The Ultimate Plant Based Holiday Survival Guide

education Nov 17, 2018

When you think of the holidays it can conjure up memories fun holiday traditions, you look forward to seeing family and friends, and enjoying delicious food around a table with loved ones...or do you?

Maybe instead you begin to worry and dread the holiday season because you are the only one who eats a plant based diet and Uncle Fred loves to terrorize you about your food preferences. If the latter is you, rest assured you are not alone this holiday season and we are here to help with tried and true tips that will make any holiday gathering enjoyable for all.

1. Prepare for questions. This may seem like a no brainer but often times we are so caught up in preparing a dish we forget to prepare some simple answers to common questions. Remember don't take questions or comments personally, people are either genuinely curious or have their own food biases that they are dealing with. Either way be kind, patient, and loving when answering their question. Here are a few that we run into often.

  • Where do you get your protein? Answer: The same place the cow, ape, hippo, giraffe, (insert large herbivore animal here) does. I just decide to cut out the "middle cow"...using humor goes a very long way!
    • Another one, "Well, I wanted to be strong as an ox so decided to get my protein where they do…plants."
  • Where do you get your B12?  From a supplement or fortified foods, I gave up dirt and unfiltered water a long time ago. (Bacteria that make B12 live in soil and water, no animal or plant make it. You only need a very small amount daily.)
  • Don't you need calcium from milk for your bones? No, actually I am getting calcium from plants just like 2,000 pound cow does.
  • What about iron? Actually I get iron from plants like legumes or beans, grains, nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, etc. Again the cow does not worry about all these micronutrients and as long as I eat a wide variety of plant foods I am good! Plus, I get all the amazing nutrients that plants offer and fiber too!
  • Is fish meat? Yes. It had a face or came from something that had a face.
  • Refer them to us. We have a free 7 day course all about the whole food plant based diet at here

2. Tantalize their taste buds and make their eyes dance with vibrant colors. This is the easiest way to introduce someone to the plant based diet. When you bring delicious food that is colorful, full of flavor and smells heavenly...they will be curious! Be prepared to share the recipe too!

3. Offer to help cook and bring plant based substitutes. This will not only help you enjoy more of the holiday offerings but it will open minds to the possibilities of healthy but still scrumptious dishes. 

  • Meat, fish or poultry: The store shelves are full of “meat substitutes” all made from plant-based ingredients but these tend to be highly processed foods. However, they can be very helpful during holiday seasons, especially for those new to the plant based diet. Don't forget about tofu, tempeh, beans, large Portabello mushrooms that can be excellent main dishes too!

  • Eggs: There are egg replacers that you can buy at a store or use the simple substitutes, each is equivalent to one egg when cooking a recipe. 
    • 1 TBS ground flax seed in 3 TBS of warm water
    • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
    • 2 TBS potato starch

  • Milk: There are many choices including almond, soy, hemp, cashew, coconut, rice  and other plant based milks to choose from.

  • Cheese: There are many cheese alternatives that can be found on grocery store shelves but many contain added oils but can be helpful when sharing foods with a non plant based audience. Some tasty less processed choices that are created from nuts include Miyoko"s, Kite Hill and Treeline to name a few. Adding nutritional yeast to a recipe can also add a cheesy flavor.

  • Sweeteners: Dried fruits like dates or raisins, unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana and concentrated fruit juices are all good alternatives. 

  • Butter and Oils: If stir frying you can use vegetable broth or even water for vegetables or consider using an air fryer for crispier dishes.  Use our nut based dressing recipe template for dressing. Use a cashew cream (1 cup cashews blended with 1 cup of water) to thicken a soup or gravy. There are many options available on store shelves as well, again not the healthiest options but don't let perfection get in the way of progress.

  • Salt: When you have been eating a whole food plant based diet for awhile you can find even a little salt can ruin a dish. Bring alternative spices like onion and garlic powders, blended spices (Trader Joe's has a good one), and choose low salt alternatives to soy and tamari sauce. 

3. Be thankful and encouraging of any support offered to you. If the host offers to make something as a plant based option give them some recipe sites or ideas to make it less stressful for them.

