you’d like. You can also encourage your guests to try out some plant-based recipes, which may help them to see how easy it can be. Furthermore, if you’re not opposed to having animal products in your home, you can invite your omnivorous guests to bring their own favourite dishes (and take them home when they leave)!
5. Remember Why You Chose This Lifestyle
As the holiday parties approach, remember why you chose to go plant-based in the first place. Reinspire yourself by reading about the benefits of this lifestyle. From lower cholesterol levels and improved digestion to weight loss, disease prevention, and healthier blood sugar levels, the introduction of more plant-based foods holds a world of potential health benefits.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Or perhaps you transitioned to plant-based for ethical reasons to reduce animal suffering. With over 70 billion land animals being bred, reared, and slaughtered each year to meet global demands, your switch to plant-based saves countless lives every year.9
Furthermore, evidence suggests that animal-based diets contribute to issues surrounding global food security. Whereas plant-based diets may be a solution to improving the food system, both ethically and equitably. 10 So, the more we shift from animal products to plant agriculture, the healthier our planet will be. Even the animal products with the lowest negative impact on the environment, exceed that of vegetable substitutes.11 Therefore, by following a plant-based diet, even with a minor slip up here and there, you’re adopting a forward-thinking lifestyle that will lead to a more sustainable world.
Whether it be for your health, the environment, to reduce animal suffering, or a combination of all three, keep these reasons in mind while navigating the holiday season.
6. Be Forgiving of Yourself
Embracing a plant-based lifestyle is a wonderful, albeit sometimes challenging choice, especially for those aiming to maintain a 100% plant-based diet. Throughout the holidays, your tables may be full of cheeses, meats, and non-vegan desserts. In addition, you may be trying to limit many highly processed plant foods for your overall health, but we must remember that it’s what you eat day in and day out that really matters, not what you decided to eat at a special event during the holidays. There is definitely room in a healthy diet for the occasional indulgence. After all, what’s the point if you don’t enjoy the little things?
Whether you’re new to this lifestyle or a seasoned veteran, treating yourself here and there is not going to make or break your progress. Furthermore, if you’re aiming to adopt a vegan lifestyle, but you’ve succumbed to cravings for animal products, think about the progress you’ve made overall, the reasons you’ve made this change, and spare yourself the mental turmoil. Rather than beating yourself up about it and throwing in the towel, return to your plant-based lifestyle at your next meal!
The holiday season can be a tricky one to navigate, especially if you’ve recently converted to a plant-based diet. However, maintaining this lifestyle does not need to be a source of stress this season. If you need further guidance or an extra level of support, Dr. Nagra is here to help. As a naturopathic doctor who takes an evidence-based approach when prescribing a plant-based diet, he has the knowledge and expertise to get you through this holiday season. Get in touch today!
Matthew Nagra is a Naturopathic Doctor and is a passionate advocate for evidence-based nutrition as medicine. I have a particular passion for plant-based/vegan nutrition, physical medicine, and chronic disease. With additional training in nutrition, I hold a Plant-Based Nutrition Certification from Cornell University and the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies where I’ve authored multiple articles on the subject.