So, you’re vegan. But your family members… not so much. Maybe they’re hesitant to even try the vegan foods you offer them. Eating together is often a central part of family life, so this can be hard. Today, let’s talk about strategies for bridging the gap with non-vegan family members.
How do you get your family to try more vegan food? You need to be patient and persistent in offering them vegan foods you think they will like. Try different meals and approaches. Do this in as many different ways as possible over time. Specifically, try the ideas below.
The following are tips that you can use to get your parents, siblings, spouse, or kids to try more vegan foods. Different approaches will work with different people, so try several, and don’t give up at the first sign of resistance!
1. Be an example to your family of how positive veganism can be.
The best way to get your family more interested in trying vegan food or a vegan diet isn’t to preach or push it on them. The best way is to make it look good in your own life. If a vegan lifestyle is making your own life better,
I’ve seen lots of instances of this, especially when going vegan leads to a positive domino effect: First you go vegan, then you quit smoking and start exercising, then you decide to go back to school or start a new hobby or business. For other people, a vegan diet makes them more enthusiastic about exploring recipes, and maybe it helps them lose weight or clear up their skin.
If switching to a vegan diet has been a positive thing for you, let that shine. That’s the most effective way to intrigue others around you, including family.
2. Use delicious sauces and dips to flavor everything.
One of the best ways to make almost any food taste good is to slather it with a delicious sauce. This can be a store-bought sauce like BBQ or General Tsao’s, or this can be a healthier sauce made from a recipe. When the whole meal is slathered in something delicious, the meal is pretty much guaranteed to be delicious.
If your family already loves a certain sauce or dip, try adding a new vegan food into the equation. Use the same barbeque sauce as usual, but try a soy-based, lentil-based, or even cauliflower-based “steak” or “nugget” as the base.
A related, bonus suggestion might be to focus on soups. In a similar way, the taste of each individual food can “hidden” in the context of a soup. The whole soup just tastes like soup. So this may make new ingredients like tofu more acceptable.
3. Try mock meats and homemade vegan alternatives.
Vegan mock meats can vary in quality, so if you’re really trying to entice and satisfy stubborn non-vegans, you need to seek out the best stuff you can find.
Field Roast is a common brand in the U.S. that many people would agree is top of the line. They have vegan sausages, burgers, loaves, cutlets, roasts, deli slices, mini corn dogs, and buffalo wings.
Cheesy vegan flavors can be replaced many ways, whether its with vegan cheese brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, or Chao, or with homemade cheese sauce made from nutritional yeast.
Vegan ice-cream can be delicious as well, whether it’s store-bought or homemade in a healthier version from frozen bananas and other fruit.
4. Incorporate the vegan foods and ingredients your family already likes.
Does anyone in your family like peanut butter? What about cinnamon? What about vanilla? If so, use these ingredients in your vegan baking, and see if it entices them. Everybody likes some vegan ingredients, whether or not they would call them that.
In a similar vein, you can have nuts, carrot sticks, apples, or other favorite snack foods ready to go as often as possible in the house. Build on the vegan foods your family is already enthusiastic about eating, whether or not they would call them that.
5. Ask family members to help you find vegan recipes and try cooking them.
This is especially a good one for kids. Kids will take more ownership in a meal and be more willing to try something if they had a hand in making it or choosing the recipe.
You can also make your cooking or baking into a special event. Have a “recipe night” where you try a new meal, or plan a weekend to dedicate to baking several awesome vegan recipes with your family.
6. Involve your family in grocery shopping for vegan foods.
Similar to picking recipes from a cookbook or website, you can go together to the health food store or farmer’s market, and let your family members help pick out which fruits, vegetables, and other vegan foods they want the most.
This can also work at a big grocery store, but there will be more non-vegan options to distract and maybe fewer enticing vegan-specific foods to add to the cart.
7. Fruit. And especially fruit smoothies.
There are countless vegan smoothie recipes online. Start by trying a few that look good to you, and then you can get creative with your own concoctions.
