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“Love and understanding, love and understanding,” I repeat over and over again in my head. I’m preparing myself to practice what I preach this Thanksgiving. Every holiday season, my goal is to be a productive vegan. This means not alienating people that could potentially be inspired to make changes. Here are my top 5 tips for a happy and harmonious Thanksgiving, no matter who you share the table with.
 

a.k.a. Five Steps To Keep You From Crawling Up In A Ball & Crying.*No guarantees.

1. MODEL THE BEHAVIOR YOU’D LIKE TO SEE.

I don’t enjoy being criticized for my dietary choices and so I certainly don’t want to do that to someone else. Breathe! If a person feels shame or discomfort they are more likely to go into lockdown mode. I’m appreciative when people accommodate my dietary choices when I’m eating at their house. I wasn’t always vegan but I was always the same compassionate and reasonable person I am today. I consider myself fortunate that life brought me experiences and information at a point in my life when I was ready to embrace them. Making someone feel judged for their actions usually brings defensiveness rather than a “eureka moment” that it’s time to change.

2. JOIN THE PARTY!

When humans hit up against ideas that they believe threaten their beliefs, habits, or traditions, they are desperate to find a reason (usually anything will do) to rail against change. Fear of isolation is sometimes cited as a reason for not eating vegan. Show people that your vegan diet doesn’t preclude you from enjoying life with people that have different ideas about food. The family table is where a lot of our most important and interesting conversations happen. You want to be at that table.

3. GOOD DINNER CONVERSATION: RULES SCHMULES

I overheard a teenager making fun of another for describing herself as a vegan that ate fish. Now yes, this is not vegan but I always implore people not to waste energy criticizing someone that is trying to do better. If you’re someone that is curious about moving towards more vegan choices but you don’t because you’re afraid you won’t be able to live up to all the rules… you need to remember that you decide your track and your rules. I guarantee that if you try to move in the right direction you’ll end up living with the rules that are in accordance to your values. It will just feel right and then you’ll be vegan..mwa ha ha!!!!!

4. SERVE LOTS OF DELICIOUS VEGAN FOOD

Vegetables, legumes, grains, fruits and nuts are vegan. People can often forget how much “vegan” food is already in their diet or at least should be if they’re taking good care of themselves. I think the most impact I can have during the holidays is to provide the most fantastic vegan food and show everyone at the table that vegan can mean delicious. Again, if someone is searching for a reason not to eat vegan, a simple disgusting tofu hot dog can be all the proof they need. A great time to educate someone is when they have a mouth full of delicious vegan food!

5. SEND YOUR GUESTS HOME WITH LEFTOVERS AND THEN SOME…

When you pack up leftovers for your guests, along with lots of the vegan goodies, you can add in some other things. I adopt a Farm Sanctuary animal for my guests and then place a photo with the animal’s story in the bag with their food. A simple brochure or donation card from Farm Sanctuary is also an easy add-in. In a quieter moment, they may take the time to look up what exactly it is you’re talking about—remember they love you and you love them.

Last year I adopted a turkey for every one of my guests at Thanksgiving. It was a big hit.

Stewart Family Thanksgiving Favorites

Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms

Roasted Baby Parsnips

Shaved Brussels Sprouts