When friends, family members, and sometimes even strangers learn that I am thriving on a plant-based diet, there is typically a procession of questions that will undoubtedly follow. As an athlete, “Are you getting enough protein?” and “How do you get your protein?” commonly rear their ugly heads. Beyond that, “Don’t you miss eating ______(insert food here)?” is a close second. When I answer “no” without hesitation, the puzzled look on their faces leads me to believe that they don’t quite buy my answer. I’m often told that it would be impossible for them to stop eating cheese. It’s not, and though I often think they suspect that I am secretly devouring brie and Havarti while hiding in a dark room somewhere, I’m not. The truth is, I don’t miss any of the foods that I have decided to remove from my diet, but I do sometimes miss some of the social situations in which I used to commonly enjoy them.
Eating Vegan through the Holidays
One of my favorite childhood memories was getting together with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I can still picture my mother spending an entire day in the kitchen preparing the turkey and her famous (in my house at least) roasted potatoes. Of course, my father would join at the last minute to carve the turkey. When I finally built up enough courage to tell my parents that I would no longer be eating meat, I could see the disappointment in my mother’s eyes as she asked, “What about Christmas dinner?” I had realized long before that one of the easiest ways to transition to a plant-based diet was to remove the meat from your favorite dishes and see if you still enjoyed the meal. This had worked well for rice bowls, stir-fries and many other foods. I figured it would definitely work just as well for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Despite my parents’ concerns that I will not have enough to eat without the turkey, I make sure to show up to each meal with a healthy appetite and fill my plate with roasted potatoes, stuffing, corn, Brussels sprouts and much more. I even come prepared with my own version of gravy (combining mushrooms, onions, tamari, spelt flour, nutritional yeast, black pepper and sage).
While I am not personally a fan of conventional meat substitutes, there are several natural foods that can be used to replace the meat from your favorite meal. (Some of them can even be carved!) Try adding the following foods to your next holiday dinner or family BBQ:
While I don’t typically include a lot of soy in my diet, I will happily eat fermented soy in the form of miso soup or tempeh. Tempeh is a traditionally fermented type of soy that is high in protein. It has a meat-like texture and will soak up many types of marinade flavors, making it great in a stir-fry, added to a salad, or even used as a burger patty at your next BBQ. Look for organic tempeh as most conventional soy is GMO.
If you have no problem digesting wheat, seitan can be a fantastic meat alternative in many different types of dishes. It is derived from the protein portion of wheat and can be used to make plant-based friendly versions of a roast, meat loaf, Philly cheesesteak, burger patty, and much more.
Native to parts of Southeast Asia, jackfruit provides a potassium, fiber, and antioxidant vitamin C. Quick and easy to prepare, this tropical fruit makes a great alternative for pulled pork in a sandwich, curry or tacos. You can find seasoned jackfruit, ready to be heated and enjoyed, in the natural section of many grocery and specialty stores. Or look for canned—unsweetened!—jackfruit in your local International grocery.
What are your favorite ways to prepare plant-based versions of traditional meals?