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Published: December 8, 2021

 roasted vegetables on holiday themed table

These days it’s the rare holiday gathering that does not include one or more guests who are vegetarian, vegan or plant-based diet enthusiast.

A recent study found that the number of Americans following plant-based diets is up nearly 9.6 million over the last 15 years, which is a 300% increase.

“As the dialog around veganism shifts from one of animal welfare, to wider concerns around climate change and personal health, we are seeing more and more people adopt this once minority dietary preference,” Kelly Fairchild, a global business development manager from the Ipsos Retail Performance, which conducted the study, told Vegan News™.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn expounds on diet and its impact on climate change in his new book Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet. “Not eating meat is a powerful way to help our planet survive. Simply by eating vegetarian, you can preserve water, reduce pollution, prevent deforestation and protect wildlife from extinction,” he writes.

So here’s how to make sure your holiday spread is inclusive.

Cookies, Side Dishes and other Veggie Dishes

First it’s important to understand vegan and vegetarian so you steer your guests in the right direction.

According to the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand: A vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs), whereas a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish and seafood. However, there are a few variations of a vegetarian diet that depend on whether you eat or exclude eggs, dairy and fish.

Plant-based diet is a little easier to grasp – basically vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. That said, “people who eat a mainly plant-based diet may still choose to eat small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy (also known as semi-vegetarian, flexitarian or pescatarian,” the Heart Foundation adds.

While the terms may sound overwhelming, internet food sites are full of holiday recipes to easily accommodate these diets:

Kelly Corcoran, Kendal’s Marketing Manager, is a vegetarian and often turns to Bon Appetit for recipes. For Thanksgiving she made maple carrots, which were a big hit with all the guests, and her brother-in-law made stuffing using Impossible™ Burger.  Brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes are a must for her Christmas holiday menu.

Cookbook author and vegetarian Nicole Malik won a contest 10 years ago with her Mushroom Wellington recipe and it has become the most popular recipe on the Delicious Everyday blog.

“I've slightly updated my vegetable wellington recipe (only slightly) to make it dairy free, given I can't tolerate dairy very well these days. And it just so happens that now makes it a vegan mushroom wellington too!” she writes.

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

According to Medical News Today, research has found that a vegan diet offers a range of health benefits, including:

  • Healthier heart
  • Lower cancer risk
  • Weight loss
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes

But because a vegan diet removes some sources of nutrients, you may want to talk to a doctor or dietician first to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Regardless of specific diets, make sure your holiday spread contains healthy dishes.

The holidays can often be a time where we include traditional meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of small changes you can make to create healthier foods,” says Katie Hoover, Registered & Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist who works at Kendal.

Here are 7 tips from Katie:

  • Fill your plate first with vegetables, fruits, and salad before getting the entrees and desserts. Aim to fill ½ your plate with vegetables
  • Choose lean protein, such as turkey, chicken, or fish. Consider going “meat-less” for a meal or two and try vegetarian proteins such as tofu, beans, nuts, or seeds
  • Choose healthy cooking methods such as baking, broiling, roasting, grilling, or stir frying. Avoid frying foods
  • Decrease the amount of sugar listed in recipes, replace with spices such as nutmeg, allspice, or cinnamon to add flavor
  • Replace oil or butter with unsweetened applesauce or a mashed banana to save calories
  • Try fresh fruit, such as baked apples with cinnamon, for dessert instead of traditional high calorie sweets
  • Be careful with beverages. Alcoholic and sweetened beverages are often higher in calories. Stick with fruit infused water, seltzer water, or small amounts (4 ounces) of dry red wines


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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.