‘Tis the season. For roast turkeys, spiral-cut ham, nice juicy tenderloin, and a cup of holiday eggnog. Or not. Whether you (or your sister, cousin, or daughter)have been vegan since 15, or you’re curious about the health benefits associated with a mostly plant-based diet, everyone can benefit from an extra serving or two of vegetables during the holidays.
When you focus on reaching for the plants first, you give your body a large variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, as well as fiber. Plant-based foods are nutrient dense—meaning you get maximum nutrition per calorie. On top of being nutrient dense, plant-based proteins, such as legumes, nuts and seeds, are more easily digested and absorbed than their animal-protein counterparts. The icing on the cake is that those who follow a plant-based diet generally weigh less and have lower risk of many chronic diseases (Craig & Mangels, 2009).
With a couple tricks up your sleeve, you’ll find it easy to incorporate plant-based options at all your holiday gatherings. Here are my top three tips on how to navigate the holidays as a plant-based eater:
If you’re going to a larger holiday cocktail party, where your options will likely be limited to small bites, eat a small snack before. Whether you’re plant-based or not, this will help you avoid arriving at the event ravenous, so you’ll make smarter choices and limit the risk of overindulging on calorie-heavy appetizers.
If you’re headed over to a close friend or family member’s place for the holiday, let them know your dietary preferences—including plant-based. Tell them this not as a request to retool their entire menu to cater to your needs, but rather to reassure them that they shouldn’t take offense when you don’t reach for the main dish they serve. Remind them of how many foods you do eat, or the bounty of plant-based options (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts/seeds, oils, soy, etc). Be sure to ask them what you can bring and how you can help.
Share your favorite recipe
In addition to sharing how much you do still eat, you can offer to bring a side dish that will please your dietary considerations and fit into your host’s meal as well. You can easily bring a hearty side, such as a mushroom, cranberry, wild rice pilaf that can serve as the bulk of your meal and a side dish for others. To really wow the crowd, throw in a killer plant-based dessert, such as coconut truffles.
Curious about making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle? Be mindful that making the switch to plant-based eating doesn’t have to happen overnight, and certainly does not need to be an all or nothing deal. Stay confident in your plant-based choices, knowing the health benefits you’re providing your body, and remember that small dietary changes are what help us sustain habits over the long run. For more information and support, visit Thrive Forward, a FREE online personalized wellness program.