One of the most common questions we are asked is: ‘How can I tell my mum I am vegan?’. We look at some of the approaches you can take to maintain mealtime harmony.
Going vegan has its challenges. From the Sunday roast to the family recipe that’s been passed down through generations, food is embedded into so many of our family traditions and significant occasions. It can feel difficult to tell a loved one that you are surrendering their signature dish in favour of what they might assume to be a monastic life of pulses and puritanism.
If you’re already vegetarian, then this transition is likely to be less of a leap for family members to handle, but with significant numbers of people eschewing animal products, the shock of what may seem like a ‘radical’ shift in diet can seem a bit too much for some. Unsurprisingly, the newly vegan can feel apprehensive about dismantling that delicate family mealtime dynamic.
Here are some tips to help your family manage that transition as well as you.
It’s more news to them than it is to you
It’s likely that you’ve been mulling over your vegan moves for a while; you’ve probably already researched your B12s and non-dairy cheeses, and now you’re looking for ways to integrate that decision into your daily life, which means involving family. However, for the parent of a newly vegan person, this could be brand new information.
One of the ways you can gently prepare them for this news is by ‘seeding’ information gradually: bringing home a tasty product for family members to try before revealing it’s vegan, for example. You could also play the ingénue and suggest a family and animal-friendly film to watch together and allow that to do a little of the ground work and to raise a couple of questions (Okja fits the bill.)
Help them understand it is not a rejection
A parent’s main job in most species is to nurture and nourish their young, and your parents’ first concern will be that you are making that prime directive difficult for them. Will you be getting the nutrition you need? Even if you are from a family that favours the ‘beiger’ end of the food spectrum at mealtimes, the perceived lack of iron will still most probably be their first nutrition-related concern. Prepare by doing your research so you can answer questions and help allay any health-based fears.
Of course, the other and somewhat more emotional response you may get is, ‘I thought you liked my [insert former favourite dairy/meat-based dish here]’. It’s important to express the gratitude you feel for the care and love that this parent has put into the dishes they have served you since you were weaned, and do emphasise that your decision is not a rejection of their cooking or care.
It’s important to remain kind here rather than defend a morally righteous position, which we all know can be estranging. Instead, accept that this new information might be both baffling and sensitive to them and reassure your parent that the quality of their cuisine is not in any doubt, but that you would like to choose plant-based alternatives moving forward and you can help them to make it easy and even enjoyable.
Bring fresh inspiration to the table
Try to assist (as much as is within your power) with helping to make mealtimes as simple as possible. There are now so many tasty vegan alternatives to the day-to-day product choices that you can start doing some of the work even in advance of the vegan reveal.
The main caterers of the family may be anxious that veganism for one family member could mean compromising favourite dishes, but you can demonstrate that this isn’t necessarily the case. Furthermore, with you helping out and developing your own food literacy and skills it might not be necessary for a parent to make different dishes to suit the various family members’ preferences, which in itself can be a daunting task. Expense is another worry, but simple education through sites such as this one can help minimise costs.
If you are living at home with family, try to take responsibility for part of the food prep and planning. After all, a Sunday roast is basically vegan; all you need to do is swap out the meat and gravy for an alternative that you have researched and helped to prepare. The greater risk to mealtimes than the vetoing of a vegan dish is the likelihood that others will want to eat it all.
Reassure them you are well supported
Tell them about Veganuary. There are all sorts of recipes, lots of nutritional advice and guidance, plenty of general information and day-by-day support available for those taking the vegan pledge. You might even ask your mum or dad to sign up with you so they can learn more about your undertaking and the context surrounding your decision, and can better understand how important it is to you and your happiness, which is what they really want.
Sharing is caring. Why not invite a family member to try the Veganuary pledge as well?