Fortunately, when I turned to veganism, I was in my early thirties and living on my own, so there was no one to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. But it got me thinking – “My parents won’t let me go vegan” must be a pretty common cry among those still living under someone else’s roof.
So this post is aimed at those brave and compassionate teens who are starting to question the status quo.
It can be tough (plus pretty lonely) when you unpick normalised beliefs that are held by the majority of society. And, if you’ve done your research and come to the conclusion that you never want to eat animals anymore, it suddenly seems shocking that anyone could think differently. This new way of viewing the world may be starting to alienate you from your non-vegan family.
No matter where you’re at right now – whether this has been a prickly subject or you’ve had some blazing rows – you might still be able to turn things around. So firstly, let’s try to understand where your parents are coming from, and then I’ll share my top tips for showing them that you’re serious about going vegan.
Reasons Your Parents Aren’t Supportive of You Going Vegan
First and foremost to remember is that your parents love you and have your best interests at heart. You may not be feeling this right now, but I promise you it’s true (at least, in 99% of cases). This doesn’t mean they’re right or that their word should be taken as gospel. However, it’s worth reminding yourself that their intentions are good.
“But it’s not like I’m smoking, doing drugs or having underage sex!” I hear you protest, “How can they be like this when I’m doing something that’s good for my health, the planet and animals? Shouldn’t they be proud of me?”
While you and I may know this, it’s a good life lesson to be your own voice of validation. Just because other people don’t agree with you or praise you, doesn’t mean for one minute that your efforts aren’t worthwhile. In fact, it often makes them all the more important.
It also doesn’t mean that your parents are bad or unkind people – they may simply have some of the below concerns.
They see veganism as a ‘fringe’ or ‘extremist’ lifestyle choice
A meat-free diet is a lot more accepted today than it was even 5-10 years ago, with 14% of the UK population now identifying as either pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan. While a vegan diet is growing rapidly in popularity, it’s still far from mainstream at just 2.5% of the population.
As such, your parents may have a growing awareness of the benefits of plant-based foods, but there still hasn’t been a tidal wave shift in opinion for the majority of the population – yet. So veganism may appear to them as a ‘fringe’ or even ‘hippy’ lifestyle. If you have fairly traditional parents that value conforming, they may find this a struggle.
It threatens their unquestioned worldview
Perfectly packaged goods featuring positive marketing messages mean that as a society, the horrors of the meat and dairy industries are conveniently kept out of sight, out of mind. And yet we say that we are a nation of animal lovers. Perhaps you even have a family pet in your home.
There must always be a subconscious level of guilt when we treat some animals so differently to others. When you highlight this hypocrisy by refusing to eat animal products, it shines a painful light on something that most people would rather not look at. This will certainly bring out your parent’s defensiveness if they’ve never thought to question this before.
They assume you’re being rebellious or it’s ‘just a phase’
This might be a difficult one to stomach, but your teenage years are ones of necessary experimentation and growth. As you undergo the process of maturity from childhood into adulthood, you begin to work out who you really are.
While coming to a moral decision about veganism is likely a choice you won’t go back on lightly, your parents won’t want to go to all the effort of adapting mealtimes if it’s something you’re going to give up on a few weeks in. Veganism is becoming more and more ‘trendy’ these days, so they’ll want to make sure that it’s truly important to you and that you’re doing it for the right reasons.
They’re concerned about the perceived health risks
“Where will you get your protein from if you’re not eating meat?” your parents will likely worry, “And what about calcium? Won’t you be deficient in lots of key nutrients on a strictly vegan diet?”
If you’ve done your research, then you’ll know that a vegan diet based around whole foods has been proven to be one of the healthiest in the world. So ironically, this should be the least of your parent’s concerns. But remember that they’ve grown up with the normalised belief that a healthy plate of food revolves around meat or fish, so it’s unsurprising that they have their concerns.
They’re worried it’ll be too expensive
Your parents may also have practical concerns about allowing you to go vegan, too. When they foot the weekly food bill and the cost of living is only on the increase, it may simply be a financial strain that they’re hesitant to commit to right now.
They’re reluctant to prepare lots of different meals
As someone who lives with an omnivore, this is one I can completely understand from a parent’s point of view! When you already have a lot to get done in a day, cooking is another stress to add to the list. Ensuring that everyone eats the same meal with sensible meal planning is one way to simplify life, so you can appreciate that asking them to cater for your individual needs is added pressure on their already limited time and energy.
They don’t want to feel pressured to change themselves
As we discussed earlier, when you decide to pursue a vegan lifestyle it can threaten other people’s stable worldview. And, if you live in a family of happily ignorant meat-eaters, they may have no desire to change. Even if this is entirely your own decision, they probably can’t help but feel threatened that you’re going to expect them to change with you.
10 Tips to Convince Your Parents To Let You Go Vegan
Hopefully, this has given you a brief glimpse into the inner workings of your parent’s brains! Now, here are my top tips for getting your non-vegan family members on board with your decision to go cruelty-free.
1. Educate yourself
If you want to convince your parents to let you go vegan, then one of the most important things you can do is your own research. Read up about the personal health benefits of veganism. Know how a plant-based diet helps to reduce climate change. Educate yourself fully on the ethical aspect.
Veganism probably isn’t something your parents know a huge amount about, so they’re naturally going to have a lot of questions. And, they’re going to feel a whole lot better if you can answer these questions confidently. This way, they know that you are being realistic about what a vegan lifestyle will entail.
