There’s nothing better than attending a holiday party without any dietary restrictions. You grab a plate and make your way through the buffet of delicious-looking food, piling on whatever your heart desires without a care in the world about what’s inside. But after going vegan, all of that quickly changes.
It’s no big deal eating at home. Even though you have plenty of ingredients to avoid, you’ve scanned the nutrition labels enough to know what you can and can’t have. Being at holiday gatherings where most things are homemade is another story.
“Being a vegan around the holidays — especially when it comes to attending parties — can be intimidating,” says plant-based nutritionist Haley Harzynski, RDN, CDN. “You might be thinking, ‘What will people think of me? What will I be able to eat? I don’t want to be a burden, but I also want to be able to eat and enjoy the party.’ Well, the good news is that you definitely don’t have to be a burden and it doesn’t have to be intimidating.”
Your once-carefree party attitude doesn’t have to disappear for good. You just have to do a little more planning and preparing than you used to so you won’t wind up hangry and stressed whenever you’re spending time with friends, family, or even your coworkers. Before your next bash, here are some simple ways you can flawlessly navigate being the only vegan at your get-together.
1. Reach out to the host
If you know the host of the holiday party, one of the best moves you can do is reach out in advance and ask what’s on the menu. Sometimes people don’t think about the potential dietary restrictions of their guests, and if they’re aware, they might expand their offerings to include options far beyond shrimp cocktail and meat and cheese platters.
“If the host invited you to the party, he or she will likely be more than happy to make sure you have at least one option to eat while you’re there,” Harzynski says.
2. Bring a dish to share
If the host of the party doesn’t plan on providing anything you can enjoy as well, ask if you can bring a dish to share with the group. Not only will giving your host a helping hand on something to serve be more than appreciated, but it will be a stress-reliever for you to know there will be at least one dish that’s 100 percent safe to eat. Plus, you might even win over some of the other guests.
“Bringing a dish to share is a great way to show people that vegan food isn’t just healthy, but also delicious,” Harzynski says. “You can even create small recipe cards so anyone who enjoyed the food can make it again at home.”
3. Always plan ahead
Instead of taking your chances and crossing your fingers that you won’t go hungry at the party, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead.
“Whether that means eating a healthy snack before you head to the party or packing something in your bag, planning and being prepared is key — even if that’s just bringing along fruit, nuts, or a healthy protein bar,” Harzynski says. Then if your stomach is still growling, you can always grab a bite to eat afterward.
4. Head for the nibble foods
Even when it seems like all hope is lost, the table filled with nibble foods always seems to come through.
“While some of those foods won’t be vegan, there’s usually a bunch of options you can still dig into. One of the first things that always catches my eye is the bowl of guacamole and salsa nearly every party has,” Harzynski says. “Grab some tortilla chips or fiber-rich vegetables to dip. And if there’s hummus, use it to dip veggies, tortilla chips, or crackers.”
5. Get creative
Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with whatever options are available to make sure you’re getting something that’s tasty and filling.
“A trick I’ve discovered over the years is if you mix salsa and hummus together, you create a cheesier type of dip that’s delicious and vegan-friendly,” she says. You could also create a custom wrap or open-faced sandwich, putting veggies and hummus in a tortilla or on a piece of bread. With an open mind, the options are endless.
If you use these tricks and tips, you’ll get to enjoy the party — and the food! — like everyone else.