Being vegan in a world that thinks eating McDonald’s and Burger King on a regular basis is normal seems hard enough. But what if you don’t even get any support from the people you are closest to or share the same roof with?
No matter if it’s your parents, siblings, kids, or spouse – they might not be very enthusiastic about living a healthy, long and cruelty-free life. When you’re on a vegan diet, sharing meals with die-hard meat eaters can become quite uncomfortable sometimes.
Especially during the holidays, things can get hot and heavy. The whole family comes together and you’re likely to be outnumbered by many in terms of food preferences.
Even without any dietary restrictions, this time of year is often a lot more stressful than usual. Here is how you not only survive but master the holidays amongst your non-vegan family:
1. Educate, motivate and prepare yourself
Knowing why you do what you do is half the battle. Get educated about the ethical, environmental and health reasons behind your choices.
There are endless arguments for taking on this path, like getting healthier, avoiding cruelty, losing weight, becoming fitter, caring about the earth, staying young, and so many more.
By growing a knowledge base, you are able to disprove other people’s arguments with actual science. So get your books and documentaries on, become confident and motivated! You’ve got this.
Especially the books The Starch Solution and The China Study as well as the documentary Forks over Knives are great ways to gain tons of knowledge. Prepare to face any criticism and help others understand why you’re not on some fad diet.
Be ready to answer the most common questions about protein, calcium, omega-3, and iron (hint: they’re all found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables) as well as giving them examples of what you actually CAN eat.
2. Make sure you are happy with the food
Tell your host in advance about your dietary preferences. Often times it’s possible to easily “veganize” some dishes such as mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffed squash, roasted vegetables and a salad dressing.
You can also offer to help preparing some of the food – it’s best to ask what would be least stressful to them. Another great idea is to bring some your favorite healthy self-made dishes, and bring lots of it.
Once vegan food is on the table, people often get curious about what “vegan” tastes like and want to try some of it! One of the best ways to convince people is to offer them some delicious healthy food.
But be clear about your personal choices and that a holiday doesn’t mean you can “cheat on your diet” – it’s a lifestyle after all and not just a weight-loss program.
3. Conversations about veganism
Don’t make others feel guilty about their food choices right away, it won’t get you anywhere and will just add up to stressful holiday situations.
Even though you can see “behind the scenes” and recognize the lives that were sacrificed for all these eggs, dairy products and meat – most others cannot.
Also, try not to bring up the reasons as to why you’ve made a diet change at the table – people won’t be open to hear them while consuming cheese and butter.
Instead, choose a better setting, wait for them to ask and suggest a one-on-one conversation after dinner. Action speaks louder than words, live by example and plant seeds of compassion – be ready to open up to those wanting to learn more, those you’ve inspired.
4. Stay cool and shine on
The single best way to inspire others is by being the healthiest, happiest version of yourself.
Even though they might not bring it up, most of your friends and family will recognize how much shinier your hair is, that you’ve lost weight or seem to have a generally positive attitude.
This realization won’t necessarily bring you compliments though – sometimes, people are so afraid of change or being wrong that they try to bring you down no matter what.
This inner blockade can be a result of jealousy because you’re the living example of what can be achieved once you decide to start being proactive. Allow them to arrive at their own time and pace, face them with compassion.
There is no need to feel personally attacked when someone mocks you, take it with a grain of salt and understand that they do not know the facts and feel the way you do.
Lastly, when you think about being kind to people, don’t forget to count yourself in, too.
There is only so much you can or even need to take – and it’s okay to say “no” to a dinner that involves animal-based foods if this will gross you out or make you incredibly sad. That’s just not helpful for anyone, so honor your boundaries.
Nevertheless, hopefully you’ll make it through this year’s holidays pretty smoothly with these 4 tips! Don’t forget to stay connected with people who go through the same and share your experience, so you’ll feel less alone.
What have your experiences around the holidays been like? Do you bring your own food or eat whatever is available? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.