Photo via Mwabi's instagram
By Mwabi Kaira

I was listening to an interview about the importance of eliminating what we consume and how what we don’t eliminate becomes disease.  I had been practicing meatless Mondays on-and-off and would do a week of being meat free here, a month of it there, and always saw it as a reset before I went back to meat.  This particular interview got me to thinking and I realized elimination was always easiest when I consumed more fruits and vegetables.  I decided to start with a week of being meat free and I felt so much better after the 7 days that I just decided to keep on going.  That was 5 months ago.  My taste buds have adjusted and I don’t miss meat.  Eventually, I’ll go vegan but for now I’m happy.

Being vegetarian or vegan is easy in your own home where you can prepare your meals.  There are not as many choices once you venture out for meals outside the home, but there are choices that just require some research.  The hardest part has to be family gatherings and the holidays.  There will be vegetables at the gathering but they’ll probably have meat in them and for the vegans, it will be hard to find dishes not cooked with eggs, milk and butter.  Fret not, you can still enjoy your holidays and be meat free by doing these things...

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Go to a Vegan Restaurant for your meal.
Several vegan restaurants are open Thanksgiving and offer a wonderful menu for the day.  Go Vegetarian Restaurant in Atlanta offered this menu for Thanksgiving; sliced vegan turkey topped with gravy on top of herb dressing, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, candy yams and cranberry sauce.  They were open from 9 to 4 allowing you enough time to eat and then stop by the family house for drinks and conversation after a full belly and avoid the awkwardness all together.

Prepare and bring your own food.  
This was my first Thanksgiving meat free and when the group texts started coming in with pork in the dressing, I knew I had to be ready.  I went ahead and made shitake mushrooms, green pepper and onion dressing, sweet potato cornbread and roasted butternut squash to bring to dinner.  Be prepared for eye rolls, side eyes and lots of conversation about what you’re missing out on and how you think you’re too good for everyone now that you are meat free, but hey, you can get through it like you do everything else.  There might even be straight clowning and your Mama might bust out the picture of you at 8 months old sucking on a turkey leg.  Your favorite cousin will talk about the time you ate 3 slabs of ribs all by yourself. Just take it and laugh along with them because we all have a history.  After grace just go get your plate you brought with you and enjoy your food.

You’re outnumbered and can’t explain yourself to everyone.
Do not go to the family dinner armed with stacks of facts about the benefits of being meat free and hand out a one pager with bullet points on why meat will kill everyone.  It took time for you to get to your decision and you have to let people come to the decision on their own as well.  You don’t want to be that one person turning up your nose and scrunching your face at people swallowing ham, turkey, and roast beef when once upon a time you were doing the very same and enjoying it.  Instead, allow your sunny disposition and energy to bring people to you to ask about your journey and tips on how to get started should they decide to give up meat.

Have a Friendsgiving with your vegetarian/vegan friends beforehand.
This will be a judge free zone and you can discus tempeh, kale, jack fruit, tofu, almond milk, seitan, and nutritional yeast without puzzled expressions in return.  You can enjoy all the foods you already eat and try some new ones and swap recipes.  You may even come up with strategies to navigate the non-vegetarian/vegan world.

If Thanksgiving was torturous and you couldn’t partake in any of the food, remember that moving forward it doesn’t have to be.  The tips above should get you ready for Christmas and you’ll be doing this no meat thing like a pro before you know it!

How do you survive meatless holidays? 

Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world. She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993. Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy. She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon. Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/

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