As the solo vegan in my household, sharing vegan food with family and friends is one of my greatest joys. With nine years behind me, while raising three kids (now between 9 and 15 years old), I’ve found my vegan mama groove. I know a thing or two about introducing your family to a plant-based diet, and today I’m here to help my fellow mama’s (and papa’s) do the same!
Sharing my plant-munching lifestyle hasn’t always been easy peasy. I made many, many, (oh so many) mistakes and my poor hubby and kids were often the innocent bystanders of my blunders. Gratefully, they still love me, and now we can laugh about it!
I joke, but introducing your family to a plant-based diet is no easy feat. If you’re fortunate enough to have gone vegan before you had a partner or brought kids into the world, I envy you! Going vegan is hard enough, but when you add the rest of your family or household into the mix, it takes things up a notch. But it is possible and can even be fun!
One thing I know for sure: a plan is critical.
Going vegan on Sunday and then declaring the rest of the family must follow on Monday isn’t going to work. (Trust me, I tried.)
Lucky for you, I’ve put everything I’ve learned into this 4-step plan for introducing your family to a plant-based diet. Take it step-by-step, and before long, you might find your family (or eventually vegan family) joining you on your journey!
Before you make any changes to your family’s diet, communication is key. Hold a family meeting to talk about everyone’s expectations.
For example, when I went vegan, I desperately wanted my family to join me, but I realized that wasn’t a realistic expectation. Instead, I shared my hope that everyone would be open-minded about my new lifestyle and diet choice, with a willingness to try the new foods I would be preparing.
We also set up several ground rules. “Don’t yuck my yum” was (and still is nine years later!) one of my favorites. It’s helpful if you can set up the expectation that everyone needs to respect each other’s choices and give each other the space to do what’s right for them.
If you’re not already in a meal planning groove, now is the time to create a weekly meal plan. It will take the surprise out of “What’s for dinner?” but also make it easier for you to grocery shop and cook.
Post your family’s meal plan in a highly visible place that gets a lot of traffic in your home. Anticipation can cause anxiety for kids so if they can take a peek at the plan regularly, they may feel more at ease about the changes you’re introducing.
Also, have each child make a list of their 10 favorite foods (many of them may be naturally vegan, and they don’t even know it!). Choose several from the list that is plant-based and keep those foods on hand for snacking.
In addition to their favorite foods, ask each child to give you a list of their favorite fruits and vegetables. Serve at least one of each child’s selections at your meals, so they always have an option that they enjoy (without you having to urge them to take a bite!).
Once you’ve got your ground rules established and some meal planning basics together, start introducing your family to a plant-based diet with small changes.
First, make some easy swaps that they won’t even notice! When I went vegan, I immediately replaced the mayo and butter in the fridge with plant-based versions. My family was the none the wiser (and now their favorite butter is Miyoko’s vegan European cultured butter)!
When it comes to mealtime, there are several simple ways you can add more plant foods to your family’s table.
Most non-vegans think a plant-based lifestyle is about deprivation (what they can’t eat). They have it so wrong! There is actually so much more to eat when you look at the variety of options available in a plant kingdom, and you’re not restricted to a SAD (Standard American Diet) meal.
When you approach veganism as an adventure to be discovered, there is lots of fun to be had!
Keep in mind that introducing your family to a plant-based diet is a process. Take your time to share new foods and tastes at a pace that works for everyone. Small changes add up to big transformations, and remember that every step your family takes toward eating more plants is a win for the planet, animals and your family’s health!
If you’re just starting on your Plant-based lifestyle journey, don’t miss out on these insightful articles to help you succeed:
Stephanie Dreyer helps families to cook and eat healthier. Her latest book, Not A Purse, enlightens families about the various ways animals are worn and used at home—and inspires them to explore alternatives.