Review of Vegan Holiday Foods: Which Ones are Worth the Buy?

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Review of Vegan Holiday Foods: Which Ones are Worth the Buy?

Table full of vegan, holiday-themed treats.

Table full of vegan, holiday-themed treats.

Table full of vegan, holiday-themed treats.

Table full of vegan, holiday-themed treats.

Drew Karle, Student of Journalism

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The holidays are an exciting, lively time. Singing from carolers fill the air, string lights with arrays of color twinkle in the eyes, huge eight-foot blow ups live on people’s lawns and the smell of freshly baked, holiday goodies greet us around every corner.

Let us be honest with ourselves — every single one of us indulge in our favorite holiday foods and treats; however, for people with special dietary needs it feels impossible to be able to feast with family. Being the only vegan at holiday meals is like standing in front of a classroom, the pressure from everyone’s eyes on me makes me sweat and light headed because I am convinced everyone is judging me. Except in this case, everyone is.

Although I am a vegan, believe-it-or-not eating grass gets boring. My favorite part of holiday meals are the yummy desserts: cute, frosted christmas cookies; peppermint flavored everything and drool-worthy, sweet drinks. Last year for my first vegan Christmas, I whipped up numerous yummy goodies. But this year I have no time. I go to high school for eight hours a day then work for another six or more hours, six out of the seven days a week. Although I have little time, I took this as an opportunity to explore pre-made, store-bought, vegan, holiday-themed desserts. From Pick-N-Save, I bought and tried vegan holiday-flavored popcorns, ice cream, cookies, “eggnog” and “whipped cream.”

To kick off the taste-testing, I chugged a mug full of almond nog from the brand Blue Diamond. When the smooth, creamy “eggnog” touched my tongue, I was shocked how much I enjoyed it since I only like eggnog flavored ice cream and shakes (I even had a second cup). The almond nog had an tongue-impacting, vanilla flavor. Not only is it vegan, but it is also soy, cholesterol, peanuts, casein, gluten, saturated fat and MSG free!

Additionally, almond nog can be a healthier substitute for people who do not follow a specific diet. In half of a cup of Blue Diamond almond nog there are 70 calories, 1.5 grams of fat (no saturated fat), 14 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of sugar; where in half of a cup of Kemps golden eggnog there are 180 calories, nine grams of fat (five grams of saturated fat), 20 carbohydrates and 19 grams of sugar. Sorry Kemps, but almond nog wins this battle since it can satisfy a plethora of dietary needs.

Next, I tried out gingerbread cookie and white chocolate peppermint popcorns from the brand Skinny Pop. I could not put down the gingerbread cookie popcorn. I easily devoured half of the bag. The flavor was surprisingly accurate, making it addicting to munch. On the other hand, I would never buy the white chocolate peppermint popcorn again. In a nutshell, instead of enjoying a delicious, minty popcorn I was eating mint gum breath — I could tell the peppermint flavor was there from the stinging of my nose, but I could hardly taste it. To sum up the popcorns, try the gingerbread cookie one before the holiday season is over, and if see the white chocolate peppermint one staring down at people in the store, shun it.

After the popcorn, I had the pleasure to try two different brands of chocolate chip cookies (because who does not like cookies around the holidays?). The first brand I tried was Free to eat. Out of everything this unusual cookie had to offer, I enjoyed the texture the most. It was soft like a marshmallow; however, it had a bizarre flavor combination of protein and sweetness. Clearly, this brand of cookie would satisfy for a picnic, or a small snack, but this cookie is not a treat I would bring to a gathering or party since the taste is hit-or-miss.

The last cookie brand I was honored to try was Back to Nature. If anyone is looking for a vegan brand of Chips Ahoy! congratulations, because I found it. I kept shoveling these bad-boys in my mouth as I watched Spongebob Christmas with my boyfriend. Although, they are vegan, Chips Ahoy!-tasting cookies, the texture is simply not the same. The Back to Nature cookies are harder and crunchier than Chips Ahoy!. From my cookie experience, the crunch and the flavor together made it extremely easy to “get over” the hardness of the cookie. I stopped noticing it after cookie three (I easily had over six. I am not afraid of  judgement). Truly, Back to Nature is the almost perfect, vegan, Chips Ahoy! cookie.

Finally, I tried three unique ice cream flavors with two different types of dairy-free whipped creams. First brand I tried was Ben and Jerry’s cinnamon bun flavor. Let us take one second to praise Ben and Jerry’s — the taste is exactly what I was expecting. If I am paying for cinnamon bun ice cream I better get, which is why I would never recommend dairy-free Halo Tops to anybody. I gave their cinnamon roll and oatmeal cookie flavors a fair chance, but I was at a loss of words when the spoonful of floury ice cream had hit my taste buds. I spat out both of the spoonfuls I sampled. The only positive I could find about Halo Tops was the cinnamon roll flavor had a soft, smooth texture. On the contrary, I lost all hope for the oatmeal cookie flavor. The texture was like sand. Although the ice cream was not up-to-par, I will not completely knock down Halo Tops because they tried and they taught me an important life lesson — looks can be deceiving.

While I was tricked by Halo Tops, I was blessed with two types of dairy-free whipped creams because that slightly improved the icky, Halo Tops flavors.

The life-saving whipped creams I bought were coconut milk and almond milk from the brand Reddi Wip. Everyone who is dairy-free, or wants a healthier substitute needs these whipped creams in their fridges. They are both only 10 calories, .5 grams of fat and less than one gram of sugar per two tablespoons, where the dairy-based Reddi Wip contains 15 calories, 1 gram of fat and less than one gram of sugar per two tablespoons.

Out of the two creams, the coconut milk whip was the one I indulged in the most. It was sweeter than the almond milk whip; however, they were fun to spray in my mouth, and both have extremely similar taste and texture to dairy whipped cream — proof it makes the perfect vegan substitute. I would recommend trying the whipped cream on top of ice cream and double chocolate hot cocoa from Starbucks (I may have had a cup after taste testing…).

After tasting a smidge of what the stores have to offer for vegan, holiday treats, I would recommend all vegans bake their own cookies; however, definitely buy the Blue Diamond almond nog, gingerbread cookie Skinny Pop popcorn, dairy-free Reddi Whip, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Halo Tops attempted at dairy-free ice cream, but do not waste money on it since it ended up as a huge fail.

After reading about my tasting experience, I dare everyone who is feeling up to a challenge to take this taste test further than I did, and explore some other vegan foods from the local grocery store.

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