Vegan During the Holidays

The Holiday season can be a stressful time for many people. In addition to the anxiety that stems from spending increased time with extended family and the pressure to buy the perfect gift, the holidays can prove to be a challenging time for people with dietary restrictions, regardless of whether these decisions were derived by choice or by health concerns. I went vegan in April, so this is my first time experiencing the holidays as a vegan. In preparation for the many probing questions of my family throughout the holidays, I’ve chosen to practice fair and respectful responses to even their most stereotypical and somewhat insulting questions.

 

One of the most common questions vegans are asked is “how do you get your protein?” In response to this question, I would likely explain that I get my protein from plant-based sources such as legumes and nuts. Protein is derived from amino acids, and these plant-based sources incorporate all 9 food based amino acids essential for human life. Also, the amount of protein people require is unfairly elevated, and too high increase of protein can increase your risk of diseases such as Alzheimer's, kidney disease, osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, and more.

 

When non-vegans meet a vegan, they often stress that eating meat is “natural” to justify their personal dietary choices.

This belief stems from a time when humans had limited choices and only were able to access meat for basic sustenance. Today, this is not the case, plant-based food and whole foods are much more easily accessible, eliminating the need for meat. Also, although non-vegans may feel that eating meat is “natural” for humans, the human body isn’t intended to eat meat. Our canines aren’t sharp enough to pierce the skin of animals, a trait typical of omnivores and carnivores, and the digestive system isn’t fully prepared to consume result, causing slow digestion and discomfort following the consumption of meat. Meat, unlike plant-based sources, is the primary cause of cases of food poisoning due to the human bodies lack of the stomach acids required to kill meat bacteria.

 

I come from a family of avid fish eaters. They tend to be concerned that I’m not eating fish and often ask me “Isn’t fish healthy?”

The choice to eat fish doesn’t differ from the choice to eat other animal products. Fish is very high in fat and very high in cholesterol. 60% of the calories within fish come from fat. Fish is high in protein. However, the protein contained in fish is highly acidic, making it unhealthy for proper bone development and a leading cause of osteoporosis. Also, in my honest opinion, fish is one of the most terrifying types of meat. Fish are greatly impacted by climate change, and the toxic chemicals and plastics within the ocean are swallowed by the fish and in turn are eaten by humans, meaning there is no way to truly know what toxins your body is taking in from consuming fish.

 

My family is also privy to the belief that eggs are tremendously healthy, so when they initially learned that I went vegan, they frequently asked: “are eggs healthy?”

Consuming eggs can have similar health impacts to smoking. PETA reports that daily egg eaters have 2/3rds the amount of artery buildup as smokers. Eggs are also very high in cholesterol, even if you only eat the egg white.

 

My family typically also frequently asks me “what if I eat only organic meat and dairy?” Although my family intends to lessen animal suffering by choosing organic meat and dairy options, I don’t personally believe that killing can be respectful in any manner, whether organic or not. When animals are killed on organic farms, they still have to die and are preventing from living their full natural lives. Chickens can live up to 10 years, but due to genetic modifications to produce chicken for humans, the average chicken can only live 10 months. Many companies that are labeled organic are still unclear about the process behind producing their food.

 

Finally, when I initially told my family I had decided to go vegan, they asked me the quintessential question: “Why did you decide to go vegan?”

I typically explain that the choice to go vegan is different for everyone. I don’t like to argue with my family, so I try to emphasize that everyone can choose whatever they would like to eat and that I’m not trying to “convert” them, as my Grandpa tends to say. I introduce my decision to transition from vegetarian to vegan through an explanation of the health complications that stem from consuming dairy. I was surprised to learn that the chemicals in dairy, such as casein, are intended to help grow calves, and therefore are addictive and unhealthy for human consumption. Furthermore, I was disgusted to find that I was still contributing to so much animal suffering by eating dairy. This suffering was emphasized by the point that the animals are abused and effectively killed in the process of producing dairy. I was shocked to learn that female cows are artificially inseminated, regardless of their health, and they are removed from their calves, whom the milk is intended for, in order to produce dairy products for humans.

 

This question is typically followed by the question “How has your decision to go vegan impacted your daily life?”

First of all, I point out that I feel more energized when eating a vegan diet. I explain that I disliked the heavy feeling that came after I consumed dairy and that I felt removing dairy from my diet enabled me to feel lighter yet also more full after meals. I’ve also lost weight since I went vegan. Many vegans lose up to ten pounds within their first ten months of veganism. My vegan diet sometimes makes it difficult to navigate eating out. However, it pushes me to try new foods and to be very appreciated of places that offer vegan options with limited accommodations. Also, I’ve found that if I simply ask questions about the meals and inform the server about my dietary preferences any restaurant can be manageable.

 

A beautiful vegan mac n cheese from By Chloe in Boston. The mac n cheese is cashew and sweet potato based.  By Chloe has three locations in Boston, off Boylston, near Fenway, and in the Seaport District.