As we head into the season of eating, here is a cautionary tale. A few years ago, my boyfriend’s cousin Marilyn—a meat-and-potatoes lover if ever there was one—underwent open-heart surgery. Five of Marilyn’s coronary arteries were 99 percent clogged, and when the doctors opened up her chest, they discovered that her heart was encased in a 1-inch layer of fat. The surgery was expected to take about five hours. Instead, it took eight because the doctors first had to cut away all the fat from her heart—which one surgeon said looked like a Butterball turkey. If we are what we eat, Marilyn’s story is a stark reminder to stay on the vegan path during the holiday season, even when Aunt Edna insists that we try “just one bite” of turkey or a glass of her famous rum-spiked eggnog.
Not all people who eat animal products will eventually require extensive surgery, of course, but they do face some serious health hazards during the holidays (salmonella poisoning from the raw eggs in that eggnog is just the start). The average person consumes an extra 600 calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and gains 1 pound during the holiday season. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that just one bite-sized cheese ball can contain more than 500 calories and that turkey is loaded with even more fat and cholesterol than many cuts of beef.
While 1 pound doesn’t sound like much, remember that most people never lose that extra weight. The weight stays on throughout the winter and keeps adding up, year after year. For those who are already overweight, the news is even more depressing than a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking: Overweight people tend to gain 5 pounds or more during the holidays.
Vegans, in contrast, tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters and are better able to avoid the dreaded holiday spread. When researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asked overweight patients to try a low-fat, vegan diet, not only did the patients lose weight without counting calories—they also kept the weight off during the holidays. And as we all know, vegans don’t just give their health a boost—they also save more than 100 animals every year from the horrors of factory farming.
This holiday season, why not give your loved ones the gift of good health by treating them to a fabulous vegan feast? (Check out PETA’s website for easy vegan recipes.) With delectable vegan dishes such as savory vegetable pot pie, baked acorn squash drizzled with maple syrup, wild mushroom pâté, roasted pumpkin soup, chocolate mousse tart, and spiced soy nog, no one—not even Aunt Edna—will miss the meat. And by not mindlessly munching our way through the holidays, we won’t have to ask Santa for a bigger (leather-free) belt!
Image courtesy of Gretchen Tseng