4. Keep the peace. The holidays are not the place to convince someone to not eat the foods in front of them. Remember, you will attract more positive reactions by sharing your personal story and feeding them delicious food. If someone begins to antagonize you there are a couple of options to follow: deflect and change the subject by asking them a question about a completely different subject and of personal interest to them or say you would be happy to discuss later, one on one. 

5. Make new traditions, consider outside the normal holiday themed meals if you are hosting. One year we had an Italian Thanksgiving and it was delicious and it reminded us that we were there to be with our loved ones and create new memories and not necessarily stuffing ourselves into a food coma. Plus, this takes the pressure off of trying to create a plant based version of a traditional holiday meal.

6. Celebrate the season. Write a personal note to family and friends who will be at the gathering sharing with them why you are thankful for them. This will bring an air of holiday cheer like none other. 

 7. Host your own holiday gathering. If you are up to the task, bring the family and friends to your place. Make it a day of joy and laughter by inviting plant based friends to help prepare your delicious meals and task those unfamiliar with plant based cooking with making already plant based foods or easy to convert dishes so they don't feel left out. If cooking large amounts of food is too overwhelming consider a plant based potluck or paying for precooked meals, this is a more expensive option but might be worth it to you.  

8. Let the host know you eat a plant based diet as soon as possible. There are few things more enjoyable than cooking a meal and seeing the faces of your guests enjoy the fruits of your labor. Preparing a meal for someone is an act of love. If you have been invited by someone to a holiday gathering let them know you eat a plant based diet. This will give them a chance to include your food choices in their menu. You can also offer to bring food, help to cook or offer websites with delicious recipes. Then there will be no awkward moments when the big day arrives and everyone can enjoy their meal. 

9. If you are bringing children to the party feed them beforehand. Nobody likes to be in the presence of a hangry child. If your kids eat a plant based diet as well, make sure to feed them before you arrive and bring alternatives you know they will eat and love. This just makes the day easier to navigate!

10. Don't judge the non plant based food before you. This is not the time to tell Aunt Irma that eating meat causes heart disease, instead focus on the fact that you get to be with loved ones this year! Many are not so fortunate. 

11. Ask if you can bring a plant based friend with you. Sometimes, this alone is enough to remove the angst of the holiday gathering because family tends to be less intrusive or combative with strangers around. (Maybe not always but worth a shot plus you always have someone to roll your eyes at when you get the "where do you get your protein" question for the tenth time.)

12. If you are overwhelmed with questions, tell them "It sounds like you have a lot of questions and I know this awesome website that can answer most if not all of them. You should check out!" (Let us answer their questions for you. )

13. When they ask what do you eat? Simple tactic, ask them back what they eat and then discuss how they can eat healthier plant based alternatives. People don't even think about the foods they already consume can be altered to healthier plant based versions: hamburger for veggie burger, pizza can be loaded with veggies, cauliflower hot wings, etc.

14. Bring dessert. Make your holiday desserts the healthiest option at the table. Not sure how? Check out some of our favorites, pumpkin pie, apple pie and hot cocoa.  

15. Eat before you go! If you are still concerned there will not be many options for you bring you own snack food and eat before you go! Do not arrive hangry. Set yourself up for the win!

16. Worried about temptations? Are you worried that your resolve to eat healthy plant based foods will be crushed by all the temptations? There are two ways to combat this: Bring your own plant based versions of your most tempting foods, eat before you go and imagine yourself walking away from temptation feeling triumphant that you celebrated with healthy options!

17. Things to watch for when your host may say the food is plant based.

  • Mashed potatoes, these are usually made with milk and butter. Ask, don't guess and then end up with an upset stomach or gastrointestinal issues in attempting to be polite.
  • Gravy, ask if it was made from meat juices or you can offer to bring a simple mushroom gravy.
  • Green bean casserole, may have butter or cheese. 
  • Breads or rolls may contain milk, eggs or butter. 
  • Pies, may contain butter, eggs or milk. 
  • Stuffing, often will have meat pieces mixed in it.
  • Remember, all of these can be made into healthier plant based options and easy to bring yourself to the gathering.

Stuck and want more recipe ideas? Check out these incredible lists that have enough recipes for 25 plant based holiday meals.

Remember the Healthy Human Revolution team is thankful for each one of you this year! Please share this article on your social media channels to help others make this the best holiday season yet!


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