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You’re vegan, but your partner or family members aren’t on board. I managed to convince those closest to me to give up meat thanks to certain behavioral nudges. Here’s what worked.
It’s not easy being the only vegan in a relationship, around your family, or in a group of friends. From social gatherings to traveling, you might feel a little left out at certain times, or even frustrated that those around you don’t see eye to eye when it comes to eating plant-based.
That was me. When I first met my husband, he was a big meat eater. But over the course of several months of our dating life, I convinced him to ditch meat for good–and he’s been vegetarian ever since. My mother has also made steps towards a plant-based diet, giving up meat entirely while minimising her consumption of seafood, dairy and eggs.
While you may not be able to persuade all of your loved ones to go vegan, quitting meat is one of the most impactful ways to reduce our climate impact. After all, animal agriculture alone accounts for nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Below are some of my tried and true tips on positively influencing those around you to make sustainable changes to their diet.
1. Explain why you are plant-based, without judgment on your loved ones
You have probably already explained why you chose to adopt a vegan diet, but have you listed all of your reasons? Chances are you may have mentioned your love for animals, but haven’t yet explained the real environmental or health benefits associated with a plant-based diet too. And the most important thing is to do so without judgment. Sometimes, people feel too pressured by the “preachy” vegan approach. They may be more interested and open-minded about the benefits of veganism if you share your personal story in an easygoing way.
2. Start off with one day a week
According to my husband, one of the ways he figured out he could go vegetarian was by practising Green Monday–ditching meat every single Monday. It doesn’t really have to be Monday, but the idea is that going veggie one day per week is a great stepping stone for most folks. Especially for heavy meat-eaters, they might not even realise how easy it is to quit eating animals until they kick start this new habit. So try to challenge your loved ones to just pick one meatless day per week, and you might just see this easily roll over into two or three days in no time.
3. Cook delicious meals together
A lot of people don’t know where to start when it comes to vegan cooking, so convince them by showing the way. Cook some of your favourite plant-based dishes together, from vegan dumplings to breakfast staples like tofu scramble, or some of these super easy one-pot meals. Not only would it make your partner or family member feel less alone on their journey, it’ll also prove to the hardiest carnivores that vegan cooking can be fun and delicious.
4. Lay down the facts
During more serious conversations about why I chose to go vegan, I made sure I could back up all my reasons with facts and figures. For example, how livestock farming accounts for more carbon emissions than cars on the road in Europe. It also means having scientific evidence and expert knowledge to refute any common misconceptions about veganism and health. If you need a few pointers, here are some vegan myths that have been debunked by a cardiologist.
5. Ask them how they feel along the way
It’s easy to get so caught up in your own personal story that you forget to ask how your friend or partner feels about changing their diet. If they remain unconvinced, ask them why. Perhaps they feel like meat-filled meals simply taste better–and knowing that, you can arm them with useful information, like which plant-based meat substitutes are the most delicious. If your loved ones are already making steps towards a plant-based lifestyle, make sure to check in with them to ask them how it’s going. It’ll make them feel supported on their journey.
6. Never stop encouraging
Finally, never stop being the encouraging voice. It’s easy to get bogged down with the slow pace of climate action, and frustrated about the inhumane treatment of animals in our broken global food system. But it’s important to remember that moving the needle forward, even just a hair, is something. Every little step counts. You’ll only motivate your loved ones more if you cheer them on.
All images courtesy of Unsplash.