Happy Herbivore Blog

Getting Your Family On Board with a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Related to yesterdays post, Plant-Based Meals for Meat Eaters, I wanted to address another common question: How to get your partner, or parent, or child -- or best friend, on board with a plant-based (vegan) diet.

In my experiences, I've had 0 converts when I pushed or tried preach to someone why they should adopt a plant-based (vegan) diet. 

I'm of the persuasion you can lead the horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

So how, then, do you get them involved and inspired to make a change?

1. lead by example

2. spark a curiosity 

3. answer questions and educate

4. feed them really good food

Back when I first changed my diet, I brought muffins into work and no one would try them because the 'office vegan' had made them... I remember trying to hand one off and someone said "sorry no, I'm not adventurous enough." The next week I brought in a banana bread (the one from the happy herbivore cookbook) and left it in the common area.

By lunch, the bread was gone and I sent out an office-wide email sharing the recipe. No one could believe that they'd eaten (and liked!) vegan food---and something that was also fat-free and healthy. Everyone's attitude changed that day and anytime I brought something in, everyone happily tried it.

I also sparked a curiosity.My coworkers started asking me questions, started scoping out what I was eating. This gave me the opportunity to kindly inform them why I did what I did (and they always found it interesting and convincing) and help create a positive image about this lifestyle. 

By the time I left that job, one girl had committed to eating vegetarian until dinner and many of my other coworkers were regularly eating vegan and vegetarian meals on their own -- taking my recipes home to their families and asking me to bring more food in to the office. Such a change from refusing the muffins!

Know this: If you've having a great time, are happy and really enjoying what you are doing (eating), chances are it will spark a curiosity -- and once that seed is planted, you can nurture it.

I was talking to a friend recently who is now vegetarian (eating mostly vegan) and she said that seeing me, and some other friends, going nuts over our meals at restaurants, that she started asking for a bite to see what the fuss was all about, and she discovered, hey the food is pretty good! and then she'd ask us questions about what we ate and how we lived and why we did what we did, which we'd always answer... and the information motivated her even more... all of those experience together, eventually motivated her to make a change.

Remember: It's a marathon.... slow and steady. 

Lead by example. Educate (but don't preach) and Feed them.

For the love of muffins, feed them. and every time they try something, thank them.

Another good tip: (This was left in the comments yesterday) -- offer up bite-size samples, that way they are only committing to a bite and most people will try one bite of anything if you offer it with a smile!

The first step in sparking change happens with one tasty bite!

Plant-Based (Vegan) Meals for Meat Eaters

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

This same question kept popping up on Happy Herbivore this week. 

First Diane asked, "I make dishes for myself separate from my family, unless it's your muffins or cakes, which they eat. I was wondering if you have any tips on how to make my family eat the same as me without them feeling like they are giving up something and resenting me for it?"

Then Ember asked, "Any tips on cooking meals for a non veg husband without cooking 2 separate meals? He is very flexible. I thought someone might have good recipes that are easy to add a meat portion to on the side?"

and many others along those lines.

Here is my advice:

1. Serve something that is familiar, and

2. Inherently plant-based (vegetarian)

That means picking meals that don't involve meat substitutes. I love gardein and lentil loaves and seitan, but I recognize that they're a little weird and strange to a newcomer, especially if that newcomer loves his or her meat products and identifies them self as a "carnivore." 

You should also skip over anything that involves tofu unless the tofu is hidden. (People are often afraid of tofu or put off by it. I know I was, even when I was a vegetarian.) 

Anytime I go to a party where the food is vegan but not all of the guests are, I notice the omnivores (especially those totally new to vegan fare) tend to huddle around things like fruit salad, bean dip, chips and salsa, hummus and veggies. That's because these are "safe" foods. Some might dare label them "normal" foods. Point is, they are foods we're all familiar with.

It doesn't even really matter about the whole herbivore vs. carnivore thing. Most people are pretty timid about trying something new so serve up a dish they already know and love.

Not only will this create a harmonious meal time, it'll open up their eyes to how awesome plant-based (vegan) fare can be and help dissipate the notions that vegans subsist on weird foods, iceberg lettuce salads and smelly boca burgers.

