Navigating the Holidays, by Cindy Thompson, VLCE

The holidays can feel daunting as a new vegan. Most of us have well-established holiday routines. How will you navigate gatherings? What about questions and potential hostility? You can have an awesome vegan holiday, you just need a little preparation and planning. Here’s some tips and strategies:

Hosting Your Own

Knowing and setting boundaries is important. You simply need to communicate, there’s no way around it.

Maybe you just want to provide everything to avoid animal-based foods:

Hey there, we’re so excited you’re coming for dinner! We’re going to have all kinds of great food to share! Don’t bring a thing, other than your appetite! We’ve changed some things about how we eat since last time we’ve gotten together (we’re plant-based now) so come enjoy a great meal with us. Just come and enjoy!

If someone insists on bringing something, have an idea for them: a green salad without dressing, a fruit or veggie tray, or wine. Or share a recipe link.

What if They Bring Something Animal-based?

Just be gracious! Thank them and ask what it is. Now’s NOT the time to go into how you’re not going to eat any of it. Just simply set it out for them to partake in and don’t make a big deal about it. If there are other plant-based eaters in your party, discretely let them know.

If they ask later if you liked it, here’s a way to respond:

Oh gosh, it looked great! I wasn’t able to have any because I’ve changed how I eat, but it looks like others enjoyed it!

Going to Someone Else’s House

It isn’t rude to let your host know of your eating preferences—it’s very respectful so they can plan accordingly. It’s simply akin to letting them know of an allergy or sensitivity.

I wanted to let you know that I’ve changed some things about how I eat. I eat plant-based and no longer eat meat, fish, or dairy. It’s not a big deal and you don’t need to change your plans, I just wanted to let you know I’ll be bringing something go along and share. I was thinking about bringing a side dish and a little dessert, if that works. Do you have a specific theme so I can make sure what I bring fits in with the meal?

Bringing dishes ensures we have something we can eat, however, bringing enough to share is the MOST important part, here’s why:

  • You’re being inclusive rather than exclusive
  • People discover how good eating plant-based is!
  • It promotes healthy eating
  • Isn’t sharing the abundance the spirit of getting together anyway?

Some people are great about changing the whole meal to accommodate your way of eating, which is awesome! Be prepared to share specifics about how you eat and even offer to send them some recipes to help.

Dealing with Hostility

Odds are, you’re not going to run into too many problems. It’s important to have some diplomacy. Remember this is your own ethical/lifestyle choice, not someone else’s, and some may feel confused, disappointed, embarrassed, and judged by your own personal decision. Thoughtful communication and respect for differences are key.

However, you may run into some hostility. Remember, you cannot control other people’s reactions, only your own. A simple tactic when asked why you changed your eating is to simply answer, “I just feel so much better now eating this way. It works for me.” If it gets too personal, just say, “Oh, you know, it’s a health thing and I just don’t want to get into all those details.” Keep calm, avoid arguing, and remove yourself from the situation if it gets too intense.

Make Alternate Plans

You know your own situation and boundaries. Have an open mind, but consider past situations, to determine how the interactions may be at this event. If you know others at this event are not supportive and will be adversarial, consider whether it will be a healthy environment for you. If you can weather this, great, go! If it’s just going to be too much, don’t.

Here are some other things to do:

  • Go later, after the food
  • Organize or attend a vegan holiday potluck
  • Volunteer at an animal sanctuary
  • Do something else

I hope this helps you have the holiday you want to have! It takes a bit of planning and preparedness to have a successful day. Consider the options, role-play some conversations, try some new or update some old recipes. But make it the day you want.


Cindy Thompson is a Main Street Vegan Academy Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator and an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach, Peer Fitness Trainer, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist outside of Seattle, WA. Recently retired from a 20-year firefighting career, she has a MS in Leadership, specializing in Servant Leadership. She provides health and lifestyle coaching at Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching. Find her on Facebook and follow on Instagram @TrimazingVLC. Cindy can be reached at [email protected].



4 thoughts on “Navigating the Holidays, by Cindy Thompson, VLCE”

  1. Absolutely! It was an example of going through scenarios and being prepared on how you want to respond so you’re not caught off-guard. For some it’s a health thing, for others it’s ethics. You get to choose the response that fits you. The key is to be ready. ????

  2. Thank you, there are some great tips here! I’m wondering why you suggest answering “it’s a health thing“ to the question why did you change your eating. I realize one may not want to get into a deep debate about the issues, but why should we not say, “I’ve decided I don’t want to eat animals or animal products anymore.” ?

    1. It’s just one example. Some people make that decision for health, some for environment, some for animals. Each person will consider their own personal choice and answer in their own way. The intention is for people to consider their situation and how to respond prior to going to events as to be prepared and not caught off-guard.

  3. Hi Cindy,

    Thank you for an excellent and informative article! You provided many great, practical tips for enjoying the holidays as a plant-based eater. It’s not always easy to negotiate holiday gatherings or dinner parties, but your suggestions will definitely make things easier. I know I will put your advice into practice. Thanks again!

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