It might be helpful to have a vegan food chart at hand so that you can show them your sources of protein, iron, calcium and other vital nutrients. Or, download an app like Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen so that they can see you’ve done your research when it comes to healthy food groups. In short, be fully prepared to bust any vegan myths that they may be fretting over.
The more proactive you are, the more you’re going to alleviate a lot of their initial fears. You need to show your parents that this is a well-considered decision and that you’re taking your health seriously.
2. Explain your reasons maturely & calmly
Honestly? This is just a good lesson for life.
When we feel like we are in the right, it’s easy to attack others for their beliefs. If conversations about you going vegan have quickly devolved into shouting matches and insults being hurled, then you’ve likely been left feeling frustrated, angry and hurt that they can’t see your point of view.
It’s not to say that you can’t be passionate about the things that you believe in – you should be! But you need to learn how to speak to people in a way which gets the best out of them. Approach anyone aggressively or with a superior attitude, and watch how quickly they jump to the defence.
The point is – you could be talking all the sense in the world, but you will never be heard when this is your method. On the flip side, you could have the woolliest of arguments, but approach someone with love and understanding, and the likelihood is that you’ll get them on side.
So remain in control of your emotions, no matter how upset or angry you may feel. Always talk to your parents calmly and maturely, and whatever their response – never play the victim or sulk.
Check out vegan activist Earthling Ed for an example of the right kind of attitude – passion tempered with kindness and respect.
3. Reassure them that you aren’t asking them to change
I get it – you’re desperate for your parents to see the light and you want them to change with you. But remember that it isn’t your job to change people. All you need to do is focus on being the best role model you can be and let people make their own decisions in their own time.
Approach your parents by letting them know that you’re interested in going vegan [insert reasons here], but that it’s an entirely personal choice and you don’t expect anything from them, just that they respect your decision. This will go a long way to alleviating any anxiety they may have about having to change themselves, especially if they have no desire to.
Ironically, when you stop trying to control other people, you may find that they surprise you and become much more open to possibilities they’d never even considered before.
4. Watch a few vegan documentaries together
Rather than complaining that no one understands you, try to make your parents feel included in your decision by inviting them into your world. A great way to do this – which doesn’t ask too much of them – is to suggest watching a few vegan documentaries together.
To give them a better understanding of the health problems associated with eating dairy and meat products, try What the Health or Forks Over Knives. Game Changers is another one that highlights how even athletes and bodybuilders can thrive on a healthy vegan diet.
For a sustainability perspective, watch Cowspiracy or Seaspiracy. And for a real tear-jerking (warning: graphic) ethical perspective, sit through Earthlings or Land of Hope and Glory. I doubt there’ll be a dry eye in the room.
If you’re looking for more suggestions, I’ve pulled together this list of powerful vegan documentaries.
5. Suggest some easy vegan swaps
Veganism can have a daunting reputation to the uninitiated, so your parents may be worrying that your diet will be severely restricted. But the truth of the matter is that there are so many easy vegan swaps now available!
For instance, you can replace dairy products with oat or almond milk, an olive spread and vegan cheese. Your favourite meat-based meals can also very simply be made vegan, e.g. mock meat burgers, sausages, mince or chicken pieces. Hell, if you like, you can even indulge in some vegan junk food here and there like pizza and ice cream.
Just because you stop eating meat, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy fuss-free, delicious food!
6. Offer to help with shopping & meal prep
To show your parents that you’re willing to get involved and put the work in, offer a hand with the weekly grocery shopping so that you can pick out some budget-friendly vegan options. Putting some of your own money towards it is going to go even further to show them that you’re serious about your diet change.
It will also go a long way to help out a few nights a week with meal preparation – especially if your parents are going out of their way to accommodate your new vegan food.
7. Learn how to cook for yourself
If you’re used to your parents doing all the cooking in your household, then perhaps this is a good opportunity to step up and take accountability for some of your own meals. By offering to cook your own food, or at least a few of your main meals each week, you can incorporate all of the vegan foods you like without impacting anyone else’s dinnertime.
You may not have a lot of experience with cooking, but don’t panic if you don’t know where to start. This is a great life skill that you’re going to have to learn at some point or other, so why not start now? While your parents may still eat meat, they’ll likely have plenty of useful knowledge in the kitchen that they’ll enjoy sharing with you, so use preparing meals as a bonding opportunity if you can!
8. Open their eyes to tasty plant-based food
Many people associate eating vegan with bland salads, but this is a sad misconception!
If you want to earn some brownie points, then don your chef’s apron and treat your parents to a lavish vegan meal cooked by yours truly. You could also suggest signing up for a vegan meal delivery service for a week and preparing your family’s meals. This has the added bonus of allowing you to prepare some impressive dishes, with easy-to-follow recipe cards that handily provide just the right quantities of ingredients.
Or, depending on where you live, take them to a tasty local vegan cafe or restaurant. Show your family that plant-based food can be just as creative and delicious, too!
9. Ease them in by making the transition slowly
This might not be what you want to hear, but sometimes slow and steady wins the race. Your parents are more likely to meet you in the middle if you offer to compromise.
You don’t have to dive in head first at the deep end when it comes to veganism. You could have a longer-term plan to transition that eases both you and your parents into it, such as starting by eliminating meat and fish (i.e. going veggie).
This way, you can prove to your parents that you have staying power, which will make them more