If you’ve seen the light and realized that a whole food plant-based diet is good for your health and your waistline, and especially if you’ve already experienced the benefits yourself, you’re probably wanting to share your enthusiasm and to encourage your friends and family (and maybe everyone else you know!) to join you on the plant-based bandwagon.
It makes sense. We, of course, want others to have the same improved energy, health and overall wellness that we do. Or, maybe you want to make a difference in the world and you know that going plant-based is the most environmentally sustainable and animal-welfare friendly way to eat. There are so many things to feel good about with this lifestyle.
It’s so worth it to reach out and share your plant-based passion if you do it skillfully. Can you just imagine the sense of community you’ll feel when you share meat and dairy-free meals with your loved ones?
But unfortunately, like politics, dietary choices can sometimes pit opposites against one another. We’ve all probably tired of those snarky remarks about the “birdseed” or “rabbit food” that we eat. But take hope – the odds are good that your home life will be calmer and more relaxed when you’re all on the same “plate.”
To reduce stress and get that good feeling you’ll have from sharing your whole food plant-based passion, let’s learn how to calm the waters. Below are 11 suggestions for gently but effectively coaxing your family, friends and even co-workers into trying a whole food plant-based diet filled with delicious flavors and boatloads of nutrition.
11 Tips for Sharing Your Plant-Based Lifestyle
Lead by Example
You are more powerful than you think! When your friends and family see how well you’re doing on a plant-based diet, they’ll be impressed. People notice success because they want the same for themselves. Your personal life changes for the better may influence others more than you expect, or at the very least, your experience will likely make them more receptive and curious.
Keep Your Cool
Always, always, always remember to stay calm. If you get upset, arrogant or short-tempered, it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to receive your message when it’s delivered in an unpleasant and offending manner. If you feel yourself starting to get triggered emotionally, take a deep breath or switch the topic.
It’s not worth compromising your relationships and most likely nothing good will come from the interaction at that point. And especially don’t have a discussion while you’re eating. People have a right to enjoy their food in peace and the last thing they want is to hear your lecture!
Be a Good Listener
Be aware that simply telling someone that you don’t eat meat or dairy can set off a cascade of feelings in the other person, even making people start to feel defensive about the way that they eat. It’s really important to pay attention to how others are reacting to you. Timing matters. Make sure that the other person is paying attention and has at least some receptivity to what you’re saying.
Just remember, you can always plant a thought seed and pick up the thread at another more opportune moment. Use your intuition and my advice would be to always err on the side of harmony.
Do your homework and think through what you want to say. Be prepared with some quick facts and “talking points” to overcome the objections that others will inevitably make as you advocate a plant-based diet. Being ready with answers backed up by solid research will go a long way to helping you feel more confident.
People who are unfamiliar with a whole food plant-based vegan diet may have some misunderstandings, some of which are pretty common:
“You can’t possibly be getting enough protein.”
“You’re missing important nutrients, aren’t you?”
“I heard soy was bad for you.”
“Aren’t you hungry all the time?”
If you’re the kind of person who likes to write things down, you can even put your talking points on index cards and use them to practice.
Keep It Positive and Light
Choose uplifting words and focus on the many documented benefits of plant foods such as looking better, having more energy, losing weight, lowering your cholesterol levels and preventing or even reversing chronic illness, rather than the negatives of eating meat and dairy (of which of course there are plenty). Don’t bring up the negative impacts of someone’s diet unless they signal you that they’re interested.
Always keep in mind that fun and laughter are contagious. No one likes being lectured or talked down to.
Most people love it when you show interest in them! A great way to do that is by asking questions, which will give you important information on what’s holding them back from considering this lifestyle change.
Check-in questions: Are you worried that a plant-based diet will –
- Affect the people around you?
- Be too hard?
- Deprive you of the right nutrition and enough protein?
If you know what’s got them stuck, you’ll be able to respond knowledgeably while politely overcoming their objections one by one.
Share Plant-Based Success Stories
There are many personal success stories relating to different areas of health. Many of these stories are related to weight loss. Other themes in these narratives include the lessening or elimination of chronic conditions such as diabetes, lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure, coronary artery disease helped, the clearing of acne and the lifting of depression. You’ll find lots of these inspiring personal tales at Forks Over Knives.
Good and Good For You
While it’s important to describe the health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet, folks are naturally going to be curious about what the food is like. They’ll be wondering whether plant-based foods will be hard to make or if they’re as tasty as what they’re used to? After all, if it’s not delicious, it’ll be hard to get anyone to stick with it.
Let people know how pleasantly surprised you were to realize how satisfying fresh, healthy plant-based food can be. If you describe a delicious cashew mac and cheese to them, a tasty veggie lasagna or a burrito loaded with crisp veggies, they’ll start imagining how that dish might be enjoyable for them.
Better yet, compile a list of your favorite plant-based meals to share, easy ones preferably, and be sure to include some irresistibly beautiful food photos. There’s nothing like the colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, and we do eat with our eyes first.
Some people are readers for whom a good book can have a bigger impact than anything you say about how a plant-based diet. A list of your favorite easy-to-read books can be a great resource. I have a book list on my Complete Resources page that you can reference, but you may already have some that you know and love. It’s great if a book has recipes to help someone get going right away.
You can also loan your own books out or give them as gifts. I’ve gifted plant-based books to my friends for special occasions and those books have always been appreciated.
Invite Them for a Home-Cooked Meal
Most people love to be cooked for and serving your friends or family a plant-based meal that looks and tastes delicious is a surefire way to seal the deal. Your best bet is to serve dishes that are familiar to them in plant-based forms, such as vegan burgers, pizza, pasta, soups, and salads.
Watch Documentaries Together
Make a fun evening of it! After you’ve served a delicious plant-based meal with friends or family, watch an insightful documentary with them. There are many good films to choose from. I would, however, advise staying away from films that focus on animal cruelty. While it’s, of course, an important topic worthy of attention and consideration, it could be too intense for a beginner just starting to look for a healthier diet.
May the Force Be with You
Don’t be shy about sharing your enthusiasm and I hope you’ll try out some of these suggestions. Remember, you’re sharing your plant-based lifestyle because you care about other people and want the best for them.
I’d love to hear how it goes, so please be in touch. Your feedback can help all of us spread the word about both the benefits and the joys of a whole food plant-based vegan life.
Good luck and have fun!