How to Navigate Holiday Meals with Non-Vegan Friends and Family — 7 Tips!
Festive lights, delicious food, spending time with friends and family, the holidays are many people's favorite time of the year, but they can also feel a little daunting if you’re the only vegan at the dinner table. If that’s you, keep reading for some tips to help you enjoy and prepare for this special time of year.
1. Speak with the dinner hosts well in advance. Ask the hosts if they are willing to tweak a couple of the side dishes so they’re vegan; for example, sautéing veggies with olive oil instead of butter, and keeping salad dressings and cheeses on the side rather than mixing them through. Try not to put too much pressure on the host and ↓
2. Offer to bring your own main dish and dessert. Make sure you bring enough to share in case anyone is curious and wants to try them. This is the perfect opportunity to show vegan food in a positive light!
3. Keep your cool. Try to stay grounded and understand that many of your non-vegan family and friends either don’t know the facts about modern animal agriculture or they don’t feel the same way you do. It’s easy to forget that the majority of us ate animal products at some point in our lives. While it might be tempting to launch into all the important reasons to go vegan at the dinner table, it’s not the best time to bring up slaughterhouses, heart disease, or deforestation. That being said… ↓
4. Be prepared for questions. Especially about nutrition. For a list of suggested answers to vegan FAQs download our free vegan guide: idausa.org/VegGuide. If possible, postpone answering questions that will require detailing animal abuse or slaughter at the dinner table. You could say: “Would you mind if we spoke about (X) after everyone has eaten? Some of the information might make others feel uncomfortable, and I really want everyone to enjoy themselves.” To avoid the awkward silence that may follow, try steering the conversation in another direction: “Did you see the new season of Stranger Things?” or “Are you doing anything fun on New Year’s Eve?”
5. Practice handling jokes with confidence and grace. If people make jokes about veganism, try not to get too serious or defensive. Generally, the antagonizing parties are trying to get a reaction out of you, so don’t give them the satisfaction!
6. Stay Connected. Know that there are millions of people who share your beliefs and that they go through similar experiences during the holidays. Reach out to other vegans either online or in person if you need to vent or just speak to someone who gets it. In Defense of Animals offers free vegan counseling by phone, text, email, and online chat. Visit idausa.org/activistsupport for more information.
7. Be supportive of the efforts other people make, no matter how small! Did your cousins tell you they no longer eat bacon? Tell them that’s awesome! Did the host make you a special vegan dish? Say how grateful you are! If someone has made an effort to be caring by making any special effort, no matter how small, try not to discount it. Doing so will often push people in the other direction. Positive reinforcement will often go much further!