Recently, I met with a friend who is moving in the direction of adopting a vegan diet, but her biggest hurdle is her family. She has two young children and a “meat and potatoes” husband. She knows I have a similar situation and she wondered how I manage to maintain a vegan diet without forcing it on my family, but also without fixing two meals at every single mealtime.
My words to her were this, “It can be done.”
Is it easy? Not always. Do you sometimes make two meals? Sure. Does your family complain? They are human.
Here are some tips that I gave her:
- You know your family and know what types of food they like. When you are looking for new recipes to try, find those with similar flavors and ingredients that just leave out the meat, dairy and eggs.
- Make substitutions in familiar recipes. Use lentils or beans in place of meat. Use flax eggs in place of real eggs. Use almond milk in place of regular milk.
- Have taco night (or whatever is a favorite night for your family) and make their taco filling, but also make a vegan taco filling for you. They may try it and like it, but even if they don’t, it is okay.
- Make spaghetti and just use regular tomato sauce, but have meatballs to add to theirs.
- When a recipe makes a lot and you have leftovers, throw some in the freezer to pull out for you next time they want to have meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. I do this with soups quite often.
- Establish “Meatless Mondays” where you can expose your family to new recipes.
- Use your main dish as a side dish for their dinner.
- I make a southwestern skillet that I make in two pans, one I add chicken to and one I don’t.
- If I want to try a recipe I know my family won’t like, I will often make enough of the previous night’s meal so they can eat leftovers while I try the new recipe. Sometimes I can even get them to try it, too!
- Keep quick things on hand, like Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers for when your family wants to grill burgers so you have an option as well.
- Most of all, be flexible and have patience. Your family isn’t the one making this decision so don’t force it on them. Help them to grow and understand your choice, while offering other options and teaching them about nutrition along the way.
These tips are true for any kind of dietary change, not just those looking to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Don’t look at the mountain in front of you and say it is too hard to climb because your family isn’t ready to climb to the top with you right now. You can still do it. You just have to approach it in a different way. It can be done.