You’ve been doing your research and are really intrigued by the idea of a whole food, plant-based diet. Between the health benefits and the reduced risk of disease, you’re super excited about giving it a go and feeling really good in your skin. But what happens when the rest of your family isn’t on board? Kind of takes the wind out of your sails, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to though. I’m a big believer in not letting others hold you back from the life you want, especially when it comes to your health. To that end, this post is full of tips and tricks to help you stay on track when you’re the only plant-based superstar in the house.
Knowledge is power, my friend. It also helps to build confidence. Take some time to learn the ins and outs of a whole food plant-based diet. Nothing will kill your confidence faster than people throwing questions at you that you don’t know how to answer. Make sure you know where to get your nutrients and why animal products are not ‘ideal nutrition’. Then, when people start asking where you get your protein or telling you it’s unhealthy to eat this way, you can gently assure them that you’ve got it all covered.
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It’s really important to set your environment up for success. Ideally, this would be your entire kitchen. However, when you share your kitchen with people who don’t eat the same way you do, this can be a little tricky.
The key is to find a compromise that will work for you. Try to eek out a shelf in the fridge that is for your plant-based foods. Perhaps one cupboard can be dedicated to your plant-based staples. Anything you can do to avoid having to dig through processed foods and animal products to get to your own food will help to ensure your success.
As the Cook
Meal times can get a little tricky when you’re trying to feed multiple food preferences. However, it doesn’t need to be difficult. If you’re the main cook in the family, you can prepare plant-based meals. If someone else wants to add animal products to it, they can add that to their own plate. Don’t feel like you need to prepare it for them if that makes you uncomfortable. Especially for family members old enough to cook for themselves.
When I cook for my family, I cook with love. I show my love by preparing delicious plant-based foods that I think they will enjoy. Foods that will promote their healing and long-term good health. I can’t say the same for animal products and I don’t feel good about serving them to my family, so I don’t. I love them too much to serve them foods that promote illness and disease. Everyone has their own limits, this is mine. You may feel differently, just do what feels good to you.
While you’re preparing delicious, plant-based meals, aim to make things that would appeal to others in your household. If you all loved taco night, make some amazing plant-based tacos. If pasta is a family favourite, try a plant-based version. It’s a much easier sell if they are filling their faces with plant-based foods that they enjoy.
If You’re Not the Cook
If you don’t do the cooking for the family, it might be time that you start, at least cooking food items for yourself. If you don’t know how to cook, this is a great time to learn. Try working with the cook of the family, preparing some plant-based components that can make up your meal and provide side options for others. If this doesn’t work with your schedule, take some time on the weekend to batch cook some items to eat through the week. You can make this simple by making components that you can use in different ways. Perhaps a big batch of soup or stew to have a few times. As well as some roasted veggies, a legume, a grain and a dressing. This will leave you with components to put together wraps, bowls and other simple meals.
If you have to rely on someone else to cook your meals, try communicating with them about what a WFPB diet entails. Perhaps come up with a list of some common items the family eats that are plant-based already. Then work on some typical meals that only need some small tweaks to make them WFPB. Either setting a serving aside for you before adding animal products or perhaps adding the animal products separately for those who wish to eat them. The key here is to communicate openly rather than demanding that someone accommodate you. Explain why this is important to you in a kind and considerate manner. This will make others more willing to hear you out and help support you.
A little planning goes a long way. You should plan for situations that may be difficult for you. Perhaps there’s a busy night of the week for your family, a night where putting together a meal is difficult. Plan for these nights so you don’t end up grabbing whatever is available. Perhaps this means cooking something for yourself in advance, so you just have to heat and serve. Or maybe this is a night where you stick to the basics or a meal you can have on the go. The point is to plan for the potential pitfalls that you see coming.
Food has also become part of many social situations, whether with family or friends. Whether it’s a family movie night with popcorn and other treats, or a game night with snacks and appetizers. You know what traditions may crop up in your family that surround food. Plan for them. If everyone is watching a movie and passing around a bowl of chips, what snack would you grab for this scenario? If there’s a party or gathering happening, plan to make some items that you can enjoy as well.
Let the Results Speak for Themselves
Rather than focusing on converting the rest of your household, it can be more effective to say nothing. People generally don’t like to be told what to do, so if you’re constantly preaching to them, they’ll quickly tune you out. Instead, let the results speak for themselves. They will start to notice the changes caused by your healthier diet. Often these changes include weight loss, clearer skin, increased energy, and less illness. So, when they’re all passing around a miserable cold that magically skips you, trust me, they’re going to notice! This might be enough to open some minds, so be ready to answer some curious questions in a compassionate way.
Open communication is going to be essential for you to handle this situation harmoniously. Try to speak openly and compassionately with the rest of your family about why you want to make this change and what it means to you. Explaining your reasoning can help others understand where you are coming from. Just try to speak openly and avoid preaching or shaming those who aren’t willing. If they are open to it, you can always try watching a documentary like “Forks Over Knives” together as a family. It may not change their minds, but it will help them see your perspective.
It’s also helpful to talk about how you will handle this and what it will look like in day-to-day family life. Come up with a game plan together. This can help to ease tensions if everyone knows what to expect and they aren’t stressing over what might change for them.
Ask for Support
While you’re communicating openly with other members of your household, ask for their support. They don’t have to eat the same way you do to offer support. They can do this in many ways. Whether it’s setting aside a serving of vegetables for you before adding animal products to the dish or trying out meatless Monday together. Think about where you’re likely to need some support and ask for it.
Stand up for Yourself
I hope this bit of advice is not needed, but the reality is, it might be. Unfortunately, not everyone is as graceful and understanding of dietary preferences as they should be. This could lead to judgmental comments and ridicule. It’s important to nip this in the bud right away. While it’s always good to have a sense of humour, if the comments are mean-spirited or making you feel shameful of your decision, speak up! It’s perfectly acceptable to make your limits known and to help others understand that their judgement and ridicule are not acceptable.
I find it helps to understand that these negative comments aren’t about you. These often come about due to the cognitive dissonance they are experiencing. Your change for the better is wreaking havoc on their belief system and it’s something they need to work through. So, don’t take the blame and don’t accept any bullying behaviour. You deserve just as much compassion and respect as they do.
Find an Accountability Buddy
It can be hard to make a big change like this. It requires adjusting your mindset as well as your routines and habits. If there’s nobody at home that is willing to do this with you, try finding some support elsewhere. An accountability buddy can be a huge help. Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, or someone you connected with in an online group. The idea is to have someone to talk through your struggles with, celebrate your achievements with, and just generally be accountable to. If you feel accountable to someone, you’ll be less likely to throw in the towel and more likely to push through the difficult times.
The Bottom Line
It can be tricky to eat a whole food plant-based diet in a household full of people who don’t, but it’s not impossible. I hope the tips above help you navigate these sticky situations and approach your lifestyle with confidence. Communication is going to be key in most situations, so remember to communicate openly and with compassion. Everyone has their limits, so communicate them clearly and calmly to help maintain a harmonious home. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and find support from outside sources if you aren’t getting it at home. Everyone is on their own journey and you are entitled to yours, so you do you and don’t let anyone else hold you back.
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Feature Image: Photo by Johanna Dahlberg on Unsplash