Celebrate Holidays Eating Healthy and Delicious Vegan Dishes
Since many of the special occasions in our lives are closely associated with eating particular foods, the older we are, the harder it is to contemplate adopting a healthy and low-fat vegan diet, out of concern it will no longer be possible to celebrate holidays and other significant events with family and friends. In my case (growing up in an Italian-American family), Easter was always associated with ham; Thanksgiving, Turkey (with sausage stuffing); Christmas Eve, a variety of seafood; Christmas Day, pasta dishes (containing ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and Parmegiano cheeses); New Years meant pork roast, etc; Not to mention countless extended family Sunday dinners of macaroni and meat sauce, chicken, roast beef, racks of lamb, etc. On these special occasions, there were often antipasto or hors d’ouevres consisting of cheeses and dried meats, such as pepperoni.
For dessert, cheesecake, layer cake, or ice cream served with whipped cream. More recently, living on my own, I also enjoyed preparing many foods outside my own ethnic background, such as Greek dishes like Moussaka (containing bechamel sauce), or Spanakopita (containing feta cheese). Looking back, beginning a vegan diet at 43, I felt a tangible sense of loss at the thought of celebrating holidays without meat, fish, or dairy products. I realize now that I was so discouraged at the thought of denying myself these foods that I barely acknowledged the celebrations for the first couple years. Day-to-day eating was difficult enough, but holidays always seemed to call for excess, and it just didn’t feel the same without traditional comfort foods made with animal products.
Perhaps these feelings are unavoidable, at first, but before long (if you choose to follow through), you will come to understand it is possible to separate the special occasion from the food served, and that after all what is most important is sharing special moments with loved ones, not what you eat or how much you eat, isn’t it? The second thing is, you also realize there are plenty of tasty foods that you can begin to build new associations with special occasions. While there is no direct replacement for a ham or a turkey (although some may cite Tofurky), cheese and eggs used in eggplant and lasagna and other pasta dishes can be substituted with tofu and other plant-based ingredients.
For help making vegan versions of your favorite holiday foods, just try searching Google with the name of the holiday, i.e. “vegan Thanksgiving” or “meatless Thanksgiving recipes”, or alternatively search with the name of the dish you want to eat, i.e. “vegan Moussaka”. There are links to many excellent vegan recipe sites on my blog including a page with my favorites called “Healthy Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes”. With the right mental attitude and adequate preparation, you can enjoy sharing holidays with your family, and take pleasure in preparing and eating new, healthier holiday comfort foods, too!
I am not a nutritionist – just a guy with heaps of useful advice and encouragement to offer those considering eliminating meat and other animal products from their diets. Until age 44, I’m certain my diet consisted of more eggs, milk, and red meat than the average American’s. I ate lots of chicken, too (especially liked parts with skin), low-fat yogurt every morning, and loads of cheese.
While a plant-based diet may at first seem a sacrifice, I assure you it is not. Therefore, if you are contemplating it yourself, don’t let anyone discourage you. Give it a try and I assure you, you will begin to feel healthy and youthful. Take it from me – paying attention to the foods you eat (and don’t eat) is the best way to maintain good health, and a plant-based diet is a great way to begin.