Everyone loves Mexican food so Mexican dishes are always a safe bet. Black beans, pinto beans, rice, salsa, guacamole---rock on! My husband's boss was over for dinner last night and I created a build-your-own-nachos bar with chips, tomatoes, black beans, corn, jalapenos, green chilis, black olives, guacamole, salsa, Mexican Chorizo (p. 147 HHC) and Mexican Quick Queso (p. 263 HHC).

I know serving the chorizo goes against my "rule" but Scott said his boss really loved taco meat, so I thought it was a safe bet since it would be slipped in with everything else... which brings me to my next point.

The more you know about the person you're feeding, the easier this is. If you know what they like or don't like, you can cater around that.

Next up, pasta. Pasta is also a crowd pleaser (and really easy!). Never forget that a beautiful pasta dish can really go a long way! 

Another good thing about pasta: If someone wants to add meat or cheese to it, they can. I went to a dinner party once where the host served a really wonderful pasta dish that was inherently vegan, but she'd left a plate of grilled chicken and a bowl of shredded cheese on the counter so the other guests could add it to their helping. 

Vegetable casseroles are also generally well received, along with soups and stews. Even bean chilis tend to go over well, especially when they are served with cornbread.

I've complied a list of all the dishes I've served my rather skeptical family and friends in hopes that it will help you feed yours.

I also recommended the Mexican Dip (p. 230 HHC) to Diane and she reported back that her husband and two teenage sons LOVED it and couldn't get enough. 

A Herbie also sent this email in: Tonight I made your black bean burgers... and as a precaution some beef burgers for my kids. Guess which burgers were left over, not even touched. The neighbors dog will be happy!

Top 10 Vegan Dishes to Feed Omnivores:

  1. Sweet & Spicy Butternut Soup (p. 59)
  2. Creamy Carrot Soup (p. 62) <-- good chilled too, btw!
  3. Chili Sans Carne (p.81) & Cornbread (p. 49)
  4. Chickpea Tacos (p. 97)
  5. Portobello Steaks (p. 148)
  6. Vegetarian Delight (p. 116)
  7. Cheater Pad Thai (p. 117)
  8. Hawaiian Chickpea Teriyaki (p. 127)
  9. Tamale Casserole (p. 167)
  10. Chickpea Noodle Soup

For the Love of Food

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

To sort of piggy back on my earlier post about dealing with negativity, this post is for Dave, who left this comment on the blog:

Dave said: "Please write a blog about how everyone treats us "Happy Herbivores" like we are freaks or something that don't like food."

Let me start by saying, I am guilty of sometimes forgetting what I was like as an omnivore. I've only eaten a plant-based (vegan) diet for 5 years. Five years ago I was a vegetarian and a year before that I was an omnivore. Six years wasn't that long ago...

Yet it feels like a lifetime ago --- many, many lifetimes ago. Sometimes I'm in total denial and pretend like I've been a happy herbivore my entire life (I wish!)

Point is, when I was an omnivore, I was a horribly picky eater. Impossible even. My mom will tell you horror stories and Scott will too. 

I wouldn't try anything new or out of the ordinary. At least not with ease and optimism.

I can distinctly remember Scott asking me to go to an Indian restaurant once and I said something awful like "ew gross! I don't want to eat curry!" and now, Indian is one of my most favorite cuisines to cook - and eat. I feel really bad about that, still.

I am always quick to tell people that I eat a much wider variety of food now than I ever did as an omnivore. 

I'm also quick to try new things and explore new cuisines. Since adopting a plant-based diet I've fallen in love with Ethiopian, Thai and Indian foods -- three cuisines I'd have never - ever - tried as an omnivore. I was really missing out! 

When I adopted this diet something happened deep inside of me. I became a foodie. Someone who loved food. 

I used to go to a restaurant and I'd sit there angry and frustrated because not a single item on the menu appealed to me -- even though every option was a possibility.

Now when I find myself at a veg restaurant, where again every option is a possibility, it takes every effort to hold myself back from ordering everything. I have been known to order several entrees because I just couldn't limit myself to one.

My, my how the tables have turned. 

I love food more now as a herbivore than I ever did as an omnivore. I eat more variety now than I ever did as an omnivore and I never quite enjoyed a meal as much as I do now. 

For the love of food!