The decision to adopt vegan or vegetarian dietary habits or lifestyle may cause unnecessary drama with family and friends. "How will you get enough protein?!" they may protest. Then there are the ones that might say, "I like my meat n' potatoes," implying that you should be content with that fare as well. There will be the ones who rib you, whether they pass you the roast beef at dinner with a sly smile and an offer to serve you a slice or something else. Of course, the most important––and challenging––ones will be the ones with whom you live and the ones you love.
- 1Ignore the teasers. The ones who tease you are generally nothing to worry about, because they are often the ones who feel comfortable around you and care about you a great deal. At times you may become irritated at them because you feel they are getting on your back, but is important not to lash out at them. If you must make it known that they are getting on your nerves, make sure to do so so that they understand what you are doing is important to you and without becoming defensive. Ways in which to convey this might include:
- Saying, "I know that you are teasing me, but it is making me uncomfortable. Could you please stop, at least for a while? Having this diet (or lifestyle) is as important to me as (include something that they really like or care about) is to you, and I would appreciate it if you respected that as I try to respect (their thing)."
- Letting it slide for the time being. This is more effective and appropriate if you don't see each other often.
- 2Eat well and reassure people. Close family members, close friends, and intimate partners may become concerned that you will become less healthy by adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet, or that it will somehow impact your mood in a negative way. It is up to you to make sure you are well informed enough to keep yourself well-nourished, sufficiently fed so as not to get angry or spooky, and explain the basic reasons for what you are doing. Also remember that although you may have a new passion for food, your loved ones will most likely not and may be frightened, bored, or put off by constant talk of what you intend to put in your stomach.
- Nutritional information: Track how much protein you're getting. Often there are foods that must be combined in order for the amino acids to be absorbed as protein (for example, rice, beans, and corn). Also, if you are a woman, you must ensure that you have sufficient iron intake.
- Make sure you know the studies that support a vegan lifestyle, not just testimonials or the articles interpreting or citing the studies. Also know the ones that don't support it.
- You may have to take supplements, and you may have to backtrack to eating as a vegetarian or an omnivore. Do not be intimidated by the ones who say, "See, I told you so," but don't attack them either.
- 3Don't push your choices onto them. Unless the loved ones are willing to try a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, it will be rude and counterproductive (health goes down due to stress) to force them to eat vegan or vegetarian with you at every meal. Find ways to live comfortably with each other.
- You cook a vegetarian dinner. Once you're served, they can add meat to it.
- They eat meat at work during lunch, and eat vegan or vegetarian meals at home sometimes.
- During meals, one meat dish is prepared, along with some vegetarian dishes, and people can choose what to put on their plates.
2Explaining Your Lifestyle
You may find that you need to explain things often, especially to curious acquaintances and strangers.
- 1Explain briefly. Some people that you have just met may wonder how you could have given up bacon/steak. These people usually seem to accept a shrug and a short explanation of how you did it. If they are interested, they may ask for an explanation of your reasoning for why you became vegan or vegetarian or what your diet or lifestyle entails. Tell them what you are comfortable telling them.
- Be careful of talking about it too much. Their curiosity may be a way to invite a conversation, and conversation is never as fun when one subject is discussed too much.
- 2Keep your explanation casual and without judgment. People are more likely to respond badly if they feel that you're attacking their omnivore lifestyle. Make it clear that this was your personal choice, and you don't hold their diet against them.
- "I researched vegetarian lifestyle and found that it really fit me and my beliefs."
- "I was having some health issues and my doctor recommended going vegan."
- 3Learn to deal with the rude people. These are the strangers who are overly familiar, family and friends who go too far, and and so forth. Standard procedures apply:
- Ignore them.
- Laugh it off with a "Well, everyone's different."
- If they are persistent, stand up for yourself. Always be respectful when doing this, and never assume anything about them or be judgmental. Judgement, although tempting, invites full-blown fighting and hurt feelings. As important as food is, it is not worth it to make people feel bad about themselves.
3Eating With Your Family and Friends
- 1Get creative about how to prepare common meals. Make a pot of chili with everything except the meat, then divide it in half and the meat-eater can add their meat while the vegetarian/vegan adds something else, or eats it as is. This can be done with many soups, sauces, and "one-pot meals".
- 2Find suitable food when eating out. When choosing a restaurant, your meat-eating family and friends may become overly concerned that "we can't eat there" because they think there will be nothing for you at a particular place. Show them you're a good sport once in a while by telling them you can find something anywhere. Every place has salads, pastas, and side dishes in some forms, and you can ask the waitress to do whatever you need once you're inside. Even if that meal wasn't fantastic, smile and say it was fine afterwards if asked, and decide in your own mind if you'll skip that place next time or go there again.
- 3Eat out with others easily by becoming familiar with common substitutions. Most Chinese restaurants can make any meat dish with tofu instead. A Mexican cook can replace meat with beans for you. Some things are not always on the menu, for example, ask if a place has veggie burgers, then choose any style of burger and have it made as a veggie burger, or have it chopped and put over a fantastic salad that normally has chicken on it.
- 4Stay calm. When at a restaurant, undoubtedly the meat eaters who care about you will start telling you what you can eat (eg: "ooh, look! You can have a baked potato!"). This can be annoying, but rather than point out that you are not 3 years old and you can read a menu for yourself, just say, "Thanks, I got it". If you're close enough to joke with them, point out something they can eat, too, and maybe they'll get the hint that you are capable of choosing your own food.
- 5Invite your friends or family out to eat once in a while, or cook for them at home. Open their palates to food from other cultures by giving them a vegetarian/vegan meal that is delicious and filling, and leaves them smiling. They'll soon stop asking, "What do you eat?" if you give them great examples. Maybe they'll start to enjoy a Meatless Monday where you're the chef. They'll appreciate your knowledge more, and start to respect you and your decision.
- Be conscientious and respectful.
- Be well informed.
- If you are just now adopting one of these diets or lifestyles, remember that it is a big change, and may confuse the people you know.
- It is helpful to know that there are many different types of vegetarians and vegans: pollo-vegetarians (eat chicken but no fish), pescetarians (eat fish), ovo-vegetarians (eat eggs), lacto vegetarians (eat dairy products), conscientious vegetarians or 'flexitarians' (eat vegetarian in daily lives but may also eat meat at important events if there is nothing else, or occasionally eat something they consider a treat like venison), 'starchitarians' (thou knowest who thou art, thee who eats of pasta and candy all day), and vegans (no animal products at all, sometimes including honey). There are also vegetarian diets that are regulated by religion, and as such may allow certain animals to be eaten or not eaten along with some types of plants. (For example, early Catholics and other Christian denominations could eat puffins, dolphins and capybara during Lent because they were considered fish; strict Jains do not eat root vegetables because the harvesting process kills the plant.)