by Katy Malkin of Learner Vegan
Living in a mixed-diet household can be tricky to navigate. Indeed, we have what I like to call a ‘tri-diet’ in our household – with an omnivorous husband, vegetarian daughter, and a vegan (myself).
I’m now an expert at cooking multiple dishes at once and writing strategic shopping lists. We make it work, but it’s not ideal. I dislike the smell of meat in the house, meals take longer to make, and our 3 year old asks a lot of awkward questions about why daddy eats fish.
Something that made things a lot easier recently was my husband taking part in Veganuary. Not having any meat in the house for the last 3 weeks has been a blessing.
What was it like? He said, “I thought going vegan for a month would be really difficult. There have been times when I’ve had to be more conscious of decisions, such as buying beer or picking meals when eating out. But I’ve also been lucky that I don’t have to do the majority of the cooking so have great meals provided. What I’ve found is that I haven’t missed eating meat. The ‘conscious’ decisions have started to become more natural as the month has progressed. I’ve had to deal with some peer pressure and ‘the questions’ around veganism but I feel better in my body, and heathier. I’m not sure yet if I would convert to vegan, but who knows!”
So how can you encourage your partner to take a step in the right direction? Here are 6 top tips that worked for us!
Don’t be a nag
Does nagging really work for anybody in the long term? You might get your significant other to give a vegan lifestyle a try, but they will be doing it for the wrong reasons, half-heartedly, and more than likely give up.
Launching into a speech about animal cruelty whilst they are biting into a chicken burger only inspires guilt and conflict, not change. Instead, try educating and informing. Ask if they’ll watch a vegan documentary with you (we’re going to give What The Health a try soon!). Share the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, rather than the pitfalls of an omnivorous one.
Lead by example
When a lifestyle appears to be attractive, it then attracts others to it. It sounds obvious, but many people’s actions don’t match up. Veganism should be a positive act, all about adding fun things to your diet and having a great impact on the world. Moaning about the lack of options at a restaurant, or how you miss Brie, simply makes a plant-powered life look like a chore.
Show how you feel healthier, happier, and excited to try the new vegan steak that’s being released in your local store – that gets people sitting up, taking notice, and joining in.
Appeal to their likes
What’s your partner’s favourite food? If they hate tofu, don’t try to win them over with tofu scramble for breakfast. Big pizza fan? Go out and buy the best vegan mozzarella you can find. If they’re a gym junkie, buy sample sachets of vegan protein powders for them to try out. Greet them with a cruelty-free shake after their workout. Dating an animal lover? Visit a farm sanctuary together. My husband loves carb-filled fast food (he balances it out by trying to be healthy), so I’ll often make him a hot and spicy ‘chicken’ burger with all the trimmings and sweet potato fries. Currently his favourite meal is really simple – vegan kebab meat and salad in wraps. Yum!
Integrate them into the vegan community
Most local areas have social meets of some kind – just check Facebook or Google. Vegan foodie nights, cooking classes, festivals and fairs – they can all be a really fun way of meeting other like-minded people. Plus, they show your partner how many of us there are out there, which normalises the plant-based lifestyle and prevents isolation. It also means you can pick foods together, take them home and enjoy making a meal from them as a couple.
Check in with them
What concerns your significant other about going vegan? Have an honest chat with them. They may be worried about what others will think, how awkward eating out will be, or getting the right nutrition. The worst thing we can do is scoff or roll our eyes – it’s demotivating. But we can talk through their fears with them. Show gratitude for what they are doing and tell them you’ve noticed and are proud, regardless of whether they are perfect or not.
Be patient and provide them with the tools they need to make a change. Veganism is all about compassion, and this extends to our loved ones too.
Ask for what you want!
Have a heart-to-heart and explain why this is so important to you. Pick a good time – when you’re both relaxed and feeling happy. But don’t be disheartened if they don’t feel the same way – we all have different outlooks and boundaries. At the very least, your honesty will plant a seed for the future, and may even inspire a change in the right direction. The last thing you want is for your discussion to turn into an argument or nagging (see step 1!). Each person must develop on their terms, in their own timeframe.
Most of us were not born vegan. We had a unique journey through life that led us to veganism. I’ve been vegan for 6 years, and I’ve slowly seen my spouse’s eating habits change. Enjoy that journey and learn together, regardless of the twists and turns it may take. You never know, maybe someday your partner will sign up to Veganuary too!
Katy Malkin is a writer, whole foods enthusiast, and the creator of Learner Vegan. She is passionate about making veganism accessible for all.
This article first appeared in issue #3 of Seedling magazine. To check out more amazing articles about veganism, sustainability, spirituality and more, read the issue here. It’s free!