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Let’s call a spade a spade.

The holiday season is the worst time of the year to keep a healthful lifestyle and diet ‘on track’.

All the festivities—from Thanksgiving feasts to holiday parties to religious celebration—come with an overabundance of food. You will be bombarded with temptations and treats—many of which are not plant-based at all.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a ‘high risk’ time for all of us. And it’s not just one or two meals. The holiday season (which extends through the New Year) is filled to the brim with social gatherings and their never-ending offerings of high calorie, non-plant based snacks, finger foods and alcoholic beverages.

Whether you’re an experienced plant-based eater or you’re just starting out, the next 6 weeks will be the most challenging time of the year for you.

To help you, I would like to share three great tips that will help you stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ during the holidays.

Be Present

One of the best ways to remain ‘present’ is to remember that holidays are NOT about the food. They are about sharing love and good times with family and friends. Being ‘present’ in the moment will help greatly in shifting the focus off the food and onto the fulfilling feelings. One simple trick is to focus on the gratitude you feel vis-à-vis your loved ones and the privilege of being able to spend time with them.

We all love to eat. And there’s nothing better than sitting around a beautiful table filled with delicious food. But the food is not why we are getting together—it’s the human connection and warmth that we really seek.

Finally, as a plant-based eater, you might feel some peer pressure at the holiday parties and dinner tables to ‘eat what everyone else is eating’. Often times well-intentioned family members who don’t understand your dietary choices will either try to persuade you to ‘join in the fun’ or –worse—they will criticize you. All of these social pressures are not only stressful, they will make you feel much less able to live in the moment and appreciate the people (versus the food) surrounding you.

If you have experienced these types of social challenges in the past, you might want to prepare yourself by re-reading our two articles on the subject, Peer Pressure: What to Do When Friends and Family Don’t Agree With Your Plant-Based Diet and The Other People Factor.

Be Prepared

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin


When it comes to holiday eating, nothing is more important than preparation. Between the hectic schedules and the long-distance travel and the abundance of tempting foods, you need to be ready at all times.

A lot of people throw caution to the wind and decide to throw all their healthful habits out of the window for 6 weeks, vowing they will be ‘good’ the rest of the year.


You know you will be tempted—it’s a given. So simply prepare for those moments well in advance.

With excellent preparation, there’s absolutely no reason that you have to ‘choose’ between having fun during the holiday season AND keeping your healthful habits.

Here are some useful guidelines

Think about your meals in advance. Make sure you plan what you’re going to eat on the big holiday meals well ahead of time. If you’re eating with family and friends, prepare a plant-based friendly dish that you can share.

Deal with dessert. Don’t fall into the dreaded dessert trap. That moment where you eat well throughout the evening only to ‘give in’ when that gooey, yummy dessert is rolled out. Consider bringing a dessert that you can prepare in advance that will delight everyone. For example you could share a lower-calorie, fruit-based dessert like Sweet and Tart Baked Apples.

Pay attention to the appetizers. One of the biggest problems with holiday meals is the appetizer—those high-calorie finger foods that tempt and taunt us while we wait for the main meal. And if the dinner is at someone else’s house, the problem gets a lot worse; we tend to overdo it with the appetizers because we’re not sure when the real meal will be served.

The best way to solve this problem is to eat before you leave the house and/or bring a healthful plant-based appetizer with you, such Chef AJ’s A Better Bruschetta.

Get ready for the trip. One of the famous dilemmas for the plant-based dieter is how to eat while you’re ‘on the road’, far from your fridge and favorite farmer’s market. If you’re traveling to be with family this holiday season, I would highly recommend that you review our tips on How to Mix Travel With Plant-Based Eating.

Be Kind to Yourself

Let’s be honest with each other.

Odds are that you might slip a bit during the holiday season, particularly if you’re new to the plant-based lifestyle. Even if you keep 100% plant-based, chances are you’ll be eating a lot more high calorie-dense foods like nuts or perhaps oils than you normally do.

It’s okay. Whatever it is, forgive yourself and remember that you can do better the next day. Make sure you forgive yourself if your eating habits aren’t perfect and simply move on with a commitment to do a better job tomorrow.

And in closing, it is important to mention that part of being kind to yourself, is to enjoy this beautiful season.

The holidays are a very special moment in time that passes by only once every year filled with love and anticipation and hope. It is a wonderful time of the year that should be savored to its fullest.

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.