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How to be vegan when your family is not

Guide, tips, and resources.

Living with non-vegan family and wondering how to be vegan when your family is not? This guide offers powerful tips, free resources & support.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
How to be vegan when your family is not
Last updated on January 11, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on August 17, 2021.

Sometimes when you get a wake-up call or open your eyes towards the truth, you can get really excited.

How to be vegan when your family is not

It feels like you’ve finally come in touch with something really important, authentic, and wonderful. Unfortunately, the world around you doesn’t always immediately change the way you do.

This is especially true for those who’ve seen the reasons why going vegan is great! But how can you be vegan when your family is not?

What if you are surrounded by people who don’t share the same values or support your choice at all? When you have to swim against a stream of arguments as to why you’re doing something useless, maybe even harmful?

In this article, we focus on everyday challenges as well the more widespread topic of making peace with the fact that you cannot change others.

Tips for going vegan

Perhaps you’ve come to this article to see whether it’s possible to be vegan with a non-vegan family but you haven’t made the transition yet. No problem!

We have created a lot of helpful content that will help you transition to a vegan diet or start a more plant-based diet for now.

Perhaps you want to go vegetarian first, then look into going dairy-free and find some delicious vegan food swaps before taking the plunge!

If you’re wondering if a vegan diet is healthy, find our easy-to-understand vegan food pyramid here which includes free downloads for how to meet your nutritional needs. You can also find lots of vegan doctors advocating for this way of eating!

In fact, many health organizations and professionals (including the largest group of nutrition experts, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) have come to the conclusion that vegan diets may be more beneficial to avoid certain chronic diseases compared to non-vegan eating styles.

Vegan Calculator What's your environmental impact of living vegan? Calculate your Saves

So, get a pen and paper, write down your first vegan grocery list and see how to make a great vegan breakfast here before trying these beginner-friendly vegan meals!

These are the basics for going vegan (even with non-vegan families). Let’s move on to how to the question of being vegan when your family is not!

How to be vegan when your family is not

We hope that the following 5 tips will help you feel less alone, frustrated, or even like giving up. Most of us have been there and we highly encourage you to join our free community and vegan online course to get support and even more tips or ammunition.

1. Education

First off, it’s essential that you get to know the reasons behind the whole idea of eating plant-based foods and switching to a vegan lifestyle.

Your personal emphasis can range from not harming any animals, to protecting the environment, getting healthier, losing weight, or becoming fitter.

There are endless reasons for taking on this path. When you get behind all of this and grow a knowledge base, you can easily refute their arguments with actual science and proof.

Should I go vegan? Wondering if you should become vegan? Take this quiz and we'll tell you if you should become vegan. Start Quiz

You’ll get more confidence, motivation to eat a healthy vegan diet and you’re prepared for any half-baked statement coming your way.

2. Compassion

Up until recently, you’ve probably consumed animal products yourself. You didn’t know any better, or you didn’t have the means to do any better.

Just because things haven’t fallen in place for others to see that not harming animals and therefore not purchasing animal products is within their own moral framework, doesn’t mean they are bad people!

Especially because it is so normalized to eat, wear and use animals, it can take quite some time to make the connection and go vegan for good.

No wonder your non-vegan family thinks you might be crazy, get sick, or are just following some ominous trend.

By changing your lifestyle, you show everyone around you that it is possible to sustain and be happy without any animal products which can provoke feelings of jealousy or have them think you feel superior.

Opening their eyes to reality and truth can be painful and come with many consequences – not everyone is there yet, and that is okay. You should allow them to arrive at their own time and pace.

How to start a plant-based diet (12 great tips)
Suggested read: How to start a plant-based diet (12 great tips)

3. Mealtime & shopping

This part hugely depends on whether you are an adult in a family of non-vegans who is in charge of the food or the underage child who has to eat what’s put in front of them.

