One of the many obstacles a newly turned vegan face is how to handle family members who are not on board with her or his lifestyle change. I speak from experience because I first became plant-based then vegan even before my husband did. And while some of our relatives (his side and mine) are either plant-based, vegetarian or vegan, we have more that are still carni’s. I know our topic is focused on family but you can also apply the following tips when dealing with your friends and/or officemates (read a beginner’s guide on how to shop vegan groceries).
Focus on the person, not on their food choices. Hypocrisy aside, before you became vegan, you walked the same shoes and shared the same table with them. Don’t be the next superior vegan. Becoming vegan does not give you an invisible title to treat them differently. During family gatherings, focus on the time spent with them, not the food they eat versus what you can and cannot eat (read my vegan journey).
Bring vegan food and share it with them. It is easy to veganize foods, even comfort and traditional ones for that matter. A pot of vegan chili, nicely bottled vegan ceasar dressing, mixed nuts for snacks, even just a platter of fruits! This is my trick, I bring my food in case there is nothing for me to eat in a gathering. Let them taste your dish, you’d be amazed with a lot of “wow! what?, that taste good!”. And next thing you know, you just converted one to become plant-based or vegan (read how to transition to plant-based food) !
Share your success story, only if they ask why you’re vegan. If you’re vegan for health reasons, tell them what has changed in your life or health overall. If you’re vegan for animals, tell them that you don’t need animal meat to survive. Which will lead you to their next question: where do you get your proteins? I hate to sound like a broken record, plus you can google it anyways. Plants have proteins. What do cows eat? grass, plants, proteins (read the happy side of being vegan).
Speak if you have to and be the voice of change. I have personally encountered people questioning my philosophy but because I am a healthcare professional (RN), having seen patients with diabetes, hypertension, high, cholesterol, to name a few, I always and with absolute confidence, explain the good side of plant-based/ vegan lifestyle from a medical standpoint. When you touch animal cruelty, expect to ruffle feathers so my advice to you is to speak calmly and use your own personal experience as point of reference. Having a debate with a family member who is clueless with this lifestyle is like speaking to a deaf person. Go back to tip #1, focus on the person. Veganism is a journey. Walk the talk. Speak for the voiceless. But at the end of the day, it is their life, their health, their own journey (read accidentally vegan favorites).
I hope the above tips enlightened you. I am currently spearheading a plant-based lifestyle program to our medical patients. It’s a 12-week program with different topics per week, covering chronic diseases and how plant-based food can help reverse and prevent them. Our medical doctor presents the clinical side, supported by studies, while I cover the practical and personal side, including meal planning, weekly recipes and on-site demo cooking. It’s the first of its kind in Hawai’i and I am glad to be able to create positive impact and change to our dear patients.
25 thoughts on “How To Handle Your Non-Vegan Family”
Excellent tips! Also, wonderful of you to bring food to share and that you can eat in case. I was shocked when my cousin and his family from Cali arrived for Thanksgiving dinner at my house, where I was feeding 33 adults and children, and they told me they were vegan just then. Unfortunately, they were kind of out of luck because the veggies had butter on them at that point. Fortunately, there was salad.
Thanks Allison. Wow, that’s a lot of people to feed. Yeah, the easiest is always to bring food. I grew up in a family that’s customary to bring something as token for the host/hostess.
I like that you aren’t pushy with your choices on others, but help explain when people have questions. You gave some great tips!
Thanks Claudia. My goal is only to share information that are fact-based. At the end of the day, it’s for others to absorb or do nothing. My husband went vegan on his own, not through me lol
My brother and his wife have gone through several lifestyle diets. They always bring something they can eat that they think the rest of us would like too. What you believe in for your diet is important as long as you don’t make others feel guilty for their beliefs.
Exactly. There’s no point in arguing with a family member or a friend for that matter
I could easily be vegetarian and rarely eat meat, but vegan would be super-hard for me. I live on butter and cheese (._.)
Those are easy to veganize too
My niece has decided to be pescatarian and our family is 100% supportive, it’s odd to me that people aren’t supportive of others’ choices and life styles? When she was here for the summer visiting with my mom, we just made sure she had options if we went anywhere. usually I would join her in her fish eating too.
I love the question “but then what do you eat?” Lol
That’s our topic for today’s plant based lifestyle program to patients
When my ex-husband went vegan–20 years ago! I always had to make something just for him to eat and take it with us at holiday gatherings. You can’t expect people who aren’t vegan to offer vegan food.
Yes. Always nice to bring own food to share and eat
Thank you for stating to not be a hypocrite if you are vegan. Aside from a few close friends I find most vegans to have a holier than thou attitude and it’s just not cool. I don’t judge your food choices and don’t want mine judged either. I also agree that plenty of dishes are delicious without meat!
Yes. I don’t like holier than thou attitude too coz it rubs me the wrong way. It takes a lot of maturity to be able to swallow pride. I don’t like aggression based mentality.
Great tips! Its kind of crazy that so many extended family people can really question and put one down so much for their food choices. Its such a bummer! I just try to not eat too much bread because if its a store bought one they just make me feel bad so I try to avoid it but others cant understand that which is weird.
Yep been there. And it’s sad because family supposed to be the first to understand but I tell you, much of the drama is from those so close to you
I think “Don’t be the next Superior Vegan” is the best advice ever. The quickest way to alienate those who we want to make different choices is to act like they are somehow less than because they eat meat.
Thanks! My friends are thankful that I don’t force my beliefs to them. When my best friend visited me, whom I haven’t seen in the last 11 years, didn’t feel a single alienation at all. She initially told me that she’s a bit hesitant to eat with me but I told her, cmon we’ve been best friends for 30+ yrs, I’m not going to throw our friendship away because of what you’re going to order today. We both laughed.
I think it’s really nice when people bring food if they are following a specific diet/lifestyle. It can be very uncomfortable for the hostess if she thinks that some guests feel unwelcome because there’s nothing on the table to cater to their dietary choices.
Exactly. Plus it’s always a good gesture to bring something. We were raised like that
Great advice, and I love your outlook on the whole thing. Also, I adore that jumper!
I’m definitely not at the point where I am ready to become vegan, but I have been trying to introduce an even higher vegetarian diet into my family’s eating habits. It’s been a little bit of a struggle with the littles though. They’re ok with veggies, and tbh, better than other kids their ages I’ve seen at their preschool/pre-K classes, but we have a bit to go before making any significant jumps.
I’m happy to read your comment. It’s a journey and I am glad your kids are eating healthier than most kids their age group!