By Kellie Davis
Oct 3, 2020
We’ve all seen it before. The picture-perfect family happily munching on an elegant and lovingly-prepared plant based meal. Everyone is smiling at the vibrant plants on their plates and you can feel the joy in that scene practically punching you in the face. It makes you think to yourself, “Fuck yeah, I want THAT!” Followed quickly by the nagging suspicion that you must be doing something wrong, because that most certainly is NOT the scene playing out around your dinner table.
So, the question comes up frequently, “I’d really like to go plant based, but how do I get my family on board?”
Well, my dear, you don’t. They will either get on board because they want to or they won’t. There might be a magical plant based recipe or two that they enjoy, but it’s unlikely that picky kids or unsupportive partners will be immediately convinced that all the glorious plants you’re putting on their plates are a suitable replacement for the chicken nuggets or gooey, cheesy casseroles they are accustomed to. Instead, you will most likely be met with grumbling and complaining.
You might not be able to change their palates or food preferences overnight, or maybe ever, but YOU can eat all the plants anyway. YOU can place limits on what foods you will and won’t prepare. YOU can weather the storm of their protests and offer alternatives, or not. Ultimately, you have to decide what tradeoffs you’re willing to make and where your boundaries are, then stick to them.
Because here’s the deal: you don’t get to make decisions for other people, even if those people are small and depend on you for survival. Maybe you tell them what’s on their plate is the only option, but ultimately they get to decide whether to eat it or not. Then you get to decide if you let them go hungry or offer an alternative. And on and on it goes, like a chess match, playing off your opponent’s moves and anticipating their rebuttals, but neither one with full control over the other.
At first glance, the question of wanting to go plant based but wondering how to get one’s family on board is well-intentioned and innocent enough. I mean, who doesn’t want their family to reap all the benefits the plant life has to offer? But when you dig a little deeper, it’s not a helpful question because it places the burden of your success on others and creates the premise that your failure can be blamed on them too. It gives you an out. I’m not implying that dealing with the fallout from an unsupportive family isn’t a valid concern and source of frustration, it is. But that isn’t the question that was asked, read it again:
“I’d really like to go plant based, but how do I get my family on board?”
Let’s start by first asking better questions.
If we reframe the question to one that keeps you accountable, it might look something like this:
“I’m considering switching to a plant based diet and am concerned I will let my family’s resistance stand in my way. How have others overcome this barrier?”
See the difference? Now you’re looking for solutions instead of making excuses disguised as a question. Ouch. That was harsh, I know, but this can’t be sugar coated. Making any kind of significant change will involve some level of discomfort. Trying to escape that discomfort doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you gloriously human, but it will keep you stuck where you are.
So let’s get real, did you ask the question with the willingness to accept a level of discomfort in the answer? Or did you ask the question in order to build your case for why this won’t work for you?
If you’re ready to hear some hard yet helpful answers, keep reading. I’m going to share some ways that I have made it work for me. I don’t have any magic bullets to offer or a comforting home for excuses. It’s meant for those of you who are ready to define boundaries and get cozy with discomfort.
Ok, here we go.
You do you, boo! Yes, we would all love to have happy partners to cook for and with, who are as excited about eating all the sexy plants as we are, but that scenario just isn’t reality for a lot of us. I can clearly remember being worried about how my dietary changes would impact my relationship with my partner.
I worried that we wouldn’t have fun together anymore if we weren’t bonding over sinfully indulgent (non-plant) food. I worried about no longer preparing him meals that he enjoyed as a sign of affection. I worried about no longer going out with friends or family because I’d be the difficult weirdo of the group. But mostly, I was terrified of what it meant for our relationship if I took a stand and said, “I’m eating better because I am worth it!” Would that make him feel threatened or judged? Would he be resentful? But you know what? I embraced all the unknowns and did it anyway. We adapted. Sure, going out to eat has become more stressful for me than enjoyable, but we find other ways to connect and unwind together after a long week.
You may have similar concerns, and your concerns are uniquely yours. Only you know your relationship dynamics, what tradeoffs you’re willing to make, and where your boundaries are. Spend some time exploring them.
