Feast, Famine or Flexitarian? How Vegans Survive the Holidays
It's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and I am sitting in my office working, and each time I look up, I see a lovely Thanksgiving dinner invitation from my Aunt. But instead of making me eager with anticipation, it's causing me a bit of angst. The invite reads - delicious food, fun, and games for all! And while it's sure to be a great gathering, full of fantastic food, how do I explain why we aren't partaking in the traditional feast?
As fairly new vegans, we've been dreading our first celebration with all of the fancy parties and scrumptious meals. But, believing that we are not alone in our trepidation, I took to the internet in search of ideas about what vegans do during this much anticipated time of year. To my surprise I ran across an unexpected answer - go flexi? What the what? Yes, it seems there is yet another category for vegans and vegetarians who wrestle with what do during times of temptation or just want a break. Flexi is short for flexitarian. By definition, a flexi is a self-proclaimed vegan or vegetarian who occasionally eats meat. Who knew? A pescetarian is a vegan who, on occasion, consumes fish. Wanting to know more, I discovered an interesting debate that goes back about a decade with the release of the book, The Flexitarian Diet. Naturally, some vegans and vegetarians resent this newly coined designation calling it nothing short of confusing and a way to compromise your principals. Thespruce.com offers the example of this confusion, when vegetarians are served pasta with shrimp and are told, "well, my vegetarian friend eats chicken." Thespruce says true vegetarians and vegans simply do not eat meat - ever. And it goes on to ask how the flex diet works. Are they eating meat once a week or once a day? Apparently, there are no guidelines. A few others are more receptive, firing back that any attempt to significantly reduce the consumption of meat and animal by-products is a major step in the right direction, at least when it comes to better health. And that apparently, is the flexi goal. According to US News and World Report, flexitarians claim that they weigh about 15% less than meat eaters and reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. An argument that sounds a lot like claims made by hardcore vegan and vegetarians to me. So, what is this new vegan family to do?
Fortunately, I may have found a solution. A site called bitesizedvegan has an alternative approach, offering these tips: Five Vegan Holiday Survival Tips: - Be Upfront and Tell Your Folks! Suggesting that you keep it simple and don't be insulting. Good advice as that could quickly turn a family gathering into an unpleasant affair. - Eat First I like this idea, especially for children. If you don't think there will be options for you and your family to enjoy, eat a full meal ahead of time and just nibble on whatever you can. You won't be hungry and get grumpy. - Bring and Share Make a dish or two that you can eat and make enough that you can share it with everyone. Who knows? They might be curious and want to know more. - Focus Your Time on Family and Friends This happened to me at a recent family funeral, so this is good advice. Expect an inquisition about why you're not eating and be prepared to offer a brief and enticing explanation of your choice. Two of my cousins ended up wanting to give the vegan diet a try. I'll have to check and see if they crossed over. - Have a Plan in Place If you think, you'll still be tempted, especially by sweets, offer to bring a vegan version of your favorite dessert. Try making it with your kids, so they will want to eat it and share their creation with others. And, drink water - lots and lots of water!
Also, Beware of Hidden Animal By-Products:
We discussed this in an earlier post, but watch out for soup because it is usually made with chicken broth or stock. Also avoid white sugar, milk, butter, and eggs. Some or all of those items are frequently hidden in many of the comfort foods and homemade dishes we crave. Bitesizedvegan lists a few:
-Cranberry Sauce, which may contain gelatin.
- Mashed Potatoes which usually include butter and cream.
-Green bean Casserole which has milk and cheese.
- Pumpkin Pie which has eggs, cream, and butter
- And, stuffing is usually made with pan dripping or gravy and may have butter.
So, after doing a little research, I'm left feeling more informed and empowered that we can show up on Thursday and enjoy ourselves. I just need a brief and well thought out, explanation of our new dietary restrictions and offer to bring a homemade dish that others can sample and hopefully enjoy.I think my Aunt will laugh and be curious, but also accepting. Wish us luck!Special thanks to Emily and the bitessizedvegan for her tips.