So you’ve decided to go vegan! You are excited about your new diet/lifestyle, you’re armed with vegan cookbooks, your pantry is stocked, and you are feeling great. Then, your mom asks you about where you’re planning on getting your protein. Or your Great Aunt Bertha tells you that babies NEED cow’s milk in order to get calcium. Or your super fit co-worker says the only healthy diet is a paleo diet and, seriously, aren’t you worried about protein? A tingling of doubt starts in your stomach. Am I doing the right thing? Is my child going to get enough nutrients? Maybe they DO need cow’s milk?
This scenario is all to common for many new vegans. I participate in a lot of message boards and Facebook groups about vegan diets and I see so many people posting with these types of issues. Most times, these family members are well-intentioned, but are just simply ignorant to the facts about vegan diets. In other instances, family members are down right hostile about the vegan diet and some even try to sneak non-vegan food to unsuspecting little ones behind their parents’ backs. While frustrating, there are some easy ways to shut down these nay-sayers without damaging your relationship.
1. BE CONFIDENT: You know that this is the right thing for your family and you’ve done your research. Sometimes the easiest thing to say is: “I appreciate your concern, but after fully researching this diet, I’ve found that this is the healthiest way for us to eat. I have no concerns about meeting our nutritional needs.”
2. ARM YOURSELF WITH FACTS: Now, first and foremost, YOUR diet is YOUR business and you absolutely do not need to explain yourself to others if you do not wish to. However, many people who adopt a vegan diet do wish to share their knowledge with others. If so, now is the time to use the research that you’ve gathered! Prepare yourself for common questions. Most typically, people seem concerned with protein and calcium. Some, like the paleo-minded friend from above, have specific concerns about b12. Come up with some standard statements about these common concerns, and practice saying them aloud. You can also recommend some books, articles, etc that you found interesting and helpful in your journey. For example, “The American Academy of Pediatrics had found that vegan diets are perfectly safe and healthy for children and adults. You may be interested in reading more about their position on the subject.”
3. SHOW, DON’T TELL: One of the best ways to shut people up is by stuffing their faces with delicious, vegan food. Show off your new cooking skills by bringing yummy vegan food to every gathering you are invited to. (You will probably be doing this anyway to ensure that you have something to eat). Bring enough to share! Some people will turn their noses up before even trying it, or will begrudgingly admit that it’s “good, but not like the ‘real’ thing.” And that’s OK. Continuing to show people how easy and delicious it is to eat a vegan diet is the best way to get them on board. Stock up on vegan cookbooks or websites and share your sources with others. For example, “Have you tried my potatoes? I found the recipe online- I just love the Oh She Glows website. She has so many easy, delicious recipes. I can write down the website for you if you’d like!”
4. CHANGE THE SUBJECT: Sometimes people just won’t let it go, even when you’ve used the three techniques above. You aren’t going to convince everyone, and that’s OK. Come up with a phrase that shuts the conversation down without escalating it. One example would be: “I appreciate your thoughts. Obviously we have very different views on this subject. I think it’s best if we agree to disagree. Can you please pass the salt?” (Feel free to add your own last sentence more fitting to the situation: “How is Aunt Jane doing?” or “I heard you are running another marathon this fall.” The point is to change the subject).
Try these techniques next time you are in a conversation with a relative or friend. Chances are, you will avoid an argument and may even educate someone in the process. Good luck!