Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

When the holiday season rolls around, we tend to think of going home, spending quality time with friends and family and most importantly, eating food. This season is especially exciting for most people because it is a time of indulgence and feasting on all the great home-cooked traditional foods we grew up with.

In the past few years, I had to adjust my expectations of holiday foods. Unfortunately, those foods have been heavily meat and dairy-based, and as I have spent the last three years vegetarian and now vegan, I can speak firsthand of the limited choices available. The first year I spent Thanksgiving as a vegetarian was especially difficult because of the obvious obstacle—turkey. Not eating meat is easy to do if you have the motivation, but the further you look into what contains meat the more obstacles you face. When preparing for a vegetarian or vegan holiday meal, I had to explain to my family why I was choosing to take on this lifestyle and how they would have to indirectly be a part of it by making the foods vegan friendly.

The most important steps when buying products to prepare a meal are simple such as replacing chicken broth with vegetable broth, finding a meat substitute and replacing dairy-based foods with milk or cheese alternatives.

Thankfully, within the past few years the trend of adapting to alternate lifestyles has grown, and many grocers carry a decent variety of vegan options. Adapting to an alternative lifestyle is difficult for most people, and the holidays test our patience. Even though there are many alternatives available for all the typical holiday favorites, it’s hard to resist the traditional foods we are accustomed to.

The second year I was vegetarian on Thanksgiving, I broke down and ate turkey. As I now know, after not eating meat for an extended period of time, it will not settle well with your stomach. Although I learned my lesson and won’t cave into temptation again because I learned my lesson, it is important to give yourself some leeway. As I always tell people, any step you take in not consuming meat or dairy products is a step in the right direction.

I encourage getting creative in the kitchen this holiday season—one bite of mac and cheese probably won’t hurt you. Being vegetarian or vegan should not be a negative aspect of your life, and you should go into it with a positive outlook. This time of year is the most difficult time to go vegan, but it can potentially be the best time. Whether your reasoning is to fight animal cruelty, to help the environment or to protest the meat and dairy industries as a whole, the holidays are an effective time to get your point across.

When fewer people buy meat and dairy products during this time, corporations will take notice as their numbers will not jump as high as usual. Going vegan can be scary, but it can allow for more creativity when cooking and the option to explore new foods to incorporate into your traditions.

If you have been considering giving veganism a try, make one of your favorite holiday foods vegan. Vegan holiday feasts can be fun for the whole family, and cutting back on meat and dairy will definitely help with the post-meal food coma.

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