Hosting a holiday party this year? If this is your first holiday season as a whole food plant-based eater you may feel a little stressed. And yes, we’re talking in addition to the regular ole holiday party planning stress that often comes with playing host. Feeling this way makes sense; with any new lifestyle change, we’re often met with resistance, both from ourselves and our network, before we 100% settle into our new lifestyle. The good news is: with a little plant-based holiday planning, you can push right on through that resistance and host a terrific party that everyone at your table will enjoy!
And more good news: we’ll get you started on that whole food plant-based holiday planning with some of our tried and true tips for plant-based hosting.
Not only are plant-based appetizers, finger foods, and desserts easier to make than a full-fledged holiday meal for a group, they’re perfect for delegating and potluck holiday parties (more on how to delegate down at tip #3). Even more, appetizers may be an easier plant-based “sell” for your guests who follow a Standard American Diet as many of the dips and starters we grew up with were vegetarian or close to it.
If you prefer a dinner party over apps but don’t want to spend your entire party in the kitchen, check out our Healthy Holidays Bundle - a whole food plant-based holiday feast that comes to your door already cooked. That's right...so you can actually kick back and enjoy a stress-free (and healthy!) holiday season.
Speaking of food, bring your whole food vegan recipe A-game so you can show your guests just how amazing this lifestyle really is. Chef Caroline suggests staying away from processed faux meats and letting the natural flavors of fruits and veggies do all the work at your holiday party. Also, while you can definitely have healthy salads on hand, now is the time to show your guests that whole food plant-based eating is about so much more than salads. Some of our favorite holiday whole food plant-based recipes are:
1. Raw Vegan Cucumber Rolls with Peanut Sauce - This crunchy and refreshing finger food is absolutely beautiful. Loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamins A and C - and topped with delicious savory peanut sauce.
2. Vegan Pesto-Stuffed Mushrooms - This is one of those whole food plant-based recipes people won’t even realize is vegan until you tell them so.
4. 5-Layer Vegan Dip - An absolutely crowd pleaser, this plant-based 5-layer dip will satisfy omnivores and herbivores alike. Serve with your favorite raw veggies (carrot sticks, celery, broccoli) or make some oil-free tortilla chips.
5. Lemon Spinach Artichoke Dip - We swapped the traditional cream cheese and sour cream for delightful and rich dairy-free cashew cream - so you can all the flavor, none of the discomfort.
Refined Sugar-Free Desserts
1. Spicy Vegan Black Bean Brownies - Rich, gooey, and healthy?! These vegan brownies from Veganosity are oil and refined sugar free and believe it or not, made with black beans. Pro tip: wait until after your guests have enjoyed them to reveal the secret ingredient.
2. Whole Food Plant-Based Nutty Cookies - With just five ingredients, these cookies are as easy as they are tasty. This sweet treat is also versatile -- the dough can be eaten raw (no eggs, of course!) and they can be made into little small balls instead of cookies if you want to make sure everyone at your party can try one.
3. Easiest Ever Raw Vegan Fudge - TWO ingredients and 10 minutes are all you need to make these mouth-watering fudge squares. Buttery and decadent, Jenny Mustard knocked it out of the park with this recipe -- satisfying your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar.
If you decide to go the potluck route, the best thing you can do to ease your own anxiety is to communicate to your guests. First, let them know it’s a potluck so they know to bring something! It might be best to set up a sign-up sheet, so everyone doesn’t show up with the same thing.
Finally, make a decision as to whether or not this is a 100% plant-based party, or if you’re ok with guests bringing dishes that are not plant-based. If you choose to 100% in, remember that plant-based eating is new or maybe intimidating to some of your friends and family so make it easy on them! Assign total beginners whole food vegan recipes that they don’t have to cook, like hummus and veggies, a simple salad, or guacamole.
Speaking of your guests, while you want to be a courteous host (i.e. setting expectations as we mentioned in #3), inviting respectful guests is important, too. This is key if you’re new to eating this way and are concerned some people in your network may be less than supportive.
The best way to ensure a plant-based holiday party success is to surround yourself with supportive guests. However, if you an unsupportive loved one you’d hate to leave out, you can plead your case. Try your best to explain to that person WHY you’ve changed your diet, how much better you feel, and how much their support means to you. If that person still doesn’t get it and continues to make you feel bad for your choice to live a whole food plant-based life, consider if it’s in your best interest to have them at your holiday party.
Understand that even your most supportive friends aren’t always going to jump on the whole food plant-based bandwagon with you. They may enjoy the delicious plant-based dishes you made and even express how proud they are of you for your lifestyle change, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to take the plunge, too.
Changing your diet, as you know, is deeply personal and is about so much more than food. Just as you wish for your friends and family to support your decisions, you’ve got respect theirs. When folks ask you about your plant-based lifestyle, you can of course share your story and explain why you made the switch. Though try not to shame anyone for their own dietary habits. Everyone’s on their own journey.
At the end of the day, the holidays are about enjoying the season with the people who matter most! Try not to overextend yourself - financially, spiritually - and have fun!
By Ali Brown
Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.