Thomas has over seven years of experience dealing with the familial strife a vegan diet often brings to the table.
My First Visit Home as a Full Vegan
I sat down at the table of my university's canteen and had a second look at my plate. For the first time, no meat in sight.
The food wasn't special, but the meal—the first meal I had ever chosen in line with my developing ethical beliefs—represented a paradigm shift.
Three months later I went full vegan and took my new diet back to Mum and Dad for the holidays. They weren't happy.
"Maybe I can understand not eating meat, but eggs and dairy too?" exclaimed Mum.
"You know, all those animals wouldn't exist without the demand we provide," reasoned Dad.
"Won't you just have a bit? You've always loved chocolate cake and it's not like you're harming anything by eating it!" entreated Mum.
Would you like to make a positive impression on unreceptive family members and maybe even change a few long-standing opinions? These five tips to promote familial harmony around the dinner table may help.
1. Feed Them Something Delicious
Now that you're vegan, the best way to get your family on your side is through their stomachs—and that means learning how to cook delicious vegan food. When you offer your family tasty vegan fare that even the meatiest of carnivores couldn't say no to, they'll have no choice but to be supportive.
"The best way to their hearts is through their stomachs."
It will take more than a not-so-unpleasant encounter with a Beyond Meat burger to change your Mum's mind about the adverse effects of factory farming on the environment.
What that delicious burger (and a side) will do, however, is begin to make her realise that you do not have to eat meat to enjoy the 'meaty' pub-grub she knows and loves.
Astound your loved ones with great vegan food!
2. Appreciate Their Point of View
I'm going to assume that you ate meat and/or dairy once upon a time. If so, put yourself in your family's shoes.
I don't mean to be rude, but farm-fresh vegans have the tendency to come on a bit strong. What does not go down well is aggressively proselytising the oh-so-obvious advantages of a vegan diet to an audience that really doesn't want to hear it.
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Instead, realise that you ate the same stuff they did not so long ago. You did not arrive at this lifestyle by listening to the rants of a militant plant-eater (or maybe you watched Gary Yourofsky on YouTube). You came to your decision naturally and in your own time, weighing up the facts.
Give your family the same opportunity.
"Farm-fresh vegans have the tendency to come on a bit strong."
3. Reason With Them, but Don't Argue
Depending on why you went vegan in the first place and which reason you emphasise in conversation with your family members, they will find it easier or harder to accept your choice.
Nowadays, most people have at least minimal awareness of the effect of animal agriculture on the environment. Likewise, people can accept that eliminating meat, eggs, and dairy from one's diet would be, on the whole, beneficial to one's health, even if they have the odd question about where you get your protein from.
"Adopt a calm persona and maintain it throughout the conversation."
In my experience, convincing loved ones about the ethical reasons behind your decision to go vegan is the source of much of the conflict that ensues from Day 1. It is also the most emotionally-draining.
This point goes back to the last one. You should first appreciate that your family has not yet been 'enlightened' to the dark reality of animal agriculture. If you approach this issue as an Activist for the Animals, both sides are likely to become frustrated and upset, and both will put up mental barriers it will be difficult to remove in the future.
Instead, if you feel the topic is inevitable and you want to clear up a few things, adopt a calm persona and maintain it throughout the conversation.
Challenge their opinions with your own knowledge, but never do so in a way that could be viewed as arrogant or stubborn.
They will be far more ready to listen to your point of view if you present it in a relaxed way and listen to their own.
4. Embrace the Teasing
Vegans get a bad rap in general. Veteran plant-eaters have learnt to live with the teasing and even embrace it as a kind of rite of passage. It's reassuring, in a way, to ruffle a few feathers and make people uncomfortable. That's how change comes about.
"You should be proud of proceeding down the path less-trodden!"
It can be tough, however, for a new vegan to have their recent choices questioned and ridiculed so often, by their family or society at large.
The fact is that lots of people will have a joke at your expense. At the beginning you might feel like your whole way of life is under siege!
If unkind 'jokes' are really starting to get to you, calmly ask the other person to stop.
Otherwise, embrace the teasing, from your family and everyone else. You should be proud of proceeding down the path less-trodden! You know how you benefit from being vegan. Considering these advantages, the occasional derogatory meme on Facebook or an off-the-cuff comment from your sister become almost immaterial!
5. Love Them as They Are
Veganism and its controversies should not colour your entire attitude towards the people you love.
Separate lives go separate ways, and people take different times to come to any important realisation. Maybe Mum and Dad will never come into the plant-eating fold, and that's ok.
Your relationship with your family shouldn't be sacrificed for the sake of 'winning' an argument that won't make a difference anyway.
Always think long-term and lead by example! Let your family see a happy, healthy, vegan you, and watch those barriers melt away!
© 2022 Thomas Roeder