It’s tempting to natter on non-stop when you make a change you’re really excited about — like going vegan or vegetarian. However, the reality is that not everyone wants to hear about it. Many people have reservations about cutting animal products out of their diet, which is understandable when you were raised to eat a certain way, or they believe in persistent stereotypes (vegan or not, we’re all familiar with the unoriginal jokes).
When you hear myths about your lifestyle, the urge to correct people and fight your corner is strong, but it’s tricky — sometimes you get a little too into it and the person feels attacked, rather than inspired, and some people just don’t want to know, no matter how polite you are.
In my experience, the best way to help your loved ones understand your point of view is to open their eyes to just how good plant-based meals can be. You’ll be answering their questions and sharing your favourite recipes before you know it.
(Here, plant-based is used to cover veganism; vegetarianism; the more traditional definition of a plant-based diet, when plant-derived foods are the main focus, and even flexitarianism if you’re making a conscious effort to reduce your intake of animal products.)
1. Order a vegan or vegetarian option at a restaurant
I mean, you’re going to do this anyway, but it’s a good chance to show them how accessible plant-based meals are becoming, without having to say a word. Both chain and independent restaurants are making vegan and vegetarian food mainstream, with vegan options at Zizzis, Wetherspoons, and even Toby Carvery (of all places. If they can do it, there’s no excuse for anyone else).
I prefer to support independent businesses over chains when I can, but sometimes it’s easier to keep everyone happy if you visit a place you all know. Small steps.
You could also head to pub, although I find they go one of two ways. Either there’s an inventive veggie menu with lots of fresh, local produce, or they’ve very traditional and you end up chowing down on a bowl of chips rather than eat another bloody mushroom risotto.
I recently met my parents at one of my locals and was very happy when they both ordered vegan starters and mains, even though there were omni options on the menu, too.
2. Take your friends and family to your favourite food spots
Independent eateries need our support more than ever, so what better way to boost their business than by visiting them regularly and bringing a potential customer? It never hurts to spread the word.
I like to catch up with friends and family in a cute little vegan cafe that’s tucked away in my hometown, where they make everything from green smoothies and soy ice cream milkshakes to filling lunches and tasty cakes. It always goes down well and I regularly get requests to head back there.
3. Cook for them
If you don’t fancy going out, or want to save money by staying in, cooking for your loved ones is a great option.
I like simple, one-pot dishes where I can chuck everything into the same pan and leave it to do its thing. Tried-and-tested classics like vegetable curries and pastas work well — the meal will often end with someone saying ‘This is vegan?!’
I wouldn’t recommend tricking anyone, but as long as you’re open about all the ingredients and take allergies into account, you don’t necessarily need to highlight that you’re making a vegan or veggie dinner. It’s just… dinner.
The best thing about inviting everyone to eat at yours is that it can be as chilled or as fancy as you like. My favourite evenings are the ones where you all sit in your pyjamas and stuff your faces on the sofa, but it’s also fun to set the table nicely and make an event of it. Whatever works for you.
Basically, let the food do the talking. Some people still assume plant-based food is dull and tasteless, or that a meal isn’t complete without meat or fish, but that’s just not the case if you put thought (and plenty of seasoning) into it. The proof is in the eating.
What dish do you use to impress your friends and family? Let me know.
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Beth, 25, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travel, gin, and the Oxford comma.
I write about cruelty-free beauty, vegan & veggie food, and trying to lead a less wasteful life. I throw the odd think piece in there, too.