If you’re trying to entice suspicious or stubborn family members, I would recommend trying the smoothie before you pour glasses for everyone. While I’ve made many amazing smoothies, I’ve also made some duds, usually due to being too creative or sloppy about measuring the ingredients.
8. Cut vegetables and fruits into fun shapes for kids (or adults).
Judge for yourself if your kids are too old to be amused by this. But really, even some adults might find it cute and fun depending on their personality.
It’s a common suggestion to parents trying to get their kids to eat more vegetables. and it’s a strategy that cookie companies have been using for decades to get us all to eat processed junk. So try it on your kids, and if it works, use it!
Here’s a highly rated set of fruit and vegetable shape cutters (that’s an Amazon link). They can be used to cut other foods, too, including sandwiches and breads, vegan mock meats, or even, yes, cookies.
9. Encourage and entice, but don’t force or bribe your family to try vegan foods.
Research shows that kids especially are less likely to enjoy new foods if they’re forced or bribed to try them. Instead of making them try your new vegan foods, try to encourage and—make the food look and smell so good!
Growing up, my parents offered me rewards if I tried various vegetables. Some people still swear by this method, but I know for me, it did not work in the long term.
Maybe I was going to dislike vegetables anyway, but I really spent most of my childhood avoiding vegetables like the plague. So be careful with bribing your kids to eat their veggies. Do your research to decide if that’s really the way to go.
10. Share some vegan documentaries with your family.
There are so many to choose from. If you’ve been personally affected by one yourself, consider showing that one.
I would maybe recommend Forks Over Knives to show the positive health impact of vegan eating. Another popular one is What the Health, although that one received a lot of criticism for making some exaggerated health claims.
I know for me, the most intense and emotional vegan documentary was Earthlings. But it’s hard to watch. It shows a lot of animals being hurt and killed at farms, labs, circuses, and elsewhere. Think about what your family would be most receptive to, and how much emotional intensity you want to subject them to.
I also thought Blackfish is an especially good documentary. It’s not about eating a vegan diet, but it’s about Sea World confining orca whales for entertainment purposes. So it illustrates the ideas of veganism in a less direct way.
My perception is that non-vegans are often more willing to agree with Blackfish because it doesn’t challenge their eating habits directly. So it may be a good documentary to warm up your family members to the ideas of animal rights.
11. Vegan mac-n-cheese, vegan mashed potatoes, and other comfort foods.
Starches are some of the most loved comfort foods in the world. Any of them can be made vegan easily, as the base food (pasta, potatoes, etc) are already vegan.
Mac-n-cheese can be made vegan in a thousand different ways, whether you buy a store-bought vegan cheese that you pour in the pot with the pasta, or whether you make your own vegan “cheesy sauce” with nutritional yeast. Try a few recipes to find your favorite.
Mashed potatoes are even easier to make vegan because the amount of dairy included is relatively small. Any milk can be replaced with soymilk, almond milk, or other plant-based options. Any butter can be replaced with Earth Balance vegan spread, or for a healthier option, you can try just leaving it out entirely.
Master your ability to make delicious vegan comfort foods, and y
12. Discuss the health benefits of a vegan diet with your family.
Share amazing stories about people who went vegan and lost a lot of weight, reversed their diabetes, alleviated their arthritis, and more.
Share amazing studies that have come out about how much eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat can improve your health.
One of the best sources for hearing about such nutrition studies is NutritionFacts.org, run by Dr. Michael Greger. It features hundreds of short, 5-minute videos about practical nutrition issues, and a lot of amazing facts about how a plant-based diet can improve your health.
If a book or audiobook is more your style, check out Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die (that’s an Amazon link)—it discusses most of the same studies.
13. Take your family out to vegan restaurants in your area.
If you live in a major city or even a college town, you’re likely to have some vegan or vegetarian restaurants nearby. Check on HappyCow.net, the HappyCow mobile app, or Yelp for vegan options near you.
