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What can I eat at holiday parties if I am a vegetarian?

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
At holiday parties there are usually plenty of vegetarian choices.  Depending upon if you are a vegan or if you eat dairy/eggs...your choices would vary.  Enjoy appetizers such as crudites, pita+hummus, chips+salsa/guacamole, cheese+crackers.  For the main course, focus on all of the side dishes such as green beans, sweet potatoes, load up on the green salad and add beans, nuts, seeds to enhance the protein.  Consider offering to bring a vegetarian entree such as a vegetarian pasta dish.  For dessert, focus on fruits, (sorbet/ice cream) depending upon if you are vegan.  You could also offer to bring a vegetarian dessert to share.

From one vegetarian to another: cheese and crackers, veggie and fruit trays seem to always be a favorite at parties, deviled eggs, pickles, olives, pretzels, nuts, Jell-O dishes if it's a snack party. If it's a sit down dinner, well, everything other than the meat dishes. There are always vegetables, pasta or potato sides, dinner rolls. Some people will just come right out and ask me what they can feed me and so as not to be burdensome, I tell them I'll eat their side dishes.

Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics

If you’re vegetarian, eating at holiday parties shouldn’t be at all difficult. Just be sure to follow a couple of rules of good etiquette for guests on special diet restrictions:

  1. Bring a dish you know you can eat, just in case.
  2. Ask the host discreetly about the meat content of any food you aren’t sure about. Discretion is key. Unless you’re at a vegetarian event, few people will be interested to hear a discussion of your diet.  If anyone asks why you don't have turkey or roast beef on your plate, just say you don't eat meat.  You don't have to justify your choice.

It’s easy to avoid the obvious meat: roast beef carving stations, sliced ham, roast turkey and sliced cured meats. Unless the host follows a Paleo diet, there should be plenty of alternatives:

  • Raw vegetables are easy, and also healthy.
  • Appetizers could present a problem if you can’t identify the ingredients. Some dips or cracker toppings could contain cured meat, like bacon, or chopped fish. If no one can tell you what’s in a dish, better to avoid it.
  • Cheeses
  • Cooked vegetable dishes and vegetable casseroles – ask about use of meat-based broth for any sauces. Cheese sauce is OK for vegetarians.
  • Grain-based dishes, such as pilaf or rice – again ask about meat-based broth
  • Pasta or noodle casseroles. Be cautious about pasta sauces, as they may contain ground meat or sausage
  • Stuffing cooked separately from a roast. Again be cautious and ask if meat or sausage was added to the stuffing.
  • Potatoes: mashed are made with milk and butter. Ask about other potato dishes that may contain meat-based broth as a seasoning.
  • Sweet potatoes or other root vegetables should be fine, unless prepared with meat broth
  • Fruit salads and compotes
  • Cheese or dairy-based dishes, such as quiche, will be fine. Watch out for bacon.
  • Breads and rolls
  • Relishes, cranberry sauce
  • Salads, as long as bacon or other meats aren’t used
  • Desserts should all be fine, assuming you do eat eggs and dairy. The only possible exceptions would be pie crust made with lard. Traditional steamed puddings or mince pies may contain suet, which is from beef. Again, when in doubt, ask or avoid.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.