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How to Eat More Plant-Based this Holiday

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How to Eat More Plant-Based this Holiday

‘Tis the season for roast turkeys, spiral-cut hams, beef tenderloin, and an overload of eggnog. While the holidays are meant to be a time of gathering and cheer among our family and friends, for most of us they deliver stress as well.

The stress of what you will and will (try) not to eat, the temptations you’ll face, and the possibility of weight creeping on, can make it seem like an even more daunting time of the year.

Try Eating More Plants!

To stay on track, and feel balanced amidst all the indulgence, try paying a little bit more attention to eating plant-based meals and side dishes. Everyone can benefit from an extra serving or two of vegetables during the holidays and with lots of recipes out there for inspiration you can rest assured that many don’t have to “taste” healthy to be so.

When you focus on reaching for plants first, you give your body a large variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, as well as fiber.  Plants are nutrient dense foods—meaning you get a lot of nutrition for not a lot of calories. And if you needed even more reason to eat more plant-based, research shows that those who follow a plant-based diet generally weigh less and have lower risk of many chronic diseases.1

Tips and Tricks

With a couple tricks up your sleeve I think you and your guests will find it actually quite easy to incorporate more plant-based options at your holiday gatherings. These three tips will help you keep healthy habits throughout the holidays:

1. Be strategic

If you’re going to a larger holiday cocktail party, where your options will likely be limited to small bites, and you’re not sure what to even anticipate will be served, eat a small snack before you head out. Try munching on some veggies with hummus which will give you lasting fullness from protein and fiber while keeping your calories in check. It will help you avoid arriving at the event ravenous, so you’ll make smarter choices and limit the risk of overindulging on calorie-heavy appetizers.

2. Share your favorite recipe

If you’re headed over to a close friend or family member’s place for the holiday, let them know your dietary preferences—whether it’s gluten-free, heart-healthy, or plant-based. Reassure them this not a request to retool their entire menu to cater to your needs, but rather to give them notice if your selections appear picky. The easiest way to have this conversation is by also offering to bring a side dish or two that will be tasty and pleasing to both your preferences and all attending.  A simple squash and greens salad is complementary to most anything served in the winter and a hearty wild rice pilaf can serve nicely as the bulk of your meal and a complementary side dish for others.

3. Host without fear

Even if you serve meat, you don’t have to make it the focal point of the meal. Make hearty vegetable sides such as winter green salad, roasted squash and Brussels sprouts, roasted fingerling potatoes, apple-cranberry sauce, wild mushroom and farro dressing the main event. Guests can choose their favorites  and everyone will leave full. And, you can wow everyone with a sweet yet healthy dessert like an apple galette.

If you’re just starting to eat more plant-focused meals you might be more curious about making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle. Be mindful that making the switch to plant-based eating doesn’t have to happen overnight, and certainly does not need to be an all or nothing deal. Stay confident in your plant-based choices, knowing the health benefits you’re providing your body, and remember that small dietary changes are what help us sustain habits over the long run.


  1. Craig WJ, Mangels AR. (2009).Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109(7):1266-82. Accessed 11/4/13 from http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/2009_ADA_position_paper.pdf


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