By Dawn A. Byford and Kris Cameron, ESRAG Plant-Rich Diet Task Force

celebrate the holidays with planet friendly recipes

Teacher Ely Orozco and her three kids found lots of delicious food at the plant-based potluck that preceded “Plant-based Eating for Beginners,” an event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Wenatchee Confluence at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, in Wenatchee, WA in August, 2023. Photo: Kris Cameron.

In these turbulent times, we welcome the traditions and comforts of holiday celebrations spent with family, friends, and lots of delicious food!  We Rotarians can create hope in the world and in our own lives by weaving our platform of service to all humanity and the planet into these gatherings by conscientiously choosing what to eat. It’s our joy to share a wealth of ways you can celebrate the holidays with planet-friendly recipes.

People are becoming increasingly aware of the impact our food choices have on our personal and planetary health. Eating a whole-food plant-rich diet is one of the most impactful actions any individual can take to make a positive difference.  At the end of this article, Kris Cameron provides a list of five easy actions you can take to make your diet both sustainable and great for your health.

Here are some tips on how to ease more planet-friendly foods into your holiday meals.

Make it fun to try new recipes together. Food is meant to be savoured and enjoyed!  Be gentle with yourself and your families as you try new ideas without meat, dairy, eggs, or fish. Use these new experiences to strengthen your bonds. Here are some great holiday recipe sources:   Plant-based Holiday Recipes everyone will love! From the T. Colin Campbell Centre for Nutrition Studies and Best Plant-based Thanksgiving Recipes from Wicked Kitchen. These will work for any holiday gathering.  Note the delicious mushroom recipes they have perfected.

Here’s a tried-and-true recipe I LOVE called Holiday Brain Bark. I have been making it for years. It makes a great hostess gift, and is a perfect snack to help keep your energy high and mood stable as you navigate the busy holidays. It takes just minutes to make, and is so easy even little ones can help out.

Switch it up! Make plant-based options the centre of the plate, with meat as a side dish. You don’t have to give up favourites completely. Simply add in more plant-based foods.

Add more variety with new vegetable dishes – everyone loves a good side dish! Use comforting spices & flavours you are familiar with, maybe even try other flavour profiles from around the world. Many flavours can be deliciously combined in a single meal. Have fun with it!

Try some vegan desserts – you will be surprised how amazing they taste!  Here’s a scrumptious and easy Vegan Blueberry Slump by renowned chef Fran Costigan.

And to start your New Year right, here are Five Easy Things You Can Do To Be a Climate Champion!

  1. Use plant-milk in your coffee or favorite beverage. Experiment with milk (and other dairy products) made from oats, rice, soy, almonds, coconut, barley, etc. Industrial dairy operations are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. You can get all the calcium you need to build strong bones on a plant-based diet without the numerous health risks associated with dairy products.
  2. Reduce the size of your meat portions. Think of meat as a side dish rather than the main course. Industrial animal agriculture is the major driver of global deforestation and biodiversity loss – which negatively impacts the climate.  Meat, particularly beef and cured meats are also associated with higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
  3. Eat plant-based one meal a day or one day a week. You can get all the nutrients you need from a plant-based diet. Reducing our consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, and fish/seafood, is beneficial for our health AND our climate and natural ecosystems. Get helpful ideas
  4. Educate yourself about the impacts of diet on climate (and health). Watch eye-opening documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Eating Our Way to Extinction, Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy, or The Game Changers. Host a watch party with your friends!
  5. Take the ESRAG 15 Day Plant-Rich Diet Challenge!  The Challenge is an online guided journey toward better personal and planetary health, that you can take individually at your own pace, or in a group with others.  It is a delicious way to learn about how to help the planet and enjoy tremendous health benefits along the way. Register here to start your journey.  

Join us! For more information, contact the ESRAG Plant-Rich Diet Task Force, visit our webpage, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram.   

Dawn Byford is a member of the Rotary Club of Canmore, Alberta, Canada and a plant-based cook and educator.  Kris Cameron is a board member of the Rotary Club of Wenatchee Confluence in the State of Washington, USA.