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Surviving the Holidays and Thriving on Plants

Mock turkey with roasted baby vegetables

Holidays can be the most challenging time of the year if you are transitioning to a cleaner, whole plant-based way of eating. Parties and family gatherings abound, featuring the richest, fattiest foods. Traditional dishes are shared, typically meaty main courses, fat-laden side dishes, and sugary, buttery desserts.

Our interactions with others also may present unexpected challenges. Grandmas and aunties may feel insulted by your polite refusal to eat the less healthy foods they lovingly prepared for you. Old friends may be skeptical or testy about the positive changes you are trying to make. How best to navigate such dicey waters when we’re faced with temptations and pushback?

Here are a few pointers that may help:

  • Bring along one or more healthy, low-fat plant-based platters for yourself and to share with the crowd. At least you’ll have some nutritious options, and other guests will appreciate your generosity and may even be open to trying something new.

  • At first, you may feel a little self-conscious about eating differently, especially if your temperament is to not draw attention or stand out from the crowd. You may feel a little awkward but don’t worry: Folks soon lose interest. And you may find some are curious to sample your dishes.

  • Don’t arrive hungry. It’s best to have a healthy bite before you arrive. When we are ravenous, our resolve can quickly weaken. We crave the most caloric foods around to quell that hunger fast (like cheese, and fatty or fried fare), and once we start, it can be hard to stop.

  • Apart from the food, you may confront social pressures from friends and relatives who may be confused or feel a little threatened by your new habits. After all, if you are eating cleaner and getting healthier, over time you may begin to look better and feel stronger. It might make them feel uneasy, even guilty, about their own lifestyle choices, and even resentful of your progress. If anyone is sincerely interested in your new way of eating and wants to learn more, then sure, you might encourage them and point them to books or videos about plant-based nutrition. But try to avoid discussions with folks who are unsupportive. They are probably not persuadable or open to change right now. Simply smile and say your doctors advised you to give this a try, and you are curious to see where it leads you. No big deal. Keeping your comments light and casual may help them not feel defensive.

  • If you fall off the wagon and eat something you may regret later, don’t worry. We are playing a long game when it comes to nutrition. Just turn the page and start anew tomorrow. It’s what we eat day in and day out that really has impact. A very occasional misstep won’t have any lasting effect.

  • Most of all, feel great about yourself and be grateful that you can really change your life for the better by shifting your diet towards whole plant foods. It will pay off big time before long. Recovering your health is the best gift you can give yourself and to those who love you and want you to thrive.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chick-less Pie

These comments were written to support the Farm-Based Wellness Program, Gather New Haven, November 2021.

About the Author

Cathy Katin-Grazzini is the founder of Cathy's Kitchen Prescription LLC in Ridgefield, CT, and Food Editor for VEGWORLD Magazine. After her husband Giordano’s life-threatening surgery, Cathy embarked on a journey that led her to plant-based cuisine, Giordano’s dramatic recovery, and a quantum leap in their health. Through her work as a teacher, chef, and lifestyle coach, Cathy has helped hundreds of patients improve their health and learn to cook flavorful, nourishing, and exciting whole food plant-based dishes.

Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell, Cathy completed professional culinary training at Rouxbe Cooking School. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago, attended graduate school at Harvard University, and received a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Look for Cathy’s upcoming cookbook, Love the Foods that Love You Back, published by Rizzoli, due out in April 2022.

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