I have a confession. My reasons for adopting a vegan diet were not related to my health. I really did it because I met a really cool guy who was a vegan and I figured that if I wanted any chance with him, I probably needed to change my diet too. I was 23 years old and an avid Chick-fil-A fan, but I gave it up, became vegetarian, eventually vegan, married the guy and now we’re living our happily ever after.
As a physician who is an advocate of plant-based diets for better health, one of the frequently asked questions I get from my clients is, “How can I get my family, spouse, significant other or child to embrace a vegan diet, like me?”
Here are a three strategies that might help you convince the carnivores in your life to give veganism a try.
1. Answer questions, but don’t proselytize.
Proselytize — To convert or attempt to convert someone from one religion, belief or opinion to another.
Most vegans are pretty health conscious people, and many of us have personal stories of how giving up meat and dairy impacted our health for the better. We often want to share our successes with others. Many times, however, our testimonies about health, the research we’ve found to back up our claims and the numerous success stories from others fall on deaf ears. The better strategy here is to answer the inevitable questions that come up (i.e. —"Where do you get your protein?”) intelligently, and continue living your best meat and dairy free life. Once your family member, spouse or child witnesses the improvements in your health, compared to their own, this may convince them better than your words.
2. Cook good food.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Carnivores are deathly afraid that if they give up meat, they are giving up any chance of having a delicious, filling meal and are sentencing themselves to a life of bland, boring green salads. We, as seasoned vegans, know this is not the case. The best way to convince others of this fact is to channel your inner top chef and whip up a fantastic, delicious plant-based meal that would leave anyone (carnivores included) drooling.
Not a cook? As the nation becomes more health conscious, there are numerous vegan restaurants popping up all over the country. Find one in your area using the Happy Cow app.
3. Abdicate responsibility.
Here it is. This is the tough love section of this article. What another human being puts in their body is not your problem. It is not your responsibility to make sure your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, uncle, cousin or mother eats more healthy. Yes, it is our desire for them to do better, but we can’t control them. So, take the responsibility for their choices off of your shoulders. They’re grown! Again, let them see you twirling around in all your vegan glory, and when they ask you what you’re doing to get your skin to glow like that, drop the vegan bomb on them.
I know what your next question is. What about children? Here is my two cents on that (as a mother of two vegan boys, one who was extremely picky as a toddler). A normal, healthy child will not starve themselves to death. At some point, they will eat what is put in front of them, but consistency is key. If you are a parent of a young child deciding to make this lifestyle change, do not give in to tantrums or the occasional food strike. Offer child-friendly vegan foods consistently. Over time, most children will come around. As long as growth and development are normal, you don’t need to worry. The younger you start this dietary pattern with your children, the easier getting them to adapt will be. If a child only knows veggies, fruits and whole grains, and they don’t know meat as a regular part of their diet, then they don’t miss it.
As for older children, this may be the time for them to take more responsibility in the kitchen. If your teenager does not like or want to eat the food you prepare, then it may be time for them to prepare their own meals or use the money from their jobs to buy their own food. Set your boundaries. Be clear and be consistent about what you will and will not do in your house and your kitchen. Your job as a parent is to offer your child nutritious meals. It is up to them whether they will eat it or not. If they’re old enough to complain, they’re old enough to cook. You’ve seen Masterchef Junior, right?
By living your best life and being clear on your boundaries, you may find that your family members will come around to your way of eating. If not completely, they may meet you in the kitchen halfway.