If you’re a parent and usually prepare food for the whole family, start by writing down all of the meals that everyone loves. From pasta to soups, casseroles, or pizza — anything goes!

Now, find replacements for the non-vegan ingredients in these meals. Margarine instead of butter, soy milk instead of dairy milk, mock meats or lentils instead of beef, and so on.

You can replicate well-loved meals in a fully plant-based version that way! Find our tips for vegan meal planning here and check out some crowd-pleasing meal prep-friendly vegan recipes here.

Let each non-vegan family member add their favorite toppings like cheese on your vegan pasta or whatever else they don’t feel okay with you replacing.

If you’re a child or teenager with non-vegan parents, let them know that you’re happy to help out with cooking or shopping for food! Perhaps you’re free to try some vegan replacements like vegan cheese or soy milk or suggest that you can buy them with your own money for now.

Many everyday staple foods are already vegan, such as potatoes, pasta, bread, fruits, veggies, or beans. You can create a super budget-friendly vegan diet with little mock meats if this is more within your means!

Suggested read: Whole-foods, plant-based diet: A detailed beginner's guide

4. Clear communication

Since every person and every family is different, you need to find the best approach to talk to the ones around you yourself.

Let your non-vegan family know why it is important to you to follow a vegan lifestyle and that you don’t want to pressure them to do the same but ask for some respect in regards to this choice.

You may want to make a list of your reasons first that you can show them and reinforce that their lives don’t need to change just because you’re pouring almond milk on your cereal in the morning!

Perhaps watching some YouTube videos together or sitting down to a documentary about what’s behind our food choices can support your new lifestyle choice and underline the fact that this isn’t just a “phase.”

If your parents are non-vegan and get worried about their child becoming malnourished, suggest seeing a doctor or RD together and get some bloodwork done.

5. Social events

Invited over to a dinner party or grandma’s house? That’s always a little challenging. Especially when you’re a vegan newbie and not everyone knows about your lifestyle change yet or is accustomed to it.

Let’s face it, many people simply forget about the current dietary preferences of their friends and family members, especially since there often is a lot of changing from one fad diet to the next these days. You can’t blame them here.

So, definitely make the effort and tell the host about your dietary needs. Offer to bring some food or tell them about easy dishes they can make vegan-friendly if they want to cook for you!

We love to prepare a huge batch of our favorite food and bring it along for everyone to try. The experience of it tasting delicious, despite the lack of animal products, can be eye-opening.

Suggested read: Raising your kids vegan

6. Don’t stress yourself

Being very strict about what you do and don’t eat can not only lead to a lot of awkwardness and discussions with people around you but also make you unhappy or even obsessed.

Especially if these food choices might result in shouting matches over animal welfare!

If you aren’t fully vegan yet and get invited from a non-vegan family for dinner, you can decide to be “as vegan as possible” in these situations. Control your food whenever you can easily control it before you’ve gained the confidence to ask others to provide vegan food for you!

Most people ease into a new way of eating and living, so why not do the same? Whenever someone made an effort to prepare vegan food for you but forgot that vegans don’t eat eggs, you can still thank them and eat the meal.

Whenever someone at a restaurant messes up your order and sprinkles parmesan on your pasta, you can still eat the meal if you want, and don’t stress out about it!

Slow change is totally fine and you don’t need to become a vegan activist right away!

7. Connection

If you’re not lucky enough to have vegans or at least vegetarians in your family or circle of friends, you can always go online and reach out to like-minded people.

Back when I chose to become vegan, I didn’t know a single person who was thinking the same way I did!

But luckily, there were a couple of forums and even a few YouTube channels that made me feel less alone. For the first year or so, these were the only motivators I had to keep me going.

Today, there are endless possibilities and platforms where you can find food buddies, meet up in person, organize an event, and so much more.

Sharing tips, tricks, and even personal struggles can be very beneficial to you as well as the whole community! By learning from each other, inspiring and motivating, you will be a lot more successful and create real friendships.

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