It’s the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ – and for many, Christmas is all about family, friends, fun and food. If you’re hosting a party this year, cooking a Christmas Day feast or serving up a Boxing Day brunch, you may be feeling the pressure to whip up dishes that all your guests will enjoy. After all, we all have different likes and dislikes, intolerances and dietary preferences.
And with veganism (eating a plant-based diet, devoid of animal-derived ingredients such as meat, diary, eggs and honey) now being a mainstream dietary choice, you may well find yourself catering for a vegan for this Christmas. Finding vegan twists on traditional treats may seem like a challenge, but it’s actually an opportunity to try out tasty new recipes, introduce the wider family to different foods and ultimately make a guest or family member feel very special. Georgina Camfield, associate nutritionist at AXA Health, offers delicious vegan alternatives to festive favourites for everyone at the table to enjoy.
Vegan-friendly swaps for Christmas dinner
Turkey may be a traditional dinner table staple, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all! For a meat and dairy-free twist on the classic, that’s just as delicious and worth the wait, why not make your Christmas centrepiece a nut roast or lentil loaf? Other popular substitutes are tofu, Quorn (derived from condensed soya beans) and jackfruit, which has a meat-like texture.
‘Pigs in blankets’ are a seasonal favourite that are easy to replicate for vegans. Why not wrap vegan sausages in vegan bacon or slithers of carrots or aubergine?
Stuffing is another essential side dish and a simple, yet tasty, vegan version can be made using quinoa and vegetables. A fluffy vegan Yorkshire pudding can also be whipped up using self-raising flour, baking powder, unsweetened soya milk, warm water and vegetable oil. Vegan gravy, packed with vegetables, herbs and a splash of vegan red wine, also makes the perfect accompaniment.
Vegan-friendly starters, nibbles and desserts
If a friend or relative is vegan, they’ll really appreciate you going the extra mile to cater for them around the main course.
Get creative with canapes; swap out sausage rolls for mushroom rolls. Certain brands of pastry are vegan, so little filo parcels or tarts should go down a treat. Other savoury snacks, such as kale crisps, nuts and seeds, and vegetable sticks with hummus are light, tasty alternatives.
Be savvy with starters. Many popular soups, like tomato, carrot and coriander and vegetable, are not only delicious but healthy too. Simply opt for vegetable stock to deepen the flavour. Tomato bruschetta, tabbouleh and flat bread or a zesty salad are the perfect prelude to a festive meal.
Vegans shouldn’t miss out on festive sweet treats either! If you fancy baking, milks such as coconut and almond are popular dairy substitutes for many recipes. There are also delicious vegan ice creams available in all kinds of exotic flavours to serve alongside a sweet treat – or make the star of the show! Not to mention festive favourite mince pies – all you need is dried fruit, spices, brown sugar and vegan pastry. If you’re looking for a lighter option, a lemon sorbet or fruit salad is a good alternative.
If you’re worried about catering…
Plan, plan, plan
Catering at Christmas can feel daunting, especially if you’re experimenting with new dishes. Make time to practice and try out a new recipe on your family. It’s always good to encourage them to branch out! If you’re greeted by big grins and empty plates, batch cook a meal and freeze it. This way, you won’t be panicking or prepping last-minute. Better yet, you’ll feel more confident that it’ll be well-received, meaning you enjoy the festivities all the more.
After a meal, there are so many ways to re-use leftover food and reduce waste! Why not whip up a delicious curry or soup with leftover vegetables? You get two dishes from one and this saves you starting from scratch, especially if you’re continuing to cater over the Christmas period.
If you’re watching what you eat over Christmas…
Nutritional value of a traditional Christmas dinner
Christmas is often seen as a period of indulgence but, the truth is, a traditional festive feast doesn’t need to be highly calorific or unhealthy.
Greens don’t need to be boring. Why not spruce up Brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar and red onions? From red cabbage to juicy carrots and peas, veg is packed with antioxidants and vitamins that provide high nutritional value and aids the immune system1. Season well with herbs and spices for added flavour.
Christmas is a time to relax but being mindful of your cooking method and portion sizes can help to hold the reigns on your meals. For example, apply a lighter coat of olive oil when basting vegetables or roasting them. Alternatively, use a steamer to help lock in those great textures and maintain a fantastically fresh taste, with a fraction of the calories and fat.