For new vegans and vets alike. Staying vegan is most successful when you have the key to balancing old friendships and tradition with new information, habits and friends. Here are my top tips:
Make your friends vegan food / let your friends make you something vegan
Want to win over your friends to your cause? Win their taste buds. There are too many amazing vegan recipes to count, so choose one and create a little candle lit soirée, invite your buds and wow them. It helps to keep to familiar dishes and ingredients and steer clear of “faux” anything for this type of endeavour. Help them imagine making themselves such a tasty vegan dish. Hint: the more “naturally vegan”, authentically based and delicious the better. Go with something you’ve made before that has turned out great.
Ever have a colleague, family or friend offer to try a vegan recipe? Take them up in it! Your gracious compliments and obvious care free chowing will give them a confidence boost that they too can create delicious and healthy cruelty free cuisine. Afraid it will turn out bad? Make them aware of your favourite recipe books in casual conversation or send them Pinterest pins of vegan fare and they may just remember!
My aunt made this incredible vegan carrot cake with vegan cream cheese icing which now serves as her staple dessert for family and friends!
Pack a vegan food stash / Eat out vegan
A great New Years resolution alone is to pack your lunch for work. Everyday. This is especially important for vegans as we don’t always have stellar vegan food options at our disposal. Even better, you can control your nutrition and make use of left overs (hello, efficiency!). You will also save money. This is a huge role modelling tip. Daily at work I get asked about the delicious lentil dahl aromas or about a particular veggie like my purple sweet potatoes.
Vegan options in the restaurant industry are catching on like wild fire. Almost daily I here of another restaurant option that is vegan. In creating The PlantKind Life Restaraunt Directory, I realized I have been to over 100 venues and had something to eat as a vegan. Your omni friends probably don’t realize that our diet is increasingly easy to come by. Show them how fun and social you can be as a vegan by eating out. When possible, support local venues that are vegan or close to it, or support those business who have ventured to add options for us. As a further incentive, you can leave a card as a thank you and an incentive (stay tuned for PlantKind’s outreach card!). There have been many times friends have also ordered “the vegan option” whether in solidarity or because it sounds and looks so damn delicious.
With a second location opening soon, restaurants like Pure Kitchen which offers mostly vegan cuisine is a good way to win over your friends at dinners out.
Purge your closet / Shop for a new vegan product
Got clothing or accessories that aren’t vegan from before your decision to go cruelty free? Think leather belts, boots, purses, shoes and fur or wool items. It’s the perfect time of year to purge your closet and possibly donate your items to those in need. Make like Marie Kondo and rid yourself of things you are keeping that no longer serve you. Sure, they’re still good but perhaps would get better wear (and hopefully not produced again!) by other owners. Why you’re at it, purge low quality, animal ingredient and tested drug store shampoos and makeup too. (these will probably unfortunately hit the trash but then you can make better future choices so as to avoid waste).
Want to reward yourself for your purging efforts? Or even just your decision to go vegan? Check out some brilliant online stores or local shops that carry lovely and 100% cruelty free goods such as Matt and Nat purses, Melissa Boots, a Mammoth Outerwear coat or Macbeth shoes. Pick one really nice piece you’ll keep and cherish and wear it with pride that no one and nothing was harmed in the making.
This beautiful Matt and Nat purse and J Crew Chelsea Boots are 100% cruelty free.
Maintain your relationships / Make new friends
If you just went vegan, chances are at least one person close to you has questioned or at least shown a lack of information about your choice. This is not to say that he or she doesn’t support you, but rather they wonder if this admittedly life shifting decision will affect who you “used to be”. The truth is, in some ways, it will! Your eyes and heart have been made keenly aware of some of the common practices of our food and customer industry and you’re choosing a different way of life. But you want to maintain the same loveable “you” qualities your friends and family know. Keep participating in all your get togethers and social events. Talk about veganism when it is relevant and don’t forget that others may simply not be open to hearing much about it. That’s okay. You need not constantly talk about the cause. Just live it. Be happy, healthy and well rounded. Don’t judge or blame or speak negatively of your friends. Let them see you are a more confident and self actualized version of yourself.
Unless you were raised vegan, you were led to make the decision after coming across information that made you uncomfortable continuing some practices of daily life such as eating animal products or using animal tested products. It’s natural to want to discuss, vent frustrations about current realities and bounce ideas off like-minded people. Since most vegans are perhaps the only one in their current social circle, it’s often helpful and socially progressive, to find a vegan community. No matter where you live, there are many online groups on Facebook or Meetup.com that can lead you to other vegans with similar interests. You can attend events that further your outreach or just help remind you you’re not alone in your quest to make this a more compassionate world. And it’s never a bad idea to make a new friendship.