If you’re able to find a vegan restaurant that your family members are willing to try, and then if they like it, this can become a great option to return to, from time to time.
Another option on HappyCow is to just find “veg-friendly” restaurants that also serve meat. This is sometimes a good compromise option to have available in case your family members are truly stubborn and don’t want to eat completely vegan food. At least you’ll both have options at the veg-friendly place.
14. Let your family choose from several vegan options.
This is a broader tip that can be applied in many different settings. Letting your family members choose between multiple options will increases their sense of agency in what they’re eating.
You can do this when suggesting vegan recipes at home—name 3 or 4 recipes from a list, and see what garners the most interest. You can also do this when suggesting vegan restaurants to visit as a family, too. If all the options are vegan, then you win no matter what one they choose.
15. Consider being gradual about it.
Some people like to go 100% vegan immediately once they’ve decided that’s what they believe in, but many people prefer a gradual transition. With this in mind, your family members may be more accepting of you just slowly introducing more vegan foods.
So maybe you do one dinner a week that’s 100% vegan, but the rest include some non-vegan options at the table. Some people call this “meatless Mondays.” Then you can increase from there.
16. Sneak in the healthy vegan ingredients.
I don’t want to encourage you to lie to your family about what you’re feeding them—but there are definitely ways to include healthy vegan foods that kind of “fly under the radar.”
Blending up additional vegetables into pasta sauce is the classic example of this. It’s good for everyone, and they don’t even know it.
A delicious fruit smoothie can also camouflage quite a number of vegetables that you might include. Sometimes mock meat can even pass as real meat, and maybe no one will be the wiser.
(Of course, be mindful of allergies if you’re serving mock meats to people and trying to pass them off as real meat! Mock meats often contain soy or wheat. You may be aware of any allergies in your own family, but this could be a problem if you’re trying to sneakily include soy meats at a potluck with people you don’t know as well.)
17. Encourage your family members to try just a tiny bite.
Research shows that kids are less intimidated by only eating a tiny, tiny bite of a new food. Make it extremely tiny, like a single nut (or half of one!), a single piece of corn, and so on. Then maybe you can encourage them to eat two pieces, and so on.
As someone who has been a picky eater of new foods for my whole life, this really makes sense to me. In fact, I kind of want to use it on myself.
I can generally handle a small amount of newness at a time. Being a picky eater, for me, is a kind of irrational fear, and the fear is more manageable when the stimulus comes in a smaller (much smaller) dose.
18. Focus on mild-tasting vegetables first.
This is another tip for family members who are averse to vegetables specifically. Spinach tends to be easier for a lot of people to get used to compared to kale, for example. Then even better, you can blend the spinach into a smoothie with fruit, and you might not even taste it at all!
There’s no need to rush into all the spiciest or most fragrant vegetables. Sometimes it’s best to just let the vegetables have their natural mild taste, and then let the flavor in the dish be supplied by something sweet or familiar.
19. Stock the family pantry and fridge with vegan options.
Even if your family is nowhere near letting you keep a strictly vegan kitchen in the house, you can still entice them with vegan options in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.
If you want to provoke more healthy vegan eating, you could put out bowls of mixed nuts around the house. You can always keep some cut up carrot sticks or celery sticks in the fridge (or just baby carrots like they come at the store). Have a bowl of fruit on the table—or several.
If you want to use your family members’ sweet tooth to get them into some more vegan foods, you might stock up some vegan crackers or cookies in the house. Then just let your family know they’re always welcome to try them.
Vegan ice cream in the freezer might entice someone, too. Be patient if they don’t bite right away. They might get curious only after they scrape the bottom of the dairy ice cream.
20. Vegan pizza night.
Having a “make your own” vegan pizza party can give your family members some agency in choosing what exactly they want to have on their pizzas (toppings, etc).
