A kale salad with red peppers arranged to look like a decorated wreath.

Celebrate with Compassion

Celebrate with Compassion

By Vesanto Melina, MS, RD

Across North America and Europe, people are choosing plant-based meals and the trend is accelerating, especially among young people. So you are likely to have at least one vegetarian or vegan at your holiday dinner table. They may be making this choice because they have learned from the World Health Organization that cured meats such as ham are class one carcinogens, and in the same category as glyphosate (Roundup) and cigarette smoking. They may be making this choice because as environmentalists, they prefer not to avoid the high costs in use of land, water, fuel, pesticides, and herbicides that occur when we feed plant foods to animals and then eat the animals. Or they may have seen footage or reports of the lives and deaths of birds such as turkeys—including those that are free range.

So what can you put on your holiday table?

Many traditional menu items are plant-based: Brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a big, colorful salad. Gravy can easily be made with vegetable broth (try the Brown Mushroom Gravy or the Savory Chickpea Gravy in our Kick Diabetes Cookbook, co-authored with dietitian Brenda Davis. Mashed potatoes taste great when made with nondairy milk and an optional spread such as Earth Balance.  If you’d like to add a ready-made vegan holiday roast or plant-based goodies, you can now find a selection at many supermarkets and natural foods stores. Another good choice is a stuffed squash. For a recipes, search the Articles at this Nutrispeak website in the category of Holiday Recipes.

If you are going out for a holiday meal, or for snacks after a winter outing, you can find restaurants (worldwide) that offer tasty food through the website    happycow.net.

Kale and Red Pepper Holly Ring

Makes about 5 1/2 cups

The deep green kale tossed with bright red bell peppers, resembles a small holly wreath when presented in a circle on a plate. This simple yet elegant dish is perfect for the holiday season and adds color and a festive touch any time of the year. For larger gatherings, double the recipe. It is a rich source of calcium, iron, potassium, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E!

From Cooking Vegetarian (Cooking Vegan) by Vesanto Melina and Joseph Forest


12 cups (3 L) thinly sliced kale leaves, stem removed, packed

3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons (20 ml) balsamic vinegar

4 teaspoons (20 ml) tamari or soy sauce

1/2 cup (120 ml) diced sweet red pepper or small cranberry tomatoes

Place kale in a steamer. Cover and briefly steam over medium-high heat until the kale is soft to the bite. Drain in a colander and press out any excess water. Combine the oil, vinegar, and tamari in a large bowl. Add the kale, toss to coat the leaves with dressing, and arrange on a platter. Create a round wreath shape by pushing the kale toward edges of platter, leaving a clean, open space in the center. Sprinkle with the red pepper and serve.

Vesanto Melina is a Registered Dietitian and award winning author. Websites ​ nutrispeak.com,  becomingvegan.ca , and kickdiabetescookbook.com.



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