If you've recently switched to a plant-based diet, it can be a bit frustrating when the rest of your family doesn't suddenly see the world the same way you do. If you have kids that are used to the Standard American Diet, making this change can feel nearly impossible without listening to constant moaning and groaning.
When "I make the food, so I make the rules" doesn't quite cut it, it can feel like there's nowhere to turn. However, there are ways to make this lifestyle change feel fun, normal and less like a chore. It can take a bit of dedication, but it's important not to give up so you can pass these health benefits and values onto your family.
Embrace the "Accidentally Vegan"
Many new to plant-based eating try to convert the masses by replicating old fan favorites. While the logic is there, vegan chicken nuggets, cheese and burgers aren't the conversion tools you might think they are for those who are set in their ways. Instead, bringing in new foods that are delicious and plant-based will go further.
Imitation often won't measure up, especially to those looking for flaws. Innovation is key. Try experimenting with cuisines and recipes that are easy to make plant-based, or old favorites that are accidentally vegan already. Asian-inspired dishes are often a hit, as are many Indian recipes and pasta dishes. You might find it's much easier to introduce something new and exciting than to replace someone's coveted hot dogs.
Find That Plant-Powered Protein
As a plant-based individual, you're probably ready to scream at the next person who asks you where you get your protein. You know by now that plant-based diets offer a variety of sources to get your daily dose, and what's even better is they can be great for converting those non-followers in your house.
One of the top complaints about plant-based food is that it isn't filling enough. Even though protein isn't the most nutritionally dense component of a well-rounded diet, people who eat the standard American fare are used to heavier meals. Foods like tofu and lentils are perfect for that savory, filling experience.
Don't Make Junk Food a Reward
This can be a tough one for parents, but it's worth it — plant-based household or not. Building a positive relationship with junk food by associating it with good behavior isn't going to serve your kids well. In fact, it can be actively harmful and follow them into adulthood. At the same time, seeing healthy, plant-based food as a punishment and associating it with negative emotions won't make them actively gravitate toward it.
It's easy to say, "if you eat your vegetables, you can have ice cream." While this can work short term, it lays the framework for your kids to see the vegetables as the awful food they have to endure to get their treat.
Instead, try to illustrate the rewards of healthy food and lead by example. Try saying things like, "I ate so many vegetables, and now I feel happier and more energized" or "Wow, I feel fantastic after eating that fruit."
Season Your Darn Vegetables
Kids not wanting to eat their vegetables is a tale as old as time — and let's face it, adults often aren't much better. When veggies aren't cooked into something, they often go untouched on the plate. This can change by treating them like any other food, and that means seasoning them. Go beyond just salt, pepper and olive oil. Flavor them like meat. Try adding black pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic and all the works.
When you make your vegetables taste like a dish in their own right, they'll be better. It's simple, but it goes a long way. Kids don't want to eat plain, unseasoned food — and you probably don't, either.
Have the Tough Conversations
While you might not want to sit your kiddos down in front of factory farming footage on loop, kids deserve to know where their food comes from. Trying to make your family go vegan, or more plant-based, by simply telling them it's the right thing to do can come off like "because I said so" parenting. Instead, explaining your personal reasons for going plant-based can open up a dialogue.
It may be hard to tell your kids that their nuggets are actually made of chicken, or that milk is made by momma cows for their calves. However, the reality is that most modern people — especially kids — live with an unhealthy disconnect with where their food comes from. Children deserve the autonomy to know, and from there, it may spark internal motivation to see your side of things.
Going Plant-Based as a Family
Getting your family to join you in your plant-based diet is a marathon, not a sprint. It's important not to give up, and meet your family where they're at. By employing some of these tips, you can build a household with more awareness, communication, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
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