How to Be Plant-Based When Your Family Is Not

A study from Loma Linda University funded by the National Cancer Institute reports that vegans have lower rates of cancer than vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Vegan women, in particular, had 34% lower rates of female-specific breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. Similar findings exist for men against prostate cancer.

Since going vegan or plant-based may be better for you and the planet, it makes sense to make this change. The problem is, how do you maintain your diet in a household full of meat- and dairy-eating family members? What if your life partner loves having scrambled eggs for breakfast? What if your parents love having milk and cream with their coffee? And what is a Thanksgiving dinner without turkey?

In this article, we will discuss how you can stay vegan when your family is not.

How to Survive a Home with Dairy and Meat Eaters

1. Slowly introduce plant-based options plant based diet

Dairy-based chocolates, crispy fried chicken wings, and grilled cheese sandwiches can be very tempting when everyone, except you, can enjoy them. One tactic to curb your temptations is to examine your family’s favorite meals and snacks. Make a list of staple foods your family loves, which may include milk, whole grain toasts, cheeses, and meats. After which, you can slowly switch them out for plant-based options. There are many existing dairy- and meat-free alternatives to almost all pantry essentials in grocery stores.

2. Realize that your family may already be 50% plant-based

Having a family that eats bacon for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch, and steak for dinner can be blindsiding, especially for teenage vegans who may not be able to afford groceries. But do not lose hope. Your household members may already be half vegan. Some staples in your family pantry are, for sure, vegan-friendly. These include oatmeal, peanut butter, bananas, apples, pasta, and potatoes (among others). Thus, you do not have to stress about starving.

Additionally, there are thousands of vegan recipes for all-time favorites, with some only needing a handful of ingredients. Many clubhouse sandwiches, “chicken” nuggets, and double cheeseburgers are also available in plant-based form.

3. Cook for your family Broccoli

Take it as a personal challenge to cook for your family once in a while. Prepare plant-based meals that stand on their own—one that will not prompt anyone to ask “where’s the meat?” Try serving your family ooey-gooey mac and “cheese” or lentil-based shepherd’s pie. Having no one comment other than “that was delicious!” is a win. To really make their jaws drop and say “This is vegan?!”, you can order food from the plethora of restaurants now serving plant-based burgers, pizzas, and all-American fast food favorites.

Once your family realizes that comfort food can be meat- and dairy-free, they may be more open to change, or at the very least, reduce their consumption of animal-based products. After all, the health benefits are too good to pass up.

What to Do If Your Family Does Not Want to Go Vegan

1. Remember your journey as a vegan

How long has it been since you stopped following the Standard American Diet? Think about what made you make the change. Have compassion and understanding for your younger self who did not have the information you now have about plant-based eating. More importantly, have the same compassion for your family.

You know that there are very mixed messages out there about what is healthy. Even medical professional have different opinions. At some point, your own journey to becoming plant-based was tangled up in all of these issues. It helps to remember that it was never easy, and some people may take longer to choose the same path you did.

In general, food is an integral part of who we are, how we celebrate, and how we bond with our families. If your parents, partner, or children can respect your decision to go vegan, you must also respect their decision to eat meat and dairy.

2. Show, don’t tell vegan skewers

Do you remember meeting that vocal, pushy vegan at the dinner party who made you roll your eyes and cringe? You never want to be that person. In fact, advocating your beliefs too harshly may push the people around you to do the exact opposite. Instead, let your eating habits do the talking. As you continue your plant-based diet, you will feel better, look better, and get healthier. Being a good example of why veganism matters may help in encouraging your family to make the switch.

3. Stay open to talking about veganism

No matter how different your views are, keep the diet issues light-hearted. Getting into arguments about food is never healthy. Instead of fighting; connect. Listen to their doubts and fears about being vegan. Not only will you nurture your relationship, but you may even be able to provide the answers they seek.

4. Know you are not alone

You may be the only vegan in your family, but there are millions in the country like you. Meat consumption in the U.S. is at a steady decline, and more people are becoming aware of the animal agricultural industry’s devastating nature. In fact, 7.3 million Americans no longer eat meat and are seeking more plant-based alternatives. What’s more, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $6.43 billion by 2023 and could share one-third of the market by 2050.

5. Connect with other plant-based folks

There are multiple online resources where you can connect with others who chose the vegan lifestyle, even without their family members on board. Meeting others like you can expand your knowledge about plant-based eating, as well as acquire new recipes for delicious vegan meals. Look for Facebook groups, local communities, and other plant-based gatherings. Better yet, start a group of your own.

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