So you’ve made this big change in your life, you’re eating healthier, you feel great, and now you have to go to a big family dinner where nobody understands your choices and will probably not be serving foods that you can eat. The holidays can be a stressful time even without the extra food restrictions, so here are some tips to avoid the stress that goes along with being a vegan in a non-vegan world:
1) Don’t assume that anybody knows what you can and can’t eat! They might not know exactly what your dietary preferences are. Be specific in your examples. When I go to a family dinner, I tell them I cannot eat milk, cheese, eggs, meat, or bread, but that I would LOVE some green beans with garlic and oil. I once told someone I was a vegan without giving examples–I got a dairy-free cookie with eggs in it, but I really appreciated the effort. They just didn’t know what vegan meant, and that’s OK! If you’re going to a non-vegan party, ask the host if you can see the menu beforehand, and let them know about any specific dietary restrictions. They might ask what kind of food they can make or order for you, or you can offer to bring your own. Your friends and family might even want to try what you brought! Choose something that travels easily and can be reheated and served in someone else’s kitchen with minimal effort.
2) Don’t get preachy. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a dinner you’ve been looking forward to and having someone tell you how it’s terrible for you and how could you possibly put that into your body? You’ve made a choice to go vegan or gluten-free, but nobody else at the table has made that choice, and they shouldn’t feel bad about that. Offer your food as an exciting option: “Hey look! Cool hipster food! Try something new!” but don’t try to convert others at their favorite meal of the year.
3) Have your elevator pitch ready to go. If you haven’t seen your family and friends in a long time (or if you have recently seen them, and then they forgot they asked you already), be patient with their questions. They may genuinely be interested in why you chose this lifestyle, or they might disagree with it and tell you it’s silly. Either way, if you already know what your 30-second answers are to “why did you go vegan? how is it helping you? what can you eat?” you won’t spend the entire night trying to teach everyone about your food, since that can get a little exhausting.
4) Have snacks on hand for emergencies. If you’re going to a party that will have nothing you can eat, and something goes wrong with your food or the party goes on for a long time and you get hungry later, you’ll want to have a backup plan. Pack some trail mix, granola bars, fruit, cookies, or a PB&J so you can avoid any blood-sugar related issues and you won’t be tempted to eat something you’re not supposed to.
5) Have fun! Enjoy spending time with your friends and family, and don’t stress too much about the food–with a little bit of planning, you can have a great dinner wherever you are!