Eating vegan for the season

Options for dining out — or in — during the holidays

Posted 11/6/18

Jason Miller grew up in a small mountain town on the Western Slope of Colorado and in an agricultural community in Montana. He often hunted with his father, a taxidermist. They ate venison nearly …

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Eating vegan for the season

Options for dining out — or in — during the holidays

Posted

Jason Miller grew up in a small mountain town on the Western Slope of Colorado and in an agricultural community in Montana. He often hunted with his father, a taxidermist. They ate venison nearly every day.

When he was 19, Miller started to question his lifestyle.

“Most of that meat I saw killed and even participated in the hunt,” Miller, now a Littleton resident, said. “At a certain point, it started to add up on me.”

That year, Miller, now 47, became a vegetarian. A year later, for the welfare of all animals, he switched to a vegan diet. The diet is referred to by many health organizations as the strictest form of vegetarianism. Vegans abstain from all animal-based products — meat, eggs and dairy. Some reject wool and leather products.

Around the corner is the holiday season. The time of year typically involves celebrating with friends and family, indulging in rich roasts and decadent, dairy-filled deserts — items that are not on a vegan’s list of things to eat.

But with the right amount of planning and communication, vegans like Miller make it work.

Plan ahead

For people on a vegan diet, planning ahead is key, said Cynthia Dormer, a registered dietitian and assistant professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“Plan ahead what your meal is going to be,” Dormer said. “Find things that you really enjoy and that are special to you so that you can enjoy the holiday.”

That’s easy for Miller, who buys meat and dairy substitutes at the local grocery store. His favorite during the holiday season is a tofu “tofurkey” breast with stuffing inside. For dessert, his freezer is stocked with vegan ice cream, which is typically made with a coconut or almond milk substitute.

“There are so many options now,” Miller said. “There’s always some central dish that you can have.”

Vegans looking to dine out have options.

On Thanksgiving Day from noon to 7 p.m., Native Foods Café, 680 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver, will offer a buffet special with all-vegan options. Menu items are a plant-based roast, shepherd’s pie, apple-cider braised Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and gravy, among other holiday favorites. Adults pay $29.99, kids 12 and under cost $14.99 and children under 2 are free.

Whole Foods offers a catering menu with vegan-only items and recipes. The main dish is a Thanksgiving Risotto with cranberries, pumpkin, greens and fresh seasonal herbs. Sides include coconut-roasted sweet potatoes and creamy broccoli-cauliflower soap, among others. Whole Foods has locations across the Denver metro area.

Don’t let food get in the way

While delicious meals add to the magic of the holiday season, the real joy is in the time spent with family and friends. Dormer encourages people to communicate early and not let diets or restrictions ruin a celebration.

“Vegan people can sometimes have a self-righteous attitude, and certainly they are right in the sense that their approach is more environment- and animal-friendly,” Dormer said. “But if the people around them feel judged for eating their favorite food, that can cause some conflict.”

In Miller’s experience, many people view eating vegan as too challenging and expensive.

“It’s a matter of finding the right replacements and I can guarantee all of those things are out there,” Miller said. “It’s so doable.”

Scott Spears hopes to make it easier for meat eaters and vegans to dine together in the future.

He is behind Arvada’s first vegan, plant-based eatery that will also have protein add-ons on the menu. His restaurant, All Raddish, is expected to open in early 2019 across the street from School House Kitchen and Libations, 5660 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., which he also owns.

“It’s really hard to go out and eat,” Spears, a vegetarian, said of eating vegan.

“Strictly vegan restaurants do a great job, but there aren’t a lot of them.”

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