Welcome Green Monsters! We're your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet.
Download food monster: the biggest, baddest, yummiest vegan food app!
Buy the #EatForThePlanet book



Vegan Food Choices That Can Win Over Relatives At Holiday Time

Vegan Food Choices That Can Win Over Relatives At Holiday Time

I recently called a friend to ask how his Thanksgiving was.  He is a pretty healthy guy who practices a vegan diet and recently has been leaning towards raw foods.  He told me that his Thanksgiving was fine and proudly told me about the raw food dish he made. Of course I expected to hear details about the social part of his holiday as well, but it turns out he ate his Thanksgiving meal by himself while his family celebrated at his sibling’s house.


This was sad and frustrating. My friend eating all by himself was only taking in secondary nutrition. Secondary nutrition is what you call the nutrition most people think of – food, beverages, and nutritional supplements. Primary nutrition is what gives our lives meaning. It’s what feeds our soul. It is relationships and hugs from people we love.  It is careers, spiritual practice, physical activity, and leisure time – fun, hobbies, entertainment, and rest. Getting together with people we love and nurturing relationships is a vital part of life and benefits us in many ways.

“They don’t like my food, and they eat turkey and I don’t like to be around that,” is what he told me.  I could relate to this because that was how things used to be in my house.  I would get up on my high horse and preach to everyone that they should eat a certain way. I was frustrated that people didn’t like the organic whole food vegan dishes I cooked because I knew they would make them healthy, and that what they were eating was killing them.  Of course, there were family members who would comment kindly about the vegan dish brought to the table – but the reality is that they were thinking that it was nothing more than a poor protein vegetable side dish (a dish that does nothing to stimulate any consideration of giving up meat).

The solution to the problem is to lose the “rabbit food” and go with meat substitutes.

Meat substitutes, also known as meat analogs, are vegan food products that look, smell, feel and taste like meat in practically every way. This can be a shock to people. Someone who is used to eating a meat-centered diet, like most Americans, is ok trying meat substitutes, but is turned off by anything that strays from the norm (and appears healthy).

Meat substitutes don’t threaten one’s culture, identity and traditions, or alienate taste buds with something strange or foreign looking.  What’s more, they frequently have more protein than the meat they are trying to replicate. There are companies that produce meat substitutes – Garden, Yves, Light Life, Tofurky, and Field Roast to name a few.  They make everything from Italian sausage to pepperoni and deli slices – all 100% vegan. They can be found in health food stores, Trader Joe’s. And now, more and more traditional food stores are carrying these products. There is also VeggieBrothers.com which features chef made gourmet vegan dishes, delivered to your door anywhere in the USA and Canada that include meat substitutes like Vegan Chicken Pot Pie.

So how does this solution really work?

Meat substitutes are not extreme. They are not threatening. People try them, and that’s a big hurdle.  If you are a traditional household holding a festive holiday dinner, a macrobiotic dish or raw food dish is typically not in sync with everything else on the table. Meat substitutes on the other hand can rival the meat-based focal point of the meal.  I’ve seen it many times, and many people have written to me telling me so:

Now, let the magic begin

When people try meat substitutes for the first time they are often amazed.  It challenges their old way of thinking:  vegans and vegetarians just eat salad.

I have found that when you couple meat substitutes with great information there is a very good chance that a person will make better dietary choices like consuming less meat, or eliminating it completely. Most people are aware that consuming less meat improves health, offers relief to animals, and helps the environment.

If you are on a super healthy diet and adding meat substitutes to your holiday dish is a step down from your nutritionally superior throne, just remember, it can be a step up for the people you love the most.  No one says you cannot also bring your super healthy dish. In fact bringing both to the table provides people with a demonstration of where they can start, and where that may lead. I don’t know about you, but if someone I love who’s been getting F’s on their report cards suddenly gets a D, I’m happy for that progress, and I am happy to support them reach an A+ level – at a pace they can handle.  But if they never get beyond a D, it’s better than an F.

It is my prayer that we recognize the good karma and the good dose of primary nutrition that comes from encouraging people in our lives to move towards a healthier diet.  We just need to offer vegan alternatives to the foods they already know, love and enjoy. My friend who had Thanksgiving by himself missed a huge opportunity to help open closed minds and possibly heal a relationship that needed healing.  Using meat substitutes, I recently enjoyed my 4th completely Vegetarian Thanksgiving with my slowly converting Italian American Family.

