A Vegan Party-Goer's Survival Guide for the Holiday Shindig Season
Happy Ho-ho-holidays, eco-partiers! Tis the season for good wine, hot tea and cocoa, and ridiculous amounts of foodie temptation along with the holiday party scene. I myself am getting ready to go to a nice little festive shindig, and here I find myself baking my favorite ever “flufferdoodles” (a funny but accurate word for my snickerdoodle cookies) to bring along to the party. As a vegan, I won’t be enjoying them myself, but I am baking them because of a special request. I caved! I’m bringing them to the shindig along with a plan for what I actually will be able to eat there. Being plant-based, you never go in un-armed, or you’re going to be one hangry guest. Nobody wants that.
But I still want to have fun! I want to try new things! The holidays should be good to everyone, right? But it’s hard…since when did cheese platters become synonymous with Christmas party? UGH. R.I.P. baked brie….
So, how the heck do we survive the holiday season while being good to ourselves? This is especially challenging if you also consider yourself a vegan, vegetarian, or another classification of plant-based eater. Now, willpower is not everyone’s strong suit. It definitely wasn’t mine for a very long time. I love food. I really love food, in fact. And the idea that someone decided the holidays should be all about eating used to make for a very big internal struggle. It became a lot easier when I decided to start eating vegan for a purpose bigger than myself, a.k.a reducing my carbon footprint. I did it because I wanted to be able to walk the conservation walk if I was going to talk the conservation talk. Going vegan or vegetarian is one of the most straightforward and impactful choices you can make to significantly reduce your carbon footprint and spread some sanity and love to this crazy world. This post isn’t about preaching the vegan word, though (this one is!). This is a survival guide for a vegan party-goer (or anyone trying to eat healthy) as we dive headfirst into holiday party festive season. HERE WE GO.
1) Never assume you will be catered for - ask your host what you can bring
This one is a little bit obvious, but sometimes I go into this dreamy “of course I’ll find something to eat there” state when I am invited somewhere with food, a state that is probably driven from laziness. For example, I was invited over for dinner the other day to someone’s house I hadn’t ever been to. But, as a vegan, we can’t just prance right in and expect to find black beans and grilled vegetables. One, it’s not polite to the host, and two, it’s not that likely, so you’ll probably go hungry. So you can right off the bat plan on bringing your own things to enjoy for the meal, or, if your host is as health-centric as you are, you can be a bit more direct and ask what the situation is.
I figured out a nice little phrase that you can send out to your host that isn’t too over-the-top or needy: “I’m so excited to meet up for dinner! However, I’ve been eating vegan and I don’t want to make your life complicated. What can I bring?” If they don’t know what veganism is, just explain the whole eating meat-and-dairy-free thing. It’s also a win-win. Your host won’t feel awkward or guilty for not having options that you can eat, and you’ll be able to stuff your face along with the rest of them. Ho ho ho!!!!
2) Make something epic to share and give vegan gifts!
If there was ever a more perfect opportunity to share your own favorite vegan treats (and maybe convert a few people to the green side in the process), I wouldn’t know of it! Use these holiday parties as a chance to wow others with your own dishes and open up the conversation for a plant-based lifestyle.
I’ve been making a pretty bomb vegan spinach and artichoke dip from the Minimalist Bakers’ website - you’ll probably cry with happiness when you try it. I made it over Thanksgiving and every single member of my (non-vegan) family couldn’t believe how delicious it was and how creamy it tasted for a dairy-free dish. It also comes together surprisingly quickly as long as you remember your cashew soaking! If you want to wow your fellow party-goers, this is a go-to bet. Bring along some nice toasted baguettes or crispy crackers as a vessel for the gooey goodness. Check out some other vegan Christmas recipes from the Minimalist Baker here. There’s 126 ideas there for ya!
If there’s some sort of cookie exchange going on or you want to leave a nice gift for your host, there’s plenty of great vegan options out there. Bring them some vegan baked goods in a non-plastic tin, or a tray of nuts and sliced veggies. Get creative!
3) Eat a meal ahead of time
This one is a great bit of advice if you’re going to more of a cock-tail party/hang-out type of gathering. There probably won’t be a set meal at these type of events, just an assortment of appetizers and small plates to share. If you take the time to eat a nutritious and filling meal beforehand, you won’t be sad and deflated when you see all the nice things to eat. You’ll be a lot more mindful of what you actually reach for if you do decide on some snacks. You also won’t feel the need to go hunting down every single person who brought a dish and ask them if their contribution contains dairy. You’ll have the energy to dance and socialize along with the best of them, all with a happy tummy!
4) Have ideas of how to vegan-ify different dishes
This is useful to have in your back pocket, because more often than not your host wants to cater for you - they just might not know how! If you can provide some advice about how to make everyday dishes plant-based, your host will probably be very receptive and willing to try it out. They might even adopt some new cooking habits. For example, suggest cooking veggies with avocado or coconut oil or simply steaming them instead of using butter, or serving salad with the cheese and dressing choices on the side. They could avoid pre-buttering the bread, and provide olive oil on the side instead! The options are endless, and once you spend enough time around other vegans, you’ll likely gain some other ideas of how to handle yourself in someone else’s kitchen. You’ll be well on your way to inspiring more vegan holiday meals!
5) Have some uplifting (simple) words for your dietary choices, because someone will ask you about them
It’s probably going to happen - someone is going to ask you why you eat the way you do. So be ready with some well-thought out answers for why you are eating plant-based and treat it as an opportunity to broaden someone’s mind to environmental issues you’re passionate about. You don’t need to push it, but if they’re receptive, you can really spark a change in someone. Love that ripple effect! It’s especially nice to share these good vibes around the holiday season.
6) Book your airline meal ahead of time and make appropriate requests
If you’re flying for the holidays, this is a great idea. Most airlines on which you fly internationally will allow you to make meal requests if the meals are included in your fare. Granted, it’s still not the most nutritious of food, so you may decide to bring your own. If you’re flying domestically, a lot of airlines offer some healthful snackage options - just read your labels to make sure you’re not getting into any trouble, and try to avoid eating any processed things when you can. I’ll be writing a blog post soon on how I survive international travel as a conscientious eater (it’s challenging but worth the trouble), so keep your peepers peeled for that.
So do you feel a little bit more prepared for a healthful festive season? Don’t be afraid to go out and socialize and be your brightest self. Spend time with your family and friends, eat, drink, and be merry - but be mindful!
Remember, by living your best green life, you’re making a happy holiday not only for yourself, but for our beautiful Mama Earth.
If you have any questions or want some vegan-y advice, shoot me a message below! I love hearing from you, so don’t be shy.