How To Handle Awkward Family Conversations About Being Vegan

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Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for anybody who is vegan or has dietary restrictions. It is a time when families gather together around the supper table to share a meal together. It’s almost always turkey, and most side dishes like the mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes are loaded with butter and milk. Not so great for vegans, unless you like to eat steamed carrots while everybody else chows down, asking you bother eating a plant based diet.

I’ve learned the hard way that when you live a vegan and plant based lifestyle, it usually works better to bring your own food and never assume that there will be vegan options, especially around the holidays.

Instead of limiting yourself to that sad plate of steamed carrots, ask the host if you can bring along your own favourite dishes to share, and start incorporating plant based foods into your family’s tradition.

If the dinner is being hosted at somebody else’s house, offer to come and help in the kitchen. This way you will know exactly what is in each dish. Without being too pushy, offer to bring a vegan substitute for milk and butter, so that at least the mashed potatoes can easily be vegan. If you are criticized for this, just ask if you can set aside a few ingredients to make your own alongside the traditional recipe. Anybody with a dairy intolerance will be very thankful that you were there! Offer to help peel apples or potatoes, or to wash dishes. Your host will be thankful to have your help and be glad for your company.

Accept that somebody, usually an older aunt or uncle, will ask you why you bother with being a vegan. It’s helpful to think of a few answers to this question before you arrive at the dinner. Some of my favourite answers are:

“My plant based diet helps me feel much healthier and have less issues with bad digestion and low energy levels”

“It’s actually not as hard as you might think to eat a plant based diet.”

“My plant based diet has helped me be more adventurous in the kitchen and improved my cooking skills. Did you try the vegan sweet potato casserole I brought?”

I like to use these answers because none of them touch on any ethical or moral reasons as to why somebody might eat a plant based diet. Thanksgiving is not the time to make your relatives feel uncomfortable or guilty about eating turkey. If they are interested in the ethical reasons for your diet, they will likely ask you more privately, away from the dinner table.

These are just a few suggestions to help you navigate holiday meals. I hope that they will help you. Please let us know how your Thanksgiving meal went, especially if these tips helped you. We would love to hear. You can find us on Facebook or leave a comment below.