Most people want to know if my family is vegan when they learn that I live a plant-based lifestyle. Many are surprised to learn that my husband and three kids are not vegan. When I went vegan over five years ago, it was an overnight, no-brainer decision after reading The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. I wanted the decision to be the same for my family, not because I forced them to adopt the lifestyle. Although my family admired and respected my choice, they did not want to join me on the vegan path. Once it became clear that my family was not going to adopt veganism with me, I had to figure out how to raise a happy and healthy vegan-omni(vore) household.
My goal is and continues to be to expose and educate my family about the vegan lifestyle with the intention that they will make informed, compassionate choices for themselves. Ideally, I hope they will come to adopt veganism on their own accord, but at the minimum, I know they will have the information and resources to make kinder choices. Ultimately, I hope that will lead them to where I am today.
In the meantime, our family is no different from other families, in that there are several dynamics to maneuver and varying personalities to navigate. Like any family, making our vegan/omni family work has much to do with ground rules. These 3 are must-haves in my home.
1. “Don’t yuck my yum.”
This is a phrase my family uses to explain that they shouldn’t put down someone else’s food (and ruin the experience) because they don’t like it. It also embodies the spirit of respect for each other’s choices even when you disagree.
My family is expected to taste and eat the vegan food prepared for them with an open mind and heart. This rule goes both ways. Although it pains me (physically) to watch my daughter gnaw at a plate of ribs, I am not respecting her choice to eat it if I glare and judge her the whole time she is devouring it. At the same time, my family respects my sensitivities and doesn’t shove it in my face when they are eating animal products.
2. Use separate cookware vegan and non-vegan food.
We have separate pans and cutting boards for meat, dairy, and fruits/vegetables. Everyone in the house knows to use the appropriate kitchenware depending on what they are cooking.
3. If you want it, you cook it (and clean it).
As the primary grocery shopper and cook in the house, my family knows that their meals are going to be vegan. I believe good food is good food no matter what it is, so I strive to prepare plant-based meals that are delicious and beautiful. I make the meals as fun and interactive as possible, and find that more often than not, no one complains about missing the meat (it is all the vegetables they complain about!). However, if someone does find they want to have meat with their meal, the rule is that they have to cook it themselves and clean the dishes that accompany it.
My advice to any family is to take some time to decide what you can and cannot live with. Then, sit down as a family and figure out what rules you can set up together that respect everyone’s needs and values. For more tips and strategies on navigating a vegan lifestyle, check out my eBook, VeegMama’s Guide To Going Vegan.
Dreyer family photo by Goofyfoot Photography.