Q: How do I get my loved ones on board with my plant-based eating? It’s hard when everyone around me questions my eating choices.

A: In a perfect world, mealtime should be an occasion to come together, enjoy a nice meal and connect with your family and friends. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and that idyllic scenario is hard to achieve if you and your meal companions are butting heads over food choices.

If you’ve recently chosen to go plant-based, chances are you’re really excited about the prospect of this new eating style. So how do deal with resistance from loved ones and stay true to yourself? Follow these tips to make the transition to a plant-based diet as peaceful as possible.

  1. Be non-reactionary

You can’t change how others act; you can only change how you react. As soon as you announce your new plant-based lifestyle, you’ll likely receive a barrage of questions and comments. “How do you get your protein?” “You can’t get enough iron from plants.” “Can I still eat meat in front of you?”

Although these statements might make your blood boil, the best way to handle the situation is to remain calm. If someone seems genuinely interested in learning more about plant-based eating, then take the time to educate them on why you decided to make this choice and how it’s working out for you. If they just want to condemn you for your new lifestyle, there’s probably no changing their mind. Don’t react and move on!

  1. Don’t force it

Making a dietary shift takes a lot of work, and you’re proud of the effort you’ve put into this change. As a matter of fact, learning more about plant-based eating, meal planning and cooking have probably become a large part of your life. That said, although you’re excited about this adjustment and you want to share it with everyone, pressuring or shaming your loved ones into plant-based eating is not a good idea. Actually, it’s a really bad idea.

The decision to go plant-based is an individual choice, and it won’t help your relationships to force it on anyone else. Just like you want your loved ones to be understanding of your food choices, you have to be tolerant of theirs (even if you don’t agree). Decisions to make a change only stick when someone comes to that conclusion on their own, not when it’s thrust upon them.

  1. Introduce new foods gradually

If you normally eat the same foods as your partner or family members, gradually start to introduce new foods at mealtime. Although you may be eating plant-based 100% of the time, it’s unrealistic to think that your family is willing to do the same. Instead, make simple swaps to include more plant-based options. For instance, implement a Meatless Monday rule and let your partner or kids pick out what you eat on that day. Or try plant-based meals that most people like, such as pasta or pizza. Once you’ve given that a try, introduce a new plant-based protein, like beans or lentils, and let your loved one decide how you’ll prepare it. The keys to acceptance are starting slow and incorporating others in the process.

  1. Seek out a community

Okay, maybe you’ve tried everything to get your friends and family onboard, but they aren’t budging. If that’s the case, find other plant-based eaters in your community or online. You may already know someone at work, school or in the neighborhood, who can introduce you to other plant-based eaters. Suggest a monthly potluck party or ask them for some of their favorite recipes. There are also plenty of resources online, such as Facebook groups. Join a few and make some virtual plant-based friends to share recipes with and swap stories.

  1. Find a compromise

Plant-based eating isn’t always perfect. Just as you’re asking your loved ones to compromise, you’ll have to do the same. That means going to dinner somewhere that is meat-focused and ordering a bunch of sides. Or eating a fruit cup at brunch because all of the other options are made with eggs. If your partner is open to it, find a compromise that works for both of you. Maybe you go to their favorite restaurant one weekend and then they try a new vegan restaurant the next. If you’re both open-minded, it’ll be easier for everyone!

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