Partner or parent? Head of a household? Make your move to a plant-based diet easier, with these transitioning tips for those with families.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet can be challenging, even for people who are highly motivated to improve their health. When you add feeding a family to the mix, well, it may feel like you're facing Mount Everest! If you’re lucky, your partner or kids might be happy to get on board with this new healthy way of eating, and possibly even be motivated by their own health goals, or by environmental factors. If healthy eating has always been the norm in your household, then the changes you make might not be a very big deal (in fact, they may even go unnoticed!) However, if these are major dietary changes that you're implementing, there may be a little friction at first. This is normal, and the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for any obstacles, while remaining confident in your decision.
There are several ways that you and your family can approach the transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. You may just want to include more plant-based meals, rather than diving in head first. If this is the case, you won't have to give the process much forethought. However, if you have decided to make the change to be complete plant-based, discuss this with your partner, and see if they will make the change with you. Make sure your significant other (if you have one) understands why you're making these dietary changes. If you are the one preparing most of the meals, you might find they are simply happy enough to eat whatever you cook! However, if you’re met with staunch opposition, you may want to come up with plan that allows you to prepare plant-based meals, to which your partner can add foods of their own choosing. Keep in mind that the best way to win anyone over is by delivering tasty foods, so finding recipes they enjoy will make a huge difference!
When it comes to children, your approach needs to be tailored according to their age and eating preferences. I’ve encountered several teenagers that actually instigated household dietary changes themselves; others who understood the benefits and were willing to try; and those who were very attached to unhealthy foods and familiar fare, and were very unwilling to change. When it comes to younger children, they'll tend to either eat what's presented to them (if they like the taste), or just outright refuse new foods. As their parent, you can probably predict the most likely outcome!
Regardless of the situation, these simple tips are designed to help you and your family in the transitioning process:
- Develop a dinner roster, and allow different family members to take turns picking out recipes and meals. The more involved they are, the more likely it is that your family will take an interest in what they’re eating.
- Have a casual discussion about plant-based eating with your family, so that everyone understands what’s going on- even if you're the only one eating this way. Use this time to make the necessary arrangements regarding cooking and mealtimes if anyone other than you is doing the cooking.
- Tailor your approach according to the age of your children. You can teach young kids about the basics of healthy eating and the importance of fruit and vegetables, without getting into anything too serious. You can engage them in a more detailed, age-appropriate discussion if they show interest. With older children, such as pre-teens and teens, the information you choose to share will depend largely on how much interest they express. You can talk about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, or even animal welfare issues if that aspect appeals to them. Adolescents may also enjoy watching relevant documentaries, such as Forks Over Knives.
- Plan your family's lunches, so they can keep up their healthy eating habits at school and work. Sandwiches, salads, or dinner leftovers are great options for adults. When it comes to kid’s lunch boxes, fruits, nuts, seeds, sandwiches, and raw veggies with hummus are all excellent staples. You can rotate some home-baked goodies once in a while as well!
- Prepare plant-based versions of familiar items, to ease the transition.
- For toddlers and pre-schoolers, preparing familiar foods means they are less likely to notice abrupt changes, or be overly challenged by unusual ingredients. Fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, mashed potato and pasta with tomato sauce are all common examples of kid-friendly plant-based foods.
- Children that are older will have developed certain food preferences, so it’s a good idea to try and cater to these in the early stages. Plant-based versions of familiar family meals may include:
- You may choose to also include some faux veggie “meats” such as soy sausages, chicken-chunks or deli slices. Though they're not nearly as healthy as grains or legumes, they can make the transition process easier. Most supermarkets and health food stores now carry a large range of these products; just be sure to look for those that are free from dairy and eggs, and go for options that have the lowest fat and sodium content.
For more information on this subject, check out our article on Plant-Based Eating for Kids.
Article photo courtesy of Tetra Pak via Flickr