Just about every person who goes vegan is surrounded by more meat eaters than vegans. That’s just how it is since vegans are still such a small number.
But what happens when you live with those non-vegans?
It can be tricky to navigate relationships with non-vegan family members when you make such a huge lifestyle change.
So tricky that I’ve spoken to too many people who want to eat a plant-based diet but don’t because they worry about disrupting the family dynamics.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to make going vegan in a non-vegan household easy for you and not scary for them.
Here are some of my favorite tips.
Buy your own food
This one is super easy if you live with roommates or a spouse because you’re probably already doing your own grocery shopping. If your spouse does the shopping, just ask to add your items to the list.
Back at home, you might find it easier to have a separate shelf for your vegan food. That way you can easily see what you’ve got and your roommates don’t “accidentally” eat all your tasty food.
If you live with your parents and don’t have the means to buy your own groceries, go to the store with them and ask if you can pick out some food for yourself.
Tip: Stick to the whole, plant foods since those tend to be less expensive and your parents can use them in their non-vegan cooking, too!
If, for whatever reason, your parents won’t buy you any of the foods you’re asking for, scrounge your kitchen to see what they’ve already bought that just happens to be vegan. It turns out that many staples for meat eaters tend to be vegan.
Can you say potatoes and pasta?
Make your own meals
That’s right! You can’t go vegan and expect your family to be willing to accommodate. From their perspective, you’ve got all these new weird restrictions and they have no idea what you even eat anymore!
Don’t put extra stress on the relationship. Take the responsibility of making your own food. You can even offer to make extra for them, if they’re curious to try it!
If you’re already the one who cooks for the household, come up with a system that everyone can agree on.
Maybe that means you make the base dish vegan and they can cook their own meat to add to it. Or, if you have the time, you could try making two completely separate meals, one vegan and one non-vegan.
Of course, like we mentioned earlier, there’s always the option to just make your own meal and the non-vegans make theirs.
A great way to bring positivity into the kitchen is to have the non-vegans pick out a vegan meal they’d be willing to try, and to cook it together! This will show them how easy (and tasty!) vegan cooking is.
Educate yourself (and them)
The more grounded you are in the facts about veganism, the more confident you can be in conversations with your non-vegan family.
But you can’t educate others until you really know what you’re talking about. As a new vegan, you’ve most likely learned some very important stuff about the impact of eating animals on your health or how animal agriculture affects the environment.
I remember when I first when vegan, I couldn’t wait to spout off the few facts that I memorized with anyone who would listen, but the moment the conversation went a little deeper I didn’t have much else to say.
I suggest you read more than just the facts and figures. Understand the “why” behind them so you can have meaningful and impactful conversations with people.
And while you’re having those conversations, be gentle. Nobody likes an angry vegan. This lifestyle is all about love and compassion so show that to others even if they don’t agree.
If you’re family is open to it, try watching a documentary together! There are so many to choose from (i.e. Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, What The Health, etc).
Why did you decide to go vegan? Don’t just say, “For health reasons.” Get really specific.
I went vegan because my digestion and acne were so bad that I was willing to try anything. And after doing some research, I realized that eating animal products can actually cause those problems, so I gave it a shot.
Once you have that straight, explain it to your family.
Don’t jump out of the gate saying that you’re going vegan because you don’t want to eat cow pus or decaying flesh anymore. Come from a positive standpoint that won’t gross people out or put them on the defense.
This is a life-altering decision so try to ease your family into it so they can see where you’re coming from.
While you’re having that conversation, stay confident in your decision. That confidence will come across to your family, which will help them to be supportive of your switch to veganism.
Don’t try to convert them
I’m intentionally placing this tip right after “Educate them” and “Explain why” because I realize both of those tips can create an environment where all you want is for them to suddenly be enlightened and jump on the vegan train, too.
Trust me, I’ve been there. I spent way too much time trying to convert my dad to veganism and ultimately failed.
Family and friends are the hardest people to convert to a vegan diet. For some reason, they just seem to be less receptive than complete strangers.
The best thing for everyone is for you to lead by example. Just live your life and they will see all the benefits through you. Once you have their interest, they may come to you with questions.
Here’s the key: Don’t start a conversation about veganism with your family. Wait for them to start it.
Handle jokes, taunting and silly questions with grace
You’re going to get the protein question. Hundreds of times. There’s no way around it.
And people mocking you by putting their drumstick in your face, yeah that happens.
While you may want to slap them across the face with their drumstick, try to restrain yourself and respond to the situation, again, with love and compassion.
Over time, I’ve developed pretty standard responses to some of the common questions vegans get that aren’t out of true curiosity but out of sarcasm or simply ignorance.
And as for jokes and taunting, I tend to just ignore them. I simply don’t react. This shows the jokester that they’re not going to get to me and that I’m confident enough in my lifestyle choice that I don’t need to jump on the defense the moment someone questions my beliefs.
If your family won’t let up and it’s starting to get to you, sit down with them and have an honest conversation to let them know that it’s really hurting your feelings and ask them to please stop. If they love you, they will respect your for that.
You do you
In the end, you are your own person and you have the freedom to choose what you put in your body. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says.
Are you a vegan in a non-vegan household? How have you learned to get along? Share in the comments!
And please don’t forget to click those share buttons below to spread these tips across social media. I don’t want anyone to not go vegan just because they live with non-vegans.