Elena Orde, speaking from experience, gives her top tips on how teens and young adults can demonstrate to their family that, by going vegan, they're making a positive change for life.
Alongside all of the positive aspects of living at home as a teen or young adult, a downside can be the lack of autonomy. In this kind of situation it’s easy to feel like you have restrictions which hinder you from being yourself and making your own choices. In fact, this is true of anyone living in a household where they don’t have financial independence.
Many younger people curious about veganism worry about whether they will be able to make the switch while still living at home, in a non-vegan environment – and I was one of them. I anticipated watching idyllic family meals from the sidelines, occasionally being thrown a carrot stick by my laughing family. You’d never guess that I’ve sometimes been accused of over-thinking.Thankfully, this bizarre situation didn’t happen, and definitely won’t happen to you! However, it is still useful to follow these five tips so that your vegan journey and your home life will all be plain sailing.
1) Lay the foundations
Identify the most open minded members of your household and let them in on your growing awareness of animal rights issues, and the many benefits of cutting out animal products. This way it won’t come as so much of a surprise when you introduce the topic of veganism, and the people around you will already have some awareness of your reasons for being interested. If they see that compassion is a primary motivator, this will make it less likely for them to dismiss what you’re doing as a ‘fad’ or a ‘phase’.
2) Don't begin by making too big a deal out of it
Rather than declaring “I’ve discovered all animal products are evil and now I’m vegan for life” (however much you may feel like doing so), I’d definitely opt for a more understated approach. Consider saying something like “I’ve been thinking a lot about veganism lately, and I want to try it out.” Be prepared for the follow up questions, as well as the fact that the first response you get may not be utter delight. But by being confident in yourself, knowing your mind, and simply waiting it out until others accept your choices, you’ll help the process go much smoother.
3) Know your facts
While it’s fantastic to be able to answer the 'Why’s', you’ll also need to be prepared for the ‘How’s'. Your family might have concerns about whether you can meet your nutritional needs on a plant based diet. Having a few key pieces of information up your sleeve will help get your point across – being quick off the bat when someone asks you about plant-based foods that contain iron and calcium will help matters greatly. You can search The Vegan Society’s online nutritional information or stump enough cash for a well-referenced book on the subject. Maybe having a picture of vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian to hand wouldn’t go amiss either, or a vegan nutritional wall chart. You can also find a list of vegan athletes who defy the naysayers here.
4) 'Show' as well as 'say'
It may take a little time for those around you to see how genuine you are about your new lifestyle. You can help to hurry this process along by showing your dedication in a few small ways. You could use your own money on some vegan-friendly staples, like non-dairy spread or plant milk. These kinds of items are easily found as well as affordable, and will show your family that you’re willing to invest in this decision. The same result can be achieved by turning down old favourites of yours which contain animal products, ideally gracefully and without sobbing. In the first days or weeks it may be a good idea to have a packet of vegan-friendly biscuits handy for these situations!
5) Share vegan food
The final step to getting your family used to your new lifestyle is showing them how easy and delicious it is to cater for vegans. If your family are currently set against trying a new way of eating, you can find vegan equivalents for everyday foods (sausages, burgers etc.) and so still eat the same kinds of meals as your family, with little to no extra fuss caused to the chef. Better yet – be the chef yourself. You could cook a vegan meal for everyone at home, or try your hand at vegan baking. Cake is a great way to most people’s hearts.
Making the step to introduce veganism to your family can have some really wonderful consequences. One of my highlights from last year was my mum going vegan after I suggested she take The Vegan Society’s 30 Day Pledge, which is something that I’d never have thought would happen. You never know how many people you could be positively influencing, just by being an example.
Good luck! The Vegan Society would love to hear how you get on, and if you need any further information on going vegan, be sure to check out The Vegan Society’s website.
By Elena Orde
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.