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Celebrate with Compassion

Celebrate with Compassion

By Vesanto Melina, MS, RD

About ten percent of Canadians, and similar numbers in many other countries  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 vegetarian soup stock and any oil. Mashed potatoes taste great when made with nondairy milk and a spread such as Earth Balance.  If you’d like to add a ready-made holiday roast or holiday goodies, you can find a selection at many supermarkets and natural foods stores. Another good choice is a stuffed squash, for recipes do a search 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 a variety of restaurants (worldwide) that offer tasty food through the website

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 V. Melina and J. Forest

12 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, stem removed, packed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

4 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce

1/2 cup 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 ​, , and


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