Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to Stay 100% Vegan this Holiday Season

Eggnog. Thumbprints. Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Lattes with Whipped Cream. Countless Holiday Soirees. How can we vegans keep up with our strict and healthy diet when there are so many unhealthy holiday temptations? As a disciplined vegan for the past two years, no dairy, meat, or seafood has graced my lips, but lately, I have been craving things beyond my control like warm chocolate chip cookies. Being vegan 100% of the time is tough, especially when we are surrounded by non-vegans who will eat whatever they want. We all have our weak spot for foods we crave. Luckily, I’ve never cared for meat, poultry or seafood, so giving up these food groups during the holiday is a breeze, but like most Americans, I have a sweet tooth and like to indulge in baked goods. Here are some tips I found to help curb your appetite for animal-laced foods during the holiday season.

1) Remember Why You Became Vegan in the First Place – Sometimes it is easy to forget your morals during the holiday season. Everyone is cheerful, presents are being bought and exchanged, alcohol is plentiful and jolly, feel-good music is blasting. So why not eat a moist brownie that your mom made to welcome you home for the holidays? No one is going to call the vegan police on you because you ate an egg today. The problem with slipping once, is you are bound to do it again and again because your body starts to crave whatever you feed it. The second you indulge in animal products, you are going back on your promise as a vegan. Think back to why you became one in the first place. It takes sacrifice and hard work. Don’t throw your new-found vegan lifestyle away so easily and carelessly on things you can avoid. Politely decline sweets from loved ones, but let them know you appreciate their effort.

2) Prepare Vegan Meals Before You Go Out – Even when you are invited out to dinner or you are attending a party that is hosting appetizers, play it safe  by preparing your favorite vegan meal before you step foot outside the door. Make sure it is hearty and satisfying, like a vegan burger and kale salad, or invent your own vegan stir-fly with your favorite veggies and dried fruits. It seems counterintuitive, but you will be less tempted to eat the things not found in your food groups when you are at a restaurant that doesn’t accommodate you. You will also be less stressed and hungry when you arrive at a holiday party, which means more energy for socializing.

3) Bring a Fun Vegan Appetizer to the Office/Holiday Parties - Desserts are bountiful this time of year, but they don’t have to be devilish. Learn how to make vegan desserts that taste just as good as and sometimes better than the real thing, such as a vegan chocolate mouse or carrot cake. Also, stay close to the veggie or fruit tray and away from the cakes and cookies.  You can also stash some vegan protein bars (Macrobars are scrumptious, gluten-free, and come in a variety of flavors) in your purse if you get extra hungry after a few glasses of wine and are tempted to eat the wrong thing.

4) Bring Portable Vegan Snacks While You Shop – Are your olfactory senses going crazy for that buttery bliss wafting through the mall air? Aunt Anne’s pretzels are almost irresistible, especially when you are plowing through the crowd trying to finish your holiday shopping. And let’s face it, the mall doesn’t have the healthiest selections: pizza, milk shakes, and fast food galore. Pack raw nuts like cashews, pumpkin seeds, carob chunks, and make a vegan protein smoothie in a portable container, and you won’t be as tempted to indulge in the junk food that surrounds you while you are shopping for Christmas presents. And while everyone needs a caffeine fix, no one needs the calories or dairy contained in a Starbucks peppermint white mocha. Make a cup of java with rice or coconut milk before you leave the house and your tummy and wallet will thank you.

5) Don’t Be Afraid of What Others Think or Say about You – As a die-hard vegan, accept that you are different, and family, friends, loved ones, and even coworkers may sometimes challenge your beliefs when it comes to what you put in your body. Know that you are always in control. And the longer you are a vegan, the easier it becomes to deal with people who don’t understand this way of living. Veganism can sometimes feel socially alienated because you can’t eat everything that society tells you is “normal” in the American diet. However, instead of feeling ostracized for not consuming that holiday ham, why not think of yourself has unique? In fact, it’s a conversation starter at many parties when people find out you are vegan. It shows you have a lot of discipline and character. Not everyone can restrict themselves the way you do, so be proud of who you are instead of trying to hide it.

Finally, don’t fixate on foods during the holiday. Remember this time of year is about spending as much time as possible with the one’s we love and being present in the moment. Food is an integral part of the holiday season, but it’s not everything. Love transcends it all.

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