Two events we attended last year. One we hosted at PlantKind, the second organized by another vegan in the community. Both were a great time!
Maintain rituals / Break tradition
My family likes to order Chinese takeout on Christmas eve. It started with my grandma who probably started the tradition between wanting to try new and exciting neighbourhood restaurants and wanting a break from cooking. We have carried on every single year since I was a kid. My family had to understand when I wasn’t going to eat turkey at special dinners, but why shouldn’t I keep the Chinese takeout tradition? Now, we order at least half the food as vegan friendly dishes and everyone shares and we eat the veggie stuff. My family is happy to accommodate Kyle and I. We also maintain tradition by bringing vegan friendly stuff to summer BBQs or substituting non vegan ingredients in traditional baking. This is a also a way to normalize your veganism into what your family and friends already do. It also helps you feel you haven’t sacrificed everything you once loved for a cause.
On the flip side, shaking things up can be a positive thing too. Sometimes tradition is only kept for lack of questioning the reasons. You can often add new enthusiasm and interest to events if you put a twist on them. From falafels in place of meatballs with spaghetti to daiya or chaos cheese on raclette grill. Or even a brand new tradition like our January “Potato Party” or a summer all vegan BBQ we did last year. Maybe even a vegan western sandwich Christmas morning meal. Your friends will jump at the chance to be creative. My friends even threw me a fully vegan bachelorette picnic!
Some glances at the get togethers and food I’ve eaten as a vegan with my family and friends. Note the baked potato from the Potato Party (where we had a fully vegan toppings bar) and the vegan kababs my family made last summer on the grill.
Research new info / State what you know to be true
There is constant research coming out stating new evidence that a whole food, plant based diet is the healthiest diet for our leading killers in North America (Greger, 2015). Documentaries like Cowspiracy show evidence that animal farming is hurting the planet more than ever. Books such as The China Study and How Not to Die are leading the way in shining the light on why adopting a plant based diet is more important than ever. We’ve compiled a short list of links that help new and veteran vegans learn more about the movement and keep up with the best dietary information. In order to best serve yourself, it’s a good idea to keep on top of the dietary guidelines so as to properly nourish yourself, stay healthy and defend against any attack or false information you find online or from someone you know.
The reasoning behind going plant based is a logical and rational science, but while it’s a good idea to know the facts, going vegan is an intuitive and emotional process as well. You don;t always have to have the perfect answer for every debate. You know that harming other sentient beings is wrong and commodifying animals is something you choose not to do. You’ve made the link between oppression of many kinds. No book, journal or textbook is going to argue against gut instinct. Go with your gut and follow your heart when it comes to your decision to go vegan. It is the most meaningful way to live.
People will take note of your ability to live a happy life while having given up many products and foods. Even if you are opening a can of beans in a parking lot for lack of other food choices like K. Just be true to yourself and your values will make more sense and perhaps even inspire others to change.
Be a diplomat/ Stand up for your cause
“Killing them with kindness” would be apropos here, except, we don’t want to kill things. But you get what I mean. Online trolling consisting of teasing vegans with bacon jokes and quoting fake science has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the exposure of inconsistent morals placed on meat eaters by themselves when they see that vegans are in fact happy and healthy and not participating in cruelty or earth destruction. If you are easy on their egos (we all have them), I promise it will be easier. Answering with words which could be seen as egotistical and self righteous may make you feel more powerful, but does absolutely nothing for the furthering of knowledge and understanding of the other nor the overall cause. In fact, it may turn others away. Remember that the statement of being vegan is done by you but is not about you. Be selfless, be understanding. It is likely that you were once a non vegan too. No one wants to be a bad person. Help others see that they are not but that their is a better way. Be impeccable with your words (online and in person). Be gracious with your actions. Be that thriving and confident role model that helped bring YOU to veganism.
If you can act with the mindset of a leader and a pioneer, others will follow. Show your pride and act for your cause. Don’t be afraid to make statements and outreach for veganism. Start an outreach group, participate in a well planned demonstration or volunteer for a farm sanctuary, vegan fest or organization. Most importantly, it’s the little decisions you make: where you shop, what you buy, what you refuse to buy etc. You are changing the world’s destiny for the better one little step at a time. Believe in that!
Just living as a happy vegan amongst my friends. We have had great opportunity so far as PlantKind to reach out to the community with dinners and events such as our dinner meet ups and Ottawa Veg Fest.