Tips from a vegan: How to share the table with your relatives

I love my family. A LOT.  My brothers and sisters are beautiful, creative, hilarious, and passionate people, who still somehow manage to be very different from each other.  They are really great!  In fact, I might go as far as to say that my whole family is great. We still don’t see eye to eye on almost anything. Over the years we’ve developed a somewhat graceful way of dealing with our differences and appreciating what we share.

The Thanksgiving table can be the front lines of the battle between omnivores and vegans. One of the biggest challenges to being vegan is still finding a way to share they table with other people who might not appreciate your values. This is a valuable skill to practice. In fact even if you aren’t vegan, or your whole family is actually vegan, you may still benefit from some of these tips. We all have our differences!

Offer to help in the kitchen

Ask if you can help prepare something. Choose something that is relatively easy to vegan-ize, like mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, or desert. Make the salad heartier by adding seeds and nuts and root vegetables. If you can’t cook ask if you can put in a request for an item that your relatives make that is already vegan or already almost vegan. This might be a good opportunity to show your family how easy vegan cooking is.

Don’t argue

If the topic comes up at the table, don’t argue about it. My family still likes to give me a hard time, even though I’ve been eating vegan for six years. Try deflecting the remarks with a playful and witty remark or by changing the subject. Often when people ask you about a point of view that is conflicting to theirs, it is because they want you to hear what they think. Sometimes I like to avoid the scrutiny with a quick response to the question followed by, “What do you think about it?”

Depersonalize it

If you are being pressured into eating something that you don’t want to eat, by someone you clearly can’t see eye-to-eye with, (you know, the old, “but there’s no meat in this, just chicken!”) take the focus off your decision not to partake in what they are offering. You can say, “Thanks, but I’ve really had enough to eat”, or “It looks really delicious, how did you make it?” or “Thank you, but this dish really doesn’t sit well with me.”

Be Patient

The first holiday I shared with my family after going vegan was pretty awkward. I think they felt like I didn’t want to partake in a family tradition. Don’t expect that your family will “get it” overnight. Overtime, my family has come to understand and respect my decision. They have even learned to make a few vegan dishes that I really love! Be patient with yourself too. If you are having a hard time avoiding your Mom’s Cheesy Carrot Casserole, or Cherry Pie, the vegan police aren’t going to kick in the door and pepper spray you.  Don’t beat yourself up. Set a goal to stick to your diet at the next holiday.

Plan your own vegan gathering

Plan a meal you can indulge in sometime in the days before or after your family gathering.  If you have to eat light at your family gathering, you will have this to look forward to. Afterwards, reward yourself for your effort and commitment to healthier living!

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