I might be vegan, but my husband is not. Although he has significantly reduced his intake of animal products, he still enjoys them occasionally.
So what’s a vegan/omnivore household to do?
First off, it’s important to accept the fact that you can’t force someone to change their eating habits (or any habits, for that matter). If someone wants to do something, they need to do it of their own volition. So I tried my hardest not to nag my husband about any non-vegan eating habits he may have. It definitely got easier with time.
Second, it’s important for everyone to keep an open mind. There are a lot of misconceptions about vegan food. I’ve been very fortunate that my husband has been pretty open minded right from the start. He was a little skeptical, but he’s pretty easy to please when it comes to food. And, aside from a few exceptions (coconut and cilantro – neither of which I’m all that jazzed about either), he’ll eat anything that’s put in front of him. So I was fortunate to have such a willing partner in this experience. For some, it might not be as smooth a transition. But as long as all parties involved keep an open mind and are willing to try new things, it’s very possible to make everyone happy.
Another important thing we needed to do was come to an agreement of sorts. When I first went vegetarian and then later vegan, it was for ethical reasons. (It later became health reasons too.) So it really upset me to see my husband continuing to eat factory farmed meat and other animal products. The important thing here was, again, to acknowledge that no one can be forced to change their habits. And we needed to come to a compromise. I didn’t want to force him to stop eating those things (although I’d be thrilled if he did), but I really wanted to at least make sure they were coming from a source that wasn’t a factory farm. So we talked about it and (very easily) came to the agreement that as long as those food products were purchased from sources we knew (ie: the farmer’s market), I wouldn’t complain. It’s worked out well for us.
Very often, a major concern when a family member decides to go vegan is the worry that they’ll need a bunch of new and obscure ingredients. However, this really isn’t the case. Are there lots of weird ingredients you could use? Sure! But you absolutely don’t need to:
Replacing eggs – Flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seed – can be found at your local grocery store – whisked together with 3 tbsp water), Ener-G egg replacer (can also be found at your local grocery store, usually in the specialty/gluten free baking section), bananas, applesauce, etc. Most (all?) recipes will give you specific instructions for this.
Replacing milk – There’s tons of good non-dairy milk out there! Soy milk, almond milk (my favorite), and rice milk are all great. I don’t really ever drink them straight (lost my taste for it), but you can. Lots of people love the chocolate non-dairy milks.
Replacing butter – Any margarine will do, but Earth Balance is the one that is a vegan favorite.
Pretty much everything you could need is available at your local grocery store. The only thing I’ve needed to make a special trip to the natural foods store for was nutritional yeast – which is different from baking and brewers yeast. It’s used to give a cheesy flavor. Other than that, I’ve never needed to go any further than my local grocery store’s organic section (which isn’t huge or all that impressive). Rarely has there been a time when I’ve come across an ingredient I wasn’t already familiar with (nutritional yeast may have been the only one, actually). So you can still use many of the items you already have in your kitchen – just be careful to check the ingredients for any “hidden” animal products. You’d be surprised how many things have milk and eggs mixed in that you’d never expect.
Great Vegan Resources
- Vegan with a Vengeance
- The Post Punk Kitchen
- Vegan Table
- Joy of Vegan Baking
- Viva Vegan
- Vegan Dad
- Vegan YumYum
- Vegetarian Times
- Oh She Glows
Informational iPod/iPhone apps (these are all free or under $2):
- Vegan YumYum
- VeganXpress – A great handy resource for when you’re eating out. Lists vegan-friendly menu items for many popular chain restaurants and cafes.
- Whole Foods Recipes
- Cruelty Free – A helpful resource if you wish to bring vegan ideas into your everyday life outside of your food. Lists companies that do not test on animals as well as specific products that are/are not vegan-friendly.
- iVegan – Another handy app that lists vegan-friendly alcohols, companies, and ingredients. A little bit of everything!
Perhaps the most important thing to do when a family member decides to go vegan (or vegetarian, for that matter) is to keep an open mind. Just because one person wants to change their diet doesn’t mean everybody in the household has to. Yes, you will probably all adjust a little, and in the long run, everyone will eat a little healthier. But hey, that’s just a positive side effect.
No, it’s not always super easy (although it is FAR easier than I ever anticipated), but most people don’t realize that they’ve had vegan meals before. Maybe not on purpose, but they’re not that difficult to make. It’s all about your mindset.
Going vegan and playing with your food can be a lot of fun! Don’t be afraid to take a deep breath and dive right in.