If your family is weirded out by vegan cheese, you can do no-cheese pizzas. It still tastes surprisingly good, and surprisingly pizza-like. Or, if you want to cave in and allow your family to use real cheese on their pizza, you can still use vegan cheese on yours, and everyone’s happy.
21. Support every little step your family takes in trying vegan foods.
Let your family know how much you appreciate it when they try vegan foods. Express how it’s really helpful and allows you not to have to choose between eating for your health/beliefs and sharing meals with the people you love.
Even if they’re not embracing this as much as you’d ideally want, still try to show appreciation and support for every little bit of progress.
22. Double down on anything that works or any benefits you see.
If someone in your family says they appreciate how they feel light after a vegan meal compared to non-vegan meals, then remind them of that, and try to play that up, so they remember that benefit to eating vegan and might be willing to do it more as a result.
If they love a certain vegan meal you made, then make it every week (or multiple times a week). If you find a vegan restaurant they actually like, go there regularly, to the extent that you can afford it. And so on.
Notice which of the suggestions on this list are actually working or being received positively, and double down on those specifically. If other approaches don’t work at all, then there’s no need to keep pushing those.
23. Stay clear about your motivation for being vegan.
In sales, it’s well known that you need to believe in your product in order for you to be a confident, effective salesperson. So if you really want to convince others that veganism has merit, you need to stay in touch with your own reasons for doing it.
Stay in touch with the health benefits, animal welfare benefits, environmental benefits, or whatever else drew you to a vegan diet.
Also, stay in touch with how eating more vegan foods can help your family members. How will it improve their health or improve the relationship you can share together?
Personally, I wish I grew up loving more vegetables and vegetarian foods. It would have set me up for more health success as an adult. So be confident in your efforts to help your family get into more vegan foods. It will very likely make their life better in significant ways.
24. Don’t be pushy—but do be persistent.
When it comes to each meal and each moment, don’t pressure your family or make them resent you for pushing this on them. But do be persistent when it comes to the long-term effort.
Don’t just give up in defeat after nobody wants to try your first vegan food offering. Keep adjusting and tweaking your approach, using all the tips on this page until you find the approaches that seem to work best.
Take any small victories you can, keep offering them foods they might like, and keep letting them see how being vegan is affecting your life positively. Be patient, but stay persistent over the long term.
Figuring Out Your Game Plan
Okay, so let’s recap. Here are the 24 ways to get your family to try more vegan food:
- Be an example to your family of how positive veganism can be.
- Just use delicious sauces and dips to flavor everything.
- Try mock meats and homemade vegan alternatives.
- Incorporate the vegan foods and ingredients your family already likes.
- Ask family members to help you find vegan recipes and try cooking them.
- Involve your family in grocery shopping for vegan foods.
- Fruit. And especially fruit smoothies.
- Cut vegetables and fruits into fun shapes for kids.
- Encourage and entice, but don’t force or bribe your family to try vegan foods.
- Share some vegan documentaries with your family.
- Vegan mac-n-cheese, vegan mashed potatoes, and other comfort foods.
- Discuss the health benefits of a vegan diet with your family.
- Take your family out to vegan restaurants in your area.
- Let your family choose from several vegan options.
- Consider being gradual about it.
- Sneak in the healthy vegan ingredients.
- Encourage your family members to try just a tiny bite.
- Focus on mild-tasting vegetables first.
- Stock the family pantry and fridge with vegan options.
- Vegan pizza night.
- Support every little step your family takes in trying vegan foods.
- Double down on what works and any benefits you see.
- Stay clear about your motivation for being vegan.
- Don’t be pushy—but do be persistent.
Which of these do you see yourself trying first? Which have you already tried? Did they work at all? I recommend coming back to this list from time to time when you need more ideas or when you need to switch up your approach.
If being vegan is a long-term life choice that means something to you, you will have plenty of time to keep trying to introduce more specific vegan foods and find more meals you can enjoy with your loved ones.
Take the long view, and don’t give up easily.