Survival Skills for a Plant Based Holiday

Author: PhytoFit, LLC. | | Categories: Aerobic Fitness , Cooking Classes , Diabetes Management , Diabetes Reversal , Food For Life Instructor , Food For Life Nutrition , Health Coaching , Heart Disease Management , Lifestyle Coaching , Lifestyle Medicine , Nutrition Coach , Nutrition Coaching , Nutrition Education , Personal Training , Plant Based Nutrition , Sports Nutrition , Vegan Health Coach , Weight Loss , Weight Management , Wellness , Whole Food Nutrition

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It’s hard for me to even say it, but the week of Thanksgiving is upon us. Through my lifestyle and health coaching, I’ve heard many concerns about “staying on track” during the holidays as family and friends may coerce you to “Enjoy yourself,” “Throw caution to the wind,” or more challenging, “Why eat this way?” We hear this almost every day, so the holidays should be no exception. However, it may be on these traditionally festive days, when even more elaborate foods beckon that we feel temptation even greater. Let’s review several Survival Skills (SS) that will leave us feeling victorious! 

It is easy to “stay on track” when we have a strategy in mind. Start now and plan your holiday meals; the more specific you are, the more successful you will be. My newly released, FREE eBook, “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday Magic—Favorite Plant-Based Recipesprovides great ideas to guarantee your success. First, think about your family and friends. They know that their traditional foods are good, but we know that they aren’t so good for them.  Those holiday treats are loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol—you know, the bad stuff. Not only do they leave you feeling bloated, sluggish and tired, they also harbor unwanted weight gain and a ton of guilt that may last for weeks. Why not show your family and friends how “Phyto-Phabulous” plant-based foods can be and still be classified as deliciously healthy? 

SS #1 Plan to WOW your guests with delicious, healthy plant-based dishes! Last year I hosted my family for Christmas and I prepared several plant-based entrees to compliment the traditional holiday menu. We have a large family and everyone brings their specialty dish. By the time I served my plate, most of my Phyto-Phabulous plant-based, guilt-free delicacies were almost gone. Yep, platters were virtually empty! Guests were pleasantly surprised, but they loved those Phyto-Fit recipes! So, my friends, Yes, “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday Magic has many recipes that will WOW your guests; several can be prepared the day before and baked prior to serving. It’s a win-win for you and your guests. Planning your plant-based menu options is the key to success.

SS #2 Modify your family favorite recipes. Think of your family favorites and how those specialty dishes can be modified to make them plant-pure. For example, sweet potato casserole takes center stage on many holiday tables. Laden with eggs, heavy cream, butter, sugar, and marshmallows or nuts, this traditional favorite takes a fabulous super-food and turns it into a cardiac event waiting-to-happen. At the end of this newsletter, I include my list of PhytoFit Healthy Substitutions. Review the recommendations and compare them to your family’s favorite recipes to make plant-pure modifications. For example, that sweet potato casserole can remain a plant-based super star with a few healthy substitutions. Use flax eggs in place of regular eggs. (Take one tablespoons of ground flaxseed meal and add three tablespoons of water. Mix and allow to gel for five minutes. That is the equivalent of one egg.) Substitute soy milk in place of cream; forego the butter and/or oil completely; add chopped dates or maple syrup if you want to sweeten your potatoes; and, mix a crunchy whole-grain cereal with a few tablespoons of pure maple syrup as a topping. Bake as normal and save 300-400 calories per serving! Imagine if you did that for every item on your holiday table. Recipes in “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday Magic are designed just like that. You can enjoy the deliciousness of Mother Nature without the guilt! If you need help modifying your recipes, contact me. I’m always up for a good challenge. (

SS #3 Focus on making everything nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense.  Plan to serve beautiful plant-based recipes that are filling and rich in fiber, such as the Maple Balsamic Brussel Sprouts found on page 6 of “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday MagicIf you can’t find maple balsamic vinegar, any flavored balsamic will work. This will become a family favorite for sure. Also, the Garlic Mashed Cauliflower on page 8 makes a great substitution for garlic mashed potatoes. The recipe uses only one potato to add creaminess to make a large bowl of mashed cauliflower. There is no fat and no guilt! Serve with Mushroom, Veggie & Herb Gravy (recipe below) and once again, you have saved many calories! 

SS #4, Start your day with a great breakfast for champions!  In her book, Diabetes Essentials, registered dietitian, Brenda Davis, MS, RD/LDN, explains how enjoying legumes at breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar. In my “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday Magic, try the Pumpkin, Lentils and Oats Hearty Breakfast. It combines fresh or canned pumpkin with golden or red lentils, steel cut oats or groats, apples, dates, walnuts and delightful spices. This porridge is filled with a balance

of healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Starting your day with a satisfying, high-fiber breakfast can help control your eating throughout the day. By the way, I like to make this recipe in advance as it takes about an hour to prepare. You can make enough for several days and refrigerate an ample amount for the big day. Simply reheat before serving.  It is quite filling so give it a try!

SS #5, Eat a large piece of fruit 30-45 minutes prior to your big meal. In his book, How Not to Dietand his Weight Loss video ( Dr. Michael Greger discusses preloading your meal with water-rich salads or fruit. In studies conducted at Penn State, those who ate a 100-calorie salad prior to a meal reduced their overall food intake by 200 calories, saving them 100 calories in total. (By the way, there were no heavy salad dressings or cheese toppings on these salads, which would have added 200-300 calories.) However, those who had a large apple prior to the big meal, reduced their overall calorie intake by 300 calories. Their total calorie savings was about 200 calories. Dr. Greger explains that vegetables are about 90% water and fruit is about 80% water. Combined with natural fiber, vegetables and fruits can help fill you up so you don’t go overboard on the main meal.

