[Updated and expanded Post originally posted on Sept 8, 2015] Are you the only vegan in your house? Are you making meals for both the non-vegans in your family and yourself? If so I applaud you. I know it can be harder to stay on your path if you are surrounded by meat and dairy and your family isn’t ready to join your vegan journey. If this is your situation and you are struggling to figure out how to keep everyone fed and satisfied, here are 5 suggestions for eating and cooking vegan in your non-vegan family that will help to keep everyone happy. Hopefully you’ve let your family know about what you are doing and why. And maybe at least some of them are supportive.
Tip #1. Think of the side dish as your main dish.
If your family is eating something like baked chicken, where the animal product is a dish in and of itself, the side dish can easily become your main dish. A large kale salad can be paired with almost anything. A dish like Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage is another good option. Choose a dish that will be filling and satisfying to you. Be sure to make enough for you to have a larger portion so that you get enough.
For more recipe ideas check out the main dish recipes, the side dish recipes, and the salad recipes here on the site. Many are suitable for side dishes for your non-vegan family and will make a perfect main dish for you.
Tip #2. Make it vegan first.
When making a dish that combines the animal product with the veggies or starch such as spaghetti or stir-fry, look for ways to make it vegan first. Cook the meat portion on the side (if necessary) and add it to the completed dish after you get your portion out. You might just serve the meat separately all together. Then those who want it can add it on their plates.
Tip #3. Serve all vegan meals as often as you can, maybe 1-3 times per week.
You don’t even have to tell anyone it’s vegan. Many meals will satisfy all of you. Pasta dishes are good choices. Lentils or beans and soups or stews are also good. With all the plant-based dairy and meat alternatives available now you can recreate many of your family favorites without the animal products. Do some exploring to find ones that you and your family like best.
Getting your family used to eating and enjoying non-animal based meals will be better for all involved. Just be sensitive and do your best not to push it or make a big deal about it. You are aiming for a gradual shift in awareness and tastes.
You don’t even have to say “Today we are eating vegan!” Just serve your meal the same as you would any other meal. If they notice you can acknowledge today is meat free. You won’t always get a great reaction. In my previous marriage, during one of my attempts to eat more vegetarian meals, my then husband promptly got up from the table and went to the fridge to find some meat when he found out the meal he had been happily eating was vegetarian. 😯
Tip #4. Have options.
Any dish that allows your family to “build their own” is perfect for providing options without meaning you have to cook multiple meals. Serving burgers or chicken sandwiches? Have a veggie burger or ckick’n patty option along with the “regular” version. Create a taco or burrito buffet where everyone can add the fillings of their choice. Cooking on the grill? Place a vegan alternative or some vegetables to grill on a separate rack or in a pan. Pizza? How about smaller pizzas that allow for several different versions to be created.
Providing options will allow for the non-vegan members of your family to give the vegan versions a try with less risk or commitment.
Tip #5. Plan for left-overs.
Make a double or triple batch of a vegan favorite. Then you can eat that on a day where your family’s meal is not vegan friendly. Pack up a few servings to stock your freezer with things you can pull out for yourself when needed. These leftovers can also be great for taking to work for lunch.
Being the only vegan is your household can be a challenge. But also being the family cook opens the way for making sure you get your needs met and all of you are happy and satisfied. Try these 5 tips to make eating and cooking vegan when your family does not work fir everyone in the house.
Make sure you have support. As a vegan lifestyle coach I help my clients find the solution that works best for their family. You can find vegan groups to join online or through Meetup.com. Look for vegan or vegetarian associations in your area. There are Black Vegan Societies in several locations around the country. Attend vegan events and festivals, and frequent vegan restaurants to meet others who you can reach out to so you don’t feel isolated.
Do you have a suggestion to add? Leave us a comment below.
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