Guest blog by Clarissa Hauber, Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) Intern*
If there is one similarity that I have noticed from my own vegan journey and from talking to my vegan friends about their journeys – it’s that living in a meat-eating household was among each of our greatest concerns when adopting the vegan lifestyle.
We worried that our parents wouldn’t support us, that we wouldn’t know how to cook for ourselves, and that maybe, we would be too tempted by our non-vegan pantries to sustain the lifestyle change. In my case – having been used to my dad’s excellent cooking skills and my mom’s Sunday grocery shops – I questioned if I would even be able to keep up with my cooking and with my grocery shopping. Though, with research, good communication, newfound independence, and ambition, being vegan in a meat-eating household became a “new normal” for me in no time. And it certainly can be for you too.
Research – an incredibly important aspect of developing a vegan lifestyle, whether you live surrounded by meat or not. Before you take on the challenge of going vegan in a meat-eating household, you should develop a solid understanding of the adjustments you will be making to your life.
Start with websites such as PETA, The Vegetarian Resource Group, One Green Planet, and Medical News Today. Take the time to understand the benefits of the diet – environmental, physical, and ethical. Acknowledge the importance of your nutrition intake. Which foods will be your sources of protein, of calcium, iron – a vegan donut might make a cute Instagram post, but that doesn’t mean it’s a dependable nutrition source. Understand the foods that you will be adding or eliminating from your diet. Try making a list of the non-vegan, staple foods in your home, and then vegan alternatives next to them. For example, say every Friday night is “Taco Night” in your house – think of some alternatives for ground beef and cheese. Maybe a tortilla filled with scrambled tofu can be your Friday night, “Taco Night.”
Once you have a better understanding of why and how you will go vegan, it is time to communicate with the people you live with.
The first question they might ask you is, “why?” Explain to them why it’s a choice you want to make. Share with them the research you have conducted. Are you going vegan to help combat climate change? Are you outraged
by the treatment of animals in the agriculture industry? Or, do you believe in going vegan as an effort against world hunger? Try providing them with a detailed explanation of why veganism matters to you so that your family can do their best to understand and support you. However, you should not expect that they will cater to your vegan needs – they will likely continue eating meat. It is important to remain patient with those you live with throughout your vegan journey. They might not understand your choice, and that’s perfectly okay. But remember – going vegan is your choice, not theirs.
Going vegan in a meat-eating household will require a new sense of independence.
Being the only vegan in your home, you will no longer rely on anyone for your grocery shopping or cooking. Whether grocery shopping alone or with a family member, you will be responsible for acquiring the foods that you need as a vegan. Furthermore, it is unlikely that your parents will be cooking a vegan alternative for every meal your family eats. This means, if you cannot cook yet, you should probably learn. Not that you need to become a master chef by any means but knowing how to cook a handful of vegan meals will make your life a whole lot easier. And with time, your cooking skills will improve, allowing for greater diversity in the meals you eat.
Finally, remember why you decided to become vegan – hold on to that.
Keep the ambition that you started this journey with. Being the only vegan in a meat-eating household will not always be easy, and there might be occasions that lead you to question this choice. Not to mention, meat can be tempting for some new vegans, so in order to resist the temptation of meat in your home is to remember your “why” and to carry your ambition with you throughout this journey.
Some words of advice from two of my vegan friends – who also happened to go vegan in meat-eating homes:
- “Some people might believe that once you go vegan family dinners are no longer possible – this isn’t true. It is easy to cook vegan dishes or side dishes that everyone can share and enjoy. Those who desire meat can add a meat product to their own meals. Or, if possible, the meat and dairy products can be left on the side. As a vegan, you don’t always have to cook something or eat something entirely separate from the rest of your family. (Abbey, age 17)”
- “When I first became vegan, it was a challenge seeing my whole family eat things I couldn’t eat and smelling all the foods my mom would make that I couldn’t have. However, what helped me was to always incorporate my spin onto the dishes my family would make. For example, if my family were eating burgers or pizza, I would make myself a vegan counterpart – this allowed me to enjoy eating meals with my family, even as a vegan. (Lili, age 17)”
*This blog post first appeared 10/26/2020 at the Vegetarian Resource Group’s website. Thanks to VRG and Clarissa Hauber for permission! The contents of this posting, the Vegetarian Resource Group’s website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.
For related articles, see https://www.vrg.org/teen/#family