My partner and I both work full-time, I’ve always been of the mind that he is NOT my responsibility to take care of. He is a grown-ass man capable of taking care of himself. Likewise, I am NOT his responsibility. I cook for me. He eats takeout for practically every meal, this is not an exaggeration. I’ve offered to make enough food to share, but he isn’t interested and that’s ok, that’s his choice to make. I am not responsible for his food choices. You are not responsible for the food choices of others. We are each responsible for our own boundaries. If you have no problem preparing multiple meals for others, by all means, do it! Decide what you are willing to do, offer to do only that, and do it without resentment. Hold personal boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.
Again, everyone’s situation is different and everyone will have different boundaries. There is no single way to approach this that works for everyone. What works for me and my 12-year-old son I share only as an example, not as an endorsement of the way to do anything.
In my house, I cook the Meal Plans and give my son the choice of eating those meals. Does he like everything? Hell no! Do I hear whining and complaining almost daily? You bet! But he knows that he is expected to eat what is offered and mostly he does.
I will, however, make some adaptations for him based on his personal preferences. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that he will not eat anything spicy. Fair enough, I can concede spicy. He doesn’t like things that are “messy,” so a lot of his meals are served as a bowl or big ass salad. He helps me batch cook (again, not without complaining) because I’ve found that he can be more accepting of food that he helped prepare. He prefers soups that are blended, so even if it’s a chunky soup I’ll send his portion through the blender first. I’ll occasionally let him choose a preferred meal and throw it into the mix. He likes making Mac and Cheesy Sauce with broccoli or stuffed peppers. Do it up, little buddy!
This next one is likely a very unpopular option for a lot of people, but it works for us. I’ll let him eat while doing something he enjoys, like playing video games or watching YouTube videos of other people playing video games. He says when he’s distracted, he doesn’t care what the food tastes like.
As a last resort, if there is something that he just can’t choke down (we’ve recently pinpointed parsley as an offensive flavor for him) I’ll let him make a PB&J with a fruit or veggie on the side, but he has to make it himself which he doesn’t like to do, so he reserves this option for the most dire of circumstances.
Get to know your kiddos and where their boundaries are, decide where you can compromise, and hold firm to your non-negotiables. They won’t like everything and there will still be whining; with kids, them’s the breaks! But it is doable.
If you really want to eat a whole food plant based diet, you will find a way. For most of us, it doesn’t look anything like that picture-perfect family, and that is 100% A-okay! Find the version that fits your life and your family, and embrace it unapologetically.
When you’re ready to let go of the notion that there is a perfect way to “make it work,” it’s actually quite liberating. When you take responsibility for your own success or failure instead of hinging it on other people, it’s empowering. You stop reaching for this fantasy ideal state that relies on other people and outcomes that you have no control over, and instead, put your energy toward finding real solutions that will last.
When you get stuck or want advice on a particular problem, know that there is a built-in community of support over in the CFDG Private Facebook Group with thousands of people embarking on the same journey.
- ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup banana, mashed (200 g)
- ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce (185 g)
- ¼ cup date sugar (can substitute with coconut sugar) (30 g)
- ¼ cup peanut butter (60 g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2¼ cups rolled oats (not instant) (230 g)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup non-dairy dark chocolate chips (90 g)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
- Place the non-dairy milk and the apple cider vinegar in the blender and swish it around. Set it aside while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
- To the blender, add the banana, applesauce, date sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. Keep the mixture in the blender.
- To the wet ingredients in your blender, add the rolled oats, and salt. Blend until smooth. Add the baking powder and baking soda blend again, just until combined.
- Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips, and stir. Scoop up about ¼ cup of batter at a time and fill the muffin liners.
- Bake for 23 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool at least 30 minutes before eating. Store in the fridge.
- These muffins will stick to the muffin liners a bit. Once they are cool they will stick less.
- For gluten-free muffins, be sure to purchase oats that specify gluten-free processing.
- Heads up that your Muffins might be lighter in color than the ones in the pictures. This is because the batter sat out while being photographed, and the bananas started to brown.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with drawing some healthy boundaries.