Including the Family: Transitioning into Your Plant-Based Diet – Daud Scott
Whether you’ve been eating on a whole-food plant based diet for years or are now just starting to adopt this eating palate as a way of life, sharing and spreading the enthusiasm can be either very positive and rewarding or at times very challenging. While many of our coworkers and colleagues may only have to deal with our eating habits during company gatherings or outings, our family members deal with us more on the day to day cooking, preparation and shopping aspects of our plant-based diets. I would say for the most part things go over well when someone lets their family members know that they will be eating only a vegan diet these days; especially since there have been so many reports and findings on the benefits of including more whole produce in the daily diets of people. Yet there are many instances where the announcement that you have or are about to go vegan can come as a shock: often times this is when certain foods are heavily linked to cultural norms, ethnic history and ‘being a part of family’ come into play.
Sometimes it isn’t always what you say, but how you say it. Likewise, it isn’t always the words we say about how we feel regarding the vegan diet, but rather how we treat and include others in this process. Taking a stance of hostility and food shaming is the first and sure way to alienate others, especially our family members when it comes to being open and understanding about why we chose veganism in the first place. Whether one initially embraces it due to health concerns, care for the welfare of animals, spiritual reasons, environmental action or all of the above: the concept of compassion should be at the core of it all, whatever that means to you.
One of the best ways to slowly break any barriers when it comes to any resistance to your embarking on the vegan path is to just simply lead by example. In many instances just going about your way when it comes to plant-based eating, taking steps to avoid philosophical arguments will in its own time, render your veganism a non-issue. People will just see it in you and will feel relaxed and know that there’s no hidden agenda: it’s just a choice you’ve made and stand by firmly. This isn’t to say that you should shy away from explaining and defending the numerous benefits of this if asked sincerely and with an attempt to want to understand and learn; you never know who you may be of influence to.
A very good way to include our family members into the types of plant-based foods that are eaten is to have a food transition night (or meal). This means simply substituting common meals that are usually meat and dairy based, into its plant-based counterpart. Doing this is a good way to show that the vegan diet is full of flavor, healthy and can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys good cooking. And of course this should only be an invite and not seen as a demand. If you find no one to share your meal with, then that means more for you! Here are some simple ideas for plant-based transition night meals that can bring you and your family to a place of understanding:
Veggie Burger Night:
Love them or hate them, preparing veggie burgers are simple and a great way to get a quick source of protein. Consider serving them with a side of baked zucchini fries. And maybe for dessert, a vegan banana and cacao smoothie.
Vegan Pizza Night:
Whether you make your own or purchase it pre-made from the health food store, eating pizza is something that both you and your family can agree on. Make it exciting by using different vegetable combinations, nut cheeses and spice it up a little with some cayenne or crushed peppercorns.
Vegan Not Fried Chicken Night:
Tofu, textured vegetable protein, seitan and the like can all be prepared in some form or another to mimic the taste and feel of fried chicken. If you prefer not to fry it you can most certainly bake this as well. Nutritional yeast flakes increases the health content to preparing this and taste divine when added as an ingredient to vegan not fried chicken.
Cultural Vegan Night:
On this night you would prepare your family cultural dish in a way that is vegan. There are many vegan recipes online for African foods, Middle Eastern foods, traditional American foods, Thai foods, Chinese foods, Hispanic foods…you get the idea. Preparing these types of dishes are great to serve at family gatherings when everyone will ask why you’re not eating the________ (fill in item that’s not vegan). This also lets everyone know you still love everything about them and the taste of the foods; it’s just that you now prefer it from a plant-based source.
A big part of adjusting to the vegan diet and lifestyle is that it will take time for you. If it takes time for you, it may take time for your loved ones as well. That’s the good thing about it: it’s a process that you can go through that others will see. When we do that process with love and openness; it’s that love and openness that will encourage others to consider and eventually live the vegan path as well.
Daud Scott is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner and is the owner of Natures First Path, a Holistic Nutrition practice. Daud lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and son. To learn more about Daud’s approach to health and wellness you can visit him at: www.naturesfirstpath.com