How to Successfully Navigate Holiday Gatherings as a Plant-Based Eater

plant based diet transition tips Dec 20, 2022
festive holiday meal

The holidays are here, but it can also feel like an anxious and stressful time if you've just started plant-based eating or want to begin. If this is you, know that you’re not alone. Others feel worried too about stepping out into the social arena for the first time with a new lifestyle change.

This article shares 4 simple yet effective strategies that will help you feel more comfortable and confident at your next social event...even if you know there will be quite a few meat-based dishes served at the table!

🥂 Bring a Dish to Share
If you already know the event is a potluck, that’s great! Then just plan on bringing a plant-based dish to enjoy with loved ones or friends at the gathering. This can be a side dish, dessert, main dish or a simple appetizer. Not only will this ensure that you will have at least one dish you can enjoy at this event, it will also be a wonderful chance to do a little ‘show and share’. It’s likely that many of the other guests present have not had the chance to try an entirely whole food plant-based dish…until now. People may ask you about the dish's ingredients or how it was made. Be prepared to tell them. You’ll be surprised, I’ve had people (not plant-based eaters) come up to me at a holiday potluck event, ask me about the dish and then ask for the recipe!

If you’re not comfortable cooking, feel free to bring a store-bought plant-based dish like a leafy green salad, fruit salad or another pre-made dish. If it is a pre-made item like a commercially baked bread or dessert, it’s best to check the ingredients list and package label information to ensure that it is indeed vegan or plant-based, without hidden animal-based ingredients.

🥂 Communicate with the Host

If you know the host of the upcoming dinner event well, but don’t know if you can bring a dish, one thing you could do is simply contact the host ahead of time to find out. At the very least, this will be a nice gesture, and it may be an offer that they will gratefully accept. That will allow you to then bring one plant-based dish to the event that you know you will be able to eat.

Another benefit of reaching out to the host is that during the conversation, you may discover what some of the other planned menu items are. This will better help you decide what to bring to contribute to the meal, and may open up opportunities to share tips on easy ways to make some of the dishes plant-based. For example, using plant-based milk instead of dairy milk to get a creamy soup or pasta sauce, or using a ‘flax egg’ in place of a hen’s egg in a baked recipe.


🥂 Have a Response Ready

As in other social situations, it can help to reflect ahead of time on how you will respond if asked certain questions about your diet or current plant-based lifestyle. Think about your motivations for eating this way and any positive health changes you have noted so far. Then, turn these reflections into a simple response that you can use, if the need arises, at the social gathering. For example, even a simple response such as, “Thank you for caring and asking this question. I have started plant-based eating to better my health as I have seen the benefits it can bring.” If you have been plant-based eating for a while already and have already seen health transformation, be ready to share those results too. You never know who you might end up inspiring or motivating at the social gathering with your story.

🥂 Focus Back on the Person
Much as we would like to, we can’t expect everyone to fully understand our reasons for moving to plant-based eating. So, during a social meal, it’s possible to be in conversation with a fellow guest or loved one, and then find that conversation turning negatively towards your way of eating. Unfortunately, in certain cases, some people do feel threatened by seeing others in a healthier lifestyle, thinking that this reflects badly on their own food choices, and then end up becoming antagonistic or judgmental.

In these situations, it is often best to just honestly answer a question posed by your conversation partner, then turn the conversation back to that person with genuine care and concern. Redirect the attention back to the person himself or herself, by asking a question about his or her life. This not only helps to change the subject but also shows your conversation partner that you do genuinely care about his or her wellbeing, which will help towards building a better connection on a deeper level, for potentially more positive future interactions.

I hope these tips will help you navigate the upcoming holidays with success. Happy holidays!