SS #6 Prepare healthyguilt-free and delicious dessert(s)I hope by now you have already downloaded your FREE copy of “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday MagicIf so, you know that I did not forego desserts. From Guiltless Pumpkin Parfait, to Carrot Cake Hummus and Chocolate Brownie Delight, there are several options to make your sweet tooth dance. Skip the processed sugar and find natural alternatives. All of my dessert recipes are sweetened naturally with either Medjool dates or pure maple syrup. Did you know that dates are an excellent source of potassium? We all know how important potassium is for blood pressure control, right? Dates are naturally sweet and add a delicious amount of fiber to your day. Dates are perfect for a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, just don’t overdo it! 

We have covered a lot of Survival Skills so far. From Planning to “Wow” your guests with plant-based options, starting your day with a hearty breakfast, preloading your meal by eating a salad or large fruit, modifying your family’s favorite recipes with healthy substitutions, focusing on nutrient density over calorie density and preparing desserts without processed sugars, all of these are sure to keep you on track. But is that all there is to surviving holiday pressures with the family?

SS #7 Respond to those pesky questions about your plant-based lifestyle. “Where do you get your protein?” Be prepared to share that there is protein in almost every food source, yet some foods have more than others. In our whole food, plant-based world, our main protein sources include beans, lentils and legumes; tofu and tempeh; nuts and seeds; grains such as oats, barley and quinoa; and, some vegetables such as broccoli. The great news is that plant-derived protein is rich in fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants and other healthful components. When you consume a wide variety of plant-based nutrients, you can be assured of getting all of the essential amino acids our bodies need to flourish. Almost all of the recipes I share in “Phyto-Phabulous” Holiday Magic have a good source of plant-based protein and you will have no problem answering this infamous question!

The second question is, “Why eat this way?” There are many reasons we may choose a whole food, plant-based vegan lifestyle. The most important motivation is for health purposes. A plant-pure lifestyle provides energy, vitality and true feelings of contentment. You actually have a brighter outlook on life. And paraphrasing a statement from Dr. Doug Lisle, “This lifestyle is working for me right now.” No one can criticize your plant-based lifestyle when it works! You are looking great and it shows!

May you all have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

A good gravy can really make a dish shine. This Mushroom, Veggie & Herb Gravy complements veggie burgers or a lentil loaf. This is great served with roasted cauliflower, potatoes or even mashed potatoes. This is chunky and for those who prefer the traditional smooth gravy, puree in the blender before serving. It will still have a great, rich taste. 

Mushroom, Veggie & Herb Gravy

Makes approximately 3-1/2 cups

Prep time: 30 minutes


1 large scallion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small carrot minced

1 stalk celery minced

8 oz Portobello mushrooms, sliced

1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3 cups vegetable broth (I used Imagine brand)

1-1/2 tablespoon Mrs. DASH garlic & herbs

1 teaspoon coconut aminos or liquid aminos

1 tablespoon dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1/8 teaspoon dried sage or 2 safe leaves chopped fine

1/8 teaspoon black pepper


In a medium skillet, sauté scallions in 1/4 cup of vegetable broth till soft. Add minced carrot and celery; continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and reduce heat to medium-low to sweat the mushrooms. Once mushrooms begin to sweat, turn up the heat to medium-high and dry out the mixture. When mushrooms begin sticking to the bottom of the pan, add white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Add flour and stir into mushrooms mixture working quickly to incorporate. Slowly add vegetable broth to mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly. Add seasoning and continue stirring until gravy is the right consistency. 

PhytoFit Healthy Substitutions

Eggs for Baking—1 egg Eggs for Cooking—1 egg
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons water


1/2 mashed banana

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon soy flour and 

     2 tablespoon water

1/4 cup silken tofu pureed

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/4 cup pureed dates

1/4 cup pureed prunes

1/4 cup mashed white or sweet potato


1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy yogurt

1/4 cup cooked oats

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons corn starch

Milk & Dairy Ice Cream & Sorbet
Almond milk


Cashew milk

Hemp milk

Oat milk

Soy milk

Almond, soy, cashew yogurt

Nutritional yeast for cheese

Cashew cheese

Buttermilk: 1 cup of non-dairy milk plus 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or 1 teaspoon lemon juice

>Combine 2 frozen bananas, 1 cup of your favorite frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, mango, raspberries, or blackberries), 2 Medjool dates pitted, and 1/3-1/2 cup plant-based milk in a blender until nice and smooth.


>Combine 2 frozen bananas, 1/4 cup plant-based milk, 2 tablespoons of Hershey Special Cocoa, and 2 Medjool dates pitted in a blender until nice and smooth.

Oil for Baking & Sautéing Sugar for Baking
>Sauté onions and other vegetables in water or vegetable broth, wine or vinegar


>Use equal amounts of applesauce, canned pumpkin, bananas, date paste or other pureed fruit when baking

>Use flavored balsamic vinegars, wine vinegar, and combinations of vinegar, Dijon mustard and maple syrup in place of salad dressings

Fresh fruit


Maple syrup

Chopped dates

Chopped prunes

In place of chocolate chips, use raisins or other dried fruit such as craisins or tart cherries

Protein  Adding “Creaminess”






Veggie burgers

Veggie dogs

Veggie sausage



*High in fat and should be limited

Boil and mash a potato


Add silken tofu

Add nutritional yeast

Cook and puree cauliflower

Soak cashews in water and puree

Puree white beans or black beans