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How to Be Vegan in a Non-Vegan Family: Tips for Adults

How to be a vegan in a non-vegan family? If you search the internet, you’ll find dozens of articles and YouTube videos covering this subject. However, when I was doing research for today’s post, I found that the majority of them share tips for vegan teenagers and young adults who have to deal with non-vegan parents and siblings.

But what do we do if we are the adults in our families? Say, you’re a mom or a dad who decided to go vegan, but got less than enthusiastic response from your family when you announced it. (“Go eat that rabbit food yourself, mom!”)

What to do if you're the only vegan in your family

So how do we make it work?

I’ve heard this question dozens of times, but haven’t discussed it here on the blog.

However, my goal with this website is to help people and families go vegan in a sustainable and enjoyable way. And it’s impossible to do that without covering the #1 issue most new vegans have to go through: dealing with family members who aren’t vegan (or haven’t gone vegan yet).

This is why I reached out to fellow vegan bloggers who’ve been (or still are) the only vegans in their families, and asked them for advice.

But first, let me tell you what this experience was like for me when I first went vegan in 2013.

If you’re just thinking about going vegan but aren’t sure where to start, see my post with tips on how to take your first steps when going vegan.

My Own Story

I decided to go vegan back in May of 2013. I was very much into working out and running (hence the name of this blog), so I was hoping that eating a plant-based/vegan diet would help me recover from hard workouts quicker.

At the time my husband Rob and I had been married for less than a year. It was still a few years before we had our daughter (she was born in 2017, and has been vegan since birth).

When I told Rob about my decision, he was a bit skeptical but otherwise OK. I made it a point not to pressure him into going vegan with me: I wanted him to have a chance to come to this decision on his own.

At first, we agreed that, as the main cook in our family, I would cook vegan at home. When we went out though, we’d order whatever each of us wanted. Interestingly, Rob often chose a vegan option, even when he could’ve ordered meat.

Early on, neither of us had expected that the world of vegan cooking would have so much abundance and variety. But as I spent more and more time on Pinterest, I kept finding amazing vegan recipes and websites. As a result, in my first month of going vegan I cooked a new dinner recipe every night, maybe repeating once or twice.

Since we’ve both always loved tasty food, it was nice to realize that we weren’t giving up on flavor by going vegan. We were happy to discover new cuisines and try new interesting dishes.

As time went on, Rob became less and less interested in eating non-vegan food. By the end of 2013 he decided to ditch animal products for good, and went vegan with me.

As you can see, my husband’s transition to veganism happened fairly quickly and uneventfully. I realize that this isn’t going to be the case for a lot of other vegans living with non-vegan family members.

So I asked a few fellow vegan bloggers to talk about what their experience of dealing with non-vegan relatives. I’ve summed up their responses below in the form of useful tips for going vegan in a non-vegan family.

See also: 5 mistakes most new vegans make (that will lead to quitting).

Attract with a positive example

Just like with anything in life, focusing on the positive always leads to better results. Instead of “guilting” your loved ones into going vegan, let’s show them how great being vegan can be.

Sarah from Sara’s Vegan Guide says:

“I’ve gone vegan 3 years ago, and my family was very skeptical at first. What I’ve noticed is that in this case, attractivism is the best form of activism.

After cooking a lot of delicious meals for them and showing them what vegan food can be, they have become a lot more understanding. They also sometimes cook vegan meals when I’m not around, which makes me so happy!”

How to help your family members go vegan with you: tips for grownups

See also: 10 plant-based staple foods every vegan needs to have in their pantry.

Create dishes everyone can enjoy

Food is one of the main aspects of vegan lifestyle that most people learning about veganism will experience first. (Some will never go past it, but that’s for a different post.)

That’s why cooking delicious vegan food that appeals to everyone remains one of the best ways to introduce veganism to our loved ones.

Connie from The Carrot Underground says:

“When I stopped consuming animal products 40+ years ago, I quickly realized the only way I was going to maintain a social life with my non-vegan family members and friends was to create beautiful, delicious & satisfying dishes we could all enjoy.

Over the years I have learned ways to successfully veganize traditional recipes making them so much better than before, and, in the process have inspired friends and family to kick the meat & dairy habit as well!”

Kristie from The Mostly Vegan says:

“Become the family chef! My husband doesn’t mind eating vegan food as long as he doesn’t have to do the cooking.”

Introduce new flavors and cuisines

One of the main reasons so many people refuse to go vegan is the belief that vegan diet is limiting. They believe that by going vegan they’ll be giving up their favorite foods.

As someone who’s been vegan for 8 years, I can attest that what we’re gaining by going vegan far outweighs what we’re giving up.

I often give this example. When omnivores talk of the “main thing” in their diet, a.k.a. meat, it’s always the same few kinds – chicken, beef, pork, lamb, fish, maybe turkey. There’s only so many dishes that can be created with them.

When we go vegan, we give up these six types of meats. But at the same time, we discover hundreds upon hundreds of edible plants that grow on our planet, and get a chance to try new amazing cuisines that use them.

Rachel from Health My Lifestyle says:

“[My family] have always enjoyed vegan food. It has opened them up to new flavors and cuisines that they didn’t know about before. They’ve started making vegan dishes on their own and reduced their consumption of animal products, which has been great.”

Nele from Nutriplanet says:

“Don’t make the plant-based meal a big deal. Just prepare the food and serve it. You can also market meatless meals as Mexican or Indian nights (cultures where there are a lot of vegetarian options.)”

See also: 20+ parenting resources for vegan families.

Cooking for non-vegan family

Offer non-vegan options on the side if necessary

No matter how much we may want our family members to go vegan with us, we have to respect their choices – otherwise our efforts may backfire.

If we want to maintain peace at the dinner table, we’ll need to be flexible. In a lot of cases this includes offering a non-vegan option.

Here are a couple examples of how this can be done without overcomplicating things.

Nele from Nutriplanet says:

“If you can’t persuade your family to eat plant-based at home, cook two dinners instead. Knowing [that] a balanced plate consists of ½ vegetables (raw and cooked), ¼ starches and ¼ protein, it’s easy to mix and match.

For example, while preparing a stew, steam some veggies for everyone and cook the meat/fish separately. For a curry, prepare your beans/lentils and again, cook the meat/fish on the side.”

Rachel from Health My Lifestyle says:

“…[In our family,] if another family member cooks, they know to serve the meat separate from the main dish so everyone can make their plate how they like it.”

Do some “rebranding”

In the past years there’s been a lot of back and forth about vegan diet and lifestyle in our culture. Unfortunately this created a situation when a lot of people start rolling their eyes as soon as they hear the V-word.

This is when some “rebranding” can come in handy.

Amanda from My Goodness Kitchen says:

“Take the word “vegan” off the table and just make really good food. ?”

See also: 20+ examples of what I put in my vegan toddler’s daycare lunchbox.

Don’t focus on negatives

When someone points out that certain things we’ve been doing all our lives are morally wrong, it’s hard for us humans to maintain our cool.

(Just look at human history. Or the 24-hour news cycle. Or comments section on popular websites.)

In connection to veganism, bringing up the positives (like feeling better when eating plant-based) will take us further than talking about the gore of slaughterhouses. (The latter is an important issue though – just maybe not in the first conversation about veganism you’ll have with your family.)

Rachel from Health My Lifestyle says:

“Sharing what I love about the lifestyle and not focusing on the negatives has helped my family to coming around to [accepting veganism]. I talk often about the health benefits and the environmental benefits when the topic comes up, but I never force the conversation.

I typically stay away from animal welfare because people have strong cognitive dissonance with it and tend to get defensive. Instead, I show them how great I feel eating this way and I always offer to cook when possible.”

Vegan in a non-vegan family: tips for adults on how to deal with non-vegan relatives

Show that being vegan goes beyond food

Vegan food is great – but there’s so much more to vegan lifestyle than just what we eat.

Gabriela from Conflicted Vegan says:

“When it comes to coexisting with my non-vegan husband, I made him understand that a vegan lifestyle is not a diet – it’s a way to achieve a better quality of living through nourishing food that is both healthy and delicious. And who knew that 4 years later our fridge now contains 90% vegan groceries and 10% omni.”

Be ready that it won’t always go your way

Being the only vegan in our families, we may try whatever we can to convince our loved ones to go vegan with us.

Or, maybe we’ll realize that the 100% vegan goal is unrealistic, and just try to figure out a way for everyone to co-exist peacefully.

Whatever goal we may have in mind, there’s a possibility that it won’t go our way.

Or, that it won’t go our way immediately. Especially if our family has always been the “meat and potatoes” people, and we’re trying to entice them to go full-on raw vegan.

Nele from Nutriplanet says:

“Don’t be offended when your family doesn’t like what you’ve cooked. As we all know, it might be that you need to practice your new way of cooking or that everyone’s taste buds (yours included) need to get adjusted to new flavours.”

Question for you: if you’ve been the only vegan grownup in your non-vegan family, what advice can you add to this list? Please share below!

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author avatar
Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats
Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Eventually she embraced veganism as a way to be kinder to fellow living beings and the environment. Alina hopes that this blog helps its readers on their path to becoming vegan and making this world a better place.


Friday 27th of August 2021

Part of the problem, though, is that being vegan isn't just about what (or should I say, WHO) you don't eat. Veganism isn't a diet, it's an ethical position against injustice. For the same reason I wouldn't allow my brother to abuse his children in my home, I wouldn't "serve him a victim on the side" who was also abused in order to turn him or her into "food." For the same reason I wouldn't "respect" my cousin who raises pit bulls for fighting and scours CraigsList for free bait kittens, I can't respect someone who chooses to harm in other ways.

Being vegan is MUCH more difficult in a non-vegan family than it is to simply eat a plant-based diet. Once you understand the difference between the *reason* for going vegan (justice for the animal victims) with the *benefits* of going vegan (improving our health, restoring the environment, reducing food insecurity, etc.), you begin to see how much more challenging it is to deal with the rejection of basic decency and ethics. The message is not that they don't want to eat plant-based because they don't care about being overweight or unhealthy; they're saying they simply don't care about the pain and suffering of others.

Who wants to be around that?

Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Monday 13th of September 2021

That's the dilemma of convincing someone to go vegan: how do we help them understand the suffering of animals that are grown to be eaten, yet stay non-judgmental towards the choices that person has been making all their life? "Laying it on thick" is notorious for putting people off from ever considering a switch to veganism. It's a fine line that all vegans walk. We're all doing (or at least trying to do) our best.