If you are a vegan or an extremely healthy vegetarian, consider bringing foods that are not so extreme to the people who really need to improve their diet the most. And please don’t ignore the power that meat substitutes can offer.  Let us make an effort the next holiday – whether it is Christmas or the Fourth of July – to use meat substitutes as fun, enjoyable, ways for family members to enjoy the same food, even if its not all the time.

Image Source: Rescue Rabbit/Flickr

Want to read more posts like this? Sign up for our newsletter below!​

Browse through some recent posts below:

Fall Veggie Garden: What And When to Plant, and Cold Weather Planting Benefits

10 Unbelievable Dairy-Free and Vegan Butterscotch Recipes

“Vegan Mondays” Is Now Law In Berkeley, California!

Fruits and Vegetables Lead to Longer Life, Study Finds

Disclosure: One Green Planet accepts advertising, sponsorship, affiliate links and other forms of compensation, which may or may not influence the advertising content, topics or articles written on this site. Click here for more information.

5 comments on “Vegan Food Choices That Can Win Over Relatives At Holiday Time”

Click to add comment
6 Years Ago

Yes, one should not have to give up the primal nutrition vegan or for anything. Self-isolation is cruel to yourself and reducing cruelty and suffering is what we are really standing up for by becoming vegan isn't it? Go enjoy life even though it is a highly flawed world...it will never be perfect !! No, one does not need to go the highly processed vegan route either if it is not to your liking. I personally like the unprocessed bulk grains & produce items. They are the optimal intersection of healthy AND cheap. So just making something with these things is Great. Matter of fact most items during Thanksgiving is really healthy wholesome 'side dishes'. I would be happy and proud to share my whole-food vegan dishes. If the others are proud of their stuff, let them have their joy...people work all year long and look forward to enjoying their holidays. It is not the time or place to play vegan police. Transform thru love !!! Love your ideological enemies !!

11 Feb 2012

This is aoslmt exactly the recipe I use from the (Menonnite?) More with Less Cookbook — with oil instead of butter and the addition of jam (nice; I reckon blackcurrant would work well).

6 Years Ago

This is an interesting perspective, but I don't necessarily agree. This is could in part be because I am not very schooled in meat substitutes, but beyond that, I think there actually is an interest (at least among my very traditional meat eating family and friends) in exploring healthy vegan 'side dishes'. That could be a greens or grains salad 'beefed up' with some beans. It could be a stuffed squash or portobello that looks like a main dish. Some of the processed 'meat alternatives' don't seem much healthier to me than what they are trying to replace. To each their own of course, but I think there there is room to encourage overall healthy eating habits and get omnivores to understand that if you eat yummy whole foods, you won't even miss the meat! That has been my experience.

6 Years Ago

I am a fairly recent vegan after being a vegetarian for a while before that. I sometimes feel that I am not 'doing it properly' when I read articles about super healthy vegans, as I still like junk food and still eat pretty much as I did before stopping eating animal products and by-products. For me, being a vegan is 100% about not contributing to the abuse of animals on this planet, if it's healthier that's just a bonus. I liked the taste of meat so the fact that I can get meat substitutes is great for me. In the UK I mostly eat Linda McCartney's vegan range as well as some other brands only sold in my local health food shop and there is still a long way to go before these become mainstream. But there is a better range these days in the bigger supermarkets and my husband, who is still a meat eater, mostly eats meat substitutes with me these days so that's got to be a good thing!

15 Dec 2011

None of that talk about not doing it 'properly'! There are a lot of orthorexic tendancies in people floating around online, and people who forget that food is supposed to be enjoyable and sociable as well as just... you know, raw and no-sugar and no-fat. Don't hold yourself to those standards when you're making a decision by what you feel is ethically right (which makes you an awesome, self-aware person by default). High fives on the astral plane for tackling animal abuse and not being someone who says 'vegan' when they really mean 'disordered'.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow us on

Do Not Show This Again


Submit to OneGreenPlanet

Terms & Conditions ×