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Vegan Tips for Family Gatherings

Holiday meals with family can be a time where traditions and lifestyle choices collide, leaving family members confused, disappointed, or frustrated. Whether you’re a hosting or visiting, if your diet doesn’t include animals, try these Vegan Tips for Family Gatherings to help you navigate any gathering with compassion and grace.

1. Make special requests in advance.

Most of us make holiday plans well in advance, which makes this tip easy to implement. Reach out to the host, and let them know that you’re vegan, if they don’t already know. If you’re comfortable, you might even start by asking if the entire meal can be made vegan: believe it or not, some hosts are open to trying new things! If this doesn’t go over well, there are other things you can request, such as:

  “Would you be willing to serve a vegan entrée like…(suggest something reasonable that your host might be able to make)?”

–  “Would you be willing to let me bring an additional main dish that everyone can try? Or how about a side dish?”

– “Would you be willing to swap non-dairy milk and butter for the usual dairy in your dishes?”

The list goes on and on! Decide on what you’re comfortable asking, then do it. It can’t hurt to try! (And while we’re on the subject of food, check out tip #5!)

2. Practice self-care before and after the event.

Set yourself up for success by taking the time to take care of yourself. Before heading out to visit, make time to do something that centers you and puts you in a peaceful place like meditating, practicing yoga, or taking a long walk outdoors. It may feel overly indulgent, but making the time to be centered before a potentially stressful event will calm your mind and help you react in a more level-headed way to situations that might otherwise push your buttons. And by practicing self-care after an emotionally taxing day, you’ll feel rejuvenated, restored, and ready to bounce back quickly. It’s often easier to practice compassion toward others than it is to ourselves, but keep this in mind: by showing kindness and compassion to ourselves, we can avoid burnout and be even better advocates for the animals.

3. Memorize this mantra: “Breathe, reflect, then respond”.

Even if you choose not to engage in the topic of veganism, just by being openly vegan in a roomful of non-vegans, people may be threatened. By living according to your deeply-held values of kindness and compassion, others can feel uncomfortable with the way they’re living their own lives. This can lead to hurtful, defensive comments being directed your way. Before you speak, repeat this mantra to yourself: “Breathe, reflect, then respond”. By taking a moment to collect your thoughts instead of speaking immediately out of anger, you’ll be able to take the higher ground. You can say something like, “I’d be happy to discuss my lifestyle choices with you later, but for now, let’s just enjoy this meal together.”

4. Remember that you’re not alone.

According to a 2016 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group, nearly 3.7 million adults in the U.S. are vegan! So while you may be the only vegan at the table, take heart in knowing that there are many others out there who feel the same way you do.

5. Bring food – and recipes!

For many non-vegan folks, the idea of “vegan food” conjures up images of boring salads and bland, beige grains. Holiday meals are the perfect time to gently shake up those preconceived notions with mouthwatering vegan goodies. Bring along a favorite dish or two to share, and don’t forget to bring copies of the recipes to distribute to interested guests. Once they’ve tried your delicious vegan dishes, they’ll be much more likely to cook them themselves!

And finally, when sitting at the table, remind yourself of all the wonderful things you love about each person. It’s easy to focus on the things that separate and divide us, but there also exist many wonderful qualities that unify us and make us stronger. Look for the good in your loved ones, speak kindly whenever possible, and remember to breathe. You’ve got this!



Compassionate Cuisine, Love Spoken Here


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