Are you the only vegan in your family? If you are, then you are very familiar with the struggle of getting friends and family members to buy into the idea that plant-based food can be healthy and delicious. You may often hear comments from friends and family members that amount to the fact that they refuse to eat “rabbit food”.
You may be conflicted about bringing meals to family gatherings because you don’t want to hear the comments about how it will taste (before anyone has even tasted it!). This is a common struggle for many who have decided to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. Here are a few tips to help you make delicious vegan foods that even your non-vegan family will love to eat.
1. Try to make vegan versions of their favorite dishes. This may work especially well with children. Childhood favorites like pizza and hamburgers are pretty easy to veganize. Try a loaded veggie pizza with a commercial vegan cheese to start. Try different variations to see what you love.
Also, try making your family’s favorite entrees using veggies or mock meats instead of actual meat. Although mock meats are still processed foods and not necessarily the healthiest, they may help win over skeptics in your family who are married to the idea of meat in their meals.
Eventually, you can switch to other meat substitutes that are veggie based, like jackfruit. Vegan sweets are also a great way to convince reluctant family members that vegan food can be delicious.
2. Involve them in the process. One of the main ways for children and family members to get interested in cooking and making vegan dishes is to involve them in the planning and preparation. Give them some power to make some decisions and you may be surprised at how receptive they are to trying a vegan dish. For children, you can give them the job of chopping fruits and veggies.
Give them the job of making smoothies in the morning and let them choose what goes in it. Let them help you with menu planning by allowing them to choose 1-2 plant-based meals for the week. If you have a garden, you can also involve them in the planting and harvesting of the food. Nothing gets someone involved in eating their food like seeing where it comes from.
3. Get creative. There are so many vegan blogs and cookbooks out now that make it is so easy to find delicious vegan recipes. Start searching and you will and find delicious gourmet dishes that just happen to be vegan. Be open to trying new things and presenting them to your friends and family members. Don’t lead with the fact that it is vegan or plant-based… Let them experience the food first. Tastebuds change more minds than nutrition facts.
The most important thing to remember with non-vegan friends and family is that you are not responsible for their dietary/health choices. Although you may desire them to eat healthier, you cannot be responsible for your what your spouse, partner, friend, brother, or sister ultimately put into their bodies. You can be respectful of their decision and still abide by your own. Communicate. Be clear. Set boundaries.
You may decide that you are not going to cook meat or dairy-based dishes. And you can make that choice. Your spouse, who is an adult, can then choose to make their own choices when it comes to adding meat to their diets or not. As far as children, a normal healthy child isn’t going to starve themselves. They may choose not to eat vegan food at first, but if you consistently provide options and involve them in the process you may find that they are more likely to get on board.
As parents, it is our job to offer nutritious meals to our children and leave the decision to eating it to them. For older children, if they are old enough to state their preferences and what they will and will not eat, then they may be old enough to prepare their own foods too.
Dr. Ruby Thomas is a 12-year vegan, mother, wife, and doctor who helps busy women plan delicious plant-based meals in 30 minutes or less while saving time, money, and energy in the kitchen. You can download her free recipe guide, 5 Vegan Recipes That Even Your Non-Vegan Family will love