Are you wondering how to handle being vegan when your family members are not? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Many people are facing this challenge right along with you. So I’m sharing my top 4 tips, along with the perspective of my friend, Annette Harris Powell, who went vegan a few years ago (with a little help from me), while her husband and children did not. The picture above is of me and Annette at Amherst College in 1986, that fateful year that Dick Gregory came to campus to give his vegan lecture that would ultimately influence both of our lives.
To start, here are my 4 top tips for going vegan when your family isn’t joining you:
My first tip is to be confident and sure about why you’re going vegan. Is it for your health, the animals, the environment, the planet, spiritual practices, or other reasons? Whatever your reasons are, be sure you’re committed to them. This will help you stand on firm ground as you face the initial challenges that may come your way as you transition to veganism but your family is not.
My second tip is to find a strong support system outside of your family members. That fact is that even though your family may not be going vegan with you, there’s no need to be on your vegan journey alone. Look to your inner circle of close friends. Are some of them already vegan, going vegan, or otherwise very supportive? If so, that’s wonderful! Look to each other for ongoing support during your transition and beyond.
You can also seek out support by joining your local vegan Meetup group online and in person (when it’s safe to do so again). Or if there’s no vegan Meetup in your area, consider starting one yourself. You might be surprised at how many like-minded people you can help bring together to share vegan activities. And of course, stay with the 10,000 Black Vegan Women movement as we officlally launch our online program in October.
My third tip focuses on cooking. If you’re the one who cooks most of the meals for the family, you may want or need to make some adjustments to accommodate both your vegan food and your family’s omnivore (plant and animal) food. So for example, that could mean making a curry vegetable stir-fry over brown rice for everyone, and adding chickpeas, cashews or tofu on top for you, and meat on top for them. Or it could mean making two separate meals altogether. It also might mean that your partner and/or children may need to cook or help to cook more of their omnivore meals. You have to do what works best for you and your family’s circumstances. But the goal here should be to ensure that you’re taking care of your cooking needs as a new vegan first, especially during the transition period.
My fourth tip is about what to do if you want your family to go vegan with you. I would really encourage you to focus first on yourself and be an example. As a new vegan, you may want your loved ones to know how healthy plant foods are; how unhealthy animal foods are; how terrible conditions are for animals on factory farms; how harmful factory farms are for workers, nearby residents, and the planet; the inequity of our food system, and more.
But even with all that urgency, it’s important to first be an example. If your loved ones ask about veganism, then cook vegan food with or for them; visit vegan restaurants together; and talk, watch films, read books, and go to vegan events together. If they want to learn more for themselves and be supportive of you at the same time, that’s great. If they don’t, just continue on your vegan journey and let things flow organically. You never know when you might inspire them!
And for more on how to put this into practice, here’s what Annette had to say:
MY INTERVIEW WITH ANNETTE HARRIS POWELL
TM: How long have you been vegan and how old were your children when you went vegan?
AHP: I’ve been vegan for 5 years. My son, Cole, was 16 and my daughter, Ella, was 11… They weren’t very young at the time.
TM: What thoughts helped you to commit to going vegan when your family was not joining you?
AHP: I thought that life is too short and that I’m trying to take care of me and what I put into my body… I didn’t think that my husband and children should feel compelled to eat what I was eating because this was my journey. This was something I was doing for me. I also believe in exploring different things that make life more interesting, [and by going vegan], I’ve introduced myself and them to new ways of thinking about ourselves.
TM: What have been some of the challenges with being vegan when your family is not?
AHP: Although my family has grown to like some vegan foods — and they’ve actually fallen in love with a few dishes — there are still some small challenges. It takes a lot more time to grocery shop because I’m shopping for them and for me. Also, I often have to guard many of the ingredients that I buy that are specific to my meals, because otherwise they might get used or completely eaten by my family, including snacks and specific fruits that I might use for breakfast. For example, my daughter, who never really liked apples, has developed an affinity for them. My son now asks for bagels only if he can use Miyoko’s cream cheese. And my husband has suddenly discovered dates! He always says my vegan food looks so good.
TM: Since you cook most of the food for your family, how do you handle preparing vegan and non-vegan meals?
AHP: I mostly make separate vegan and omnivore meals. Or I make vegan sides with vegan and meat main dishes.
TM: Are there any tips you would give women who are going vegan when their family is not?
AHP: Do you! All you can do is explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing.
TM: Has your being vegan inspired your family to eat more vegan meals?
AHP: Yes, all of them have definitely been more influenced to eat vegan meals. My son, especially, has taken a big interest in vegan cuisine and most often prefers plant-based meals.
Thanks to Annette for sharing her perspective. And now I’d love to hear from YOU! Are you the only vegan in your family? How are you managing it? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments below.