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How to Survive Your First Festive Season as a Vegan

You can do it!

The festive season can be a killer for your diet, and even the most self-controlled eater can have a difficult time. Whether it’s the flowing alcohol, fatty roasts or delicious desserts, temptation is EVERYWHERE. The holiday season is even more challenging for those with dietary restrictions, like vegans. Whether it’s the increased temptation or the anxiety of being the only vegan at the party, the pressure is on.

We caught up with two popular Instagrammers to get some tips on surviving the holiday season as a vegan.

May Sana (@alwaysmaysana)

How long have you been a vegan?

‘I have been vegan for almost four years.’

How was your first festive period as a vegan?

‘My family had accepted my “special” eating habits and, luckily for me, most of my favourite Ugandan dishes were pretty easy to make vegan. I am lucky to have a supportive close circle of friends and family who often are willing to go the extra mile by making festive food vegan-friendly when they can.’

What tips do you have for newbie vegans who are going into their first holiday season without the usual festive foods?

‘It’s not going to be like it used to be – you have changed, so you will experience it all from a totally different perspective. Google and Pinterest are your friends – search for your favourite dishes in vegan versions. You might be the only vegan in your family or circle of friends, but not in the world and many of them love sharing their vegan hacks. Some might even actually taste better and lighter on the usual festive-food coma.

‘If invited somewhere, call people ahead of time to warn them and “explain yourself”. Ask if you can bring something vegan to share or if they are finding it hard to come up with something for you. As tempting as it might be, avoid the urge to preach and become the green grinch. Show compassion and understanding since you used to be munching away gleefully just a year ago. Understand that we all grow and change at different times and from different approaches.’

 Keri Bainborough (@keribainborough)

How long have you been vegan?

‘I have been vegan for three years.’

How was your first festive period as a vegan?

‘My first festive season […] was a bit of a disaster, to be honest! I was a very new vegan. My family members are all farmers so they thought I was crazy. But I stuck to my convictions and I was determined not to touch any meat, eggs or dairy. Come Christmas day and my clean living saw me eating a little couscous, salad and roast vegetables – combine this with an abundance of champagne and ciders, and I ended up getting rather jolly a little too quickly!’

What tips do you have for newbie vegans who are going into their first holiday season without the usual festive foods?

‘Prepare, prepare, prepare! You honestly can make anything vegan these days, there are so many […] recipes online now compared to when I first made the change. Download a couple of great recipes and veganise your [festive] feast! A great resource for checking which South African grocery products are vegan is Vegansa.com – you’d be surprised at how many shop items are actually [plant-based].’

‘As a new vegan, you will probably have loads of questions from concerned and curious family members who are wondering why you’re not tucking into the roast beef like you were […] before. It’s up to you to pick your battles – if you think you can tell your story with no judgement or arguing, then go for it. But if you think you’re going to be caught like a deer in the headlights with every family member firing sarcastic questions and hurtful comments your way, rather just say it’s a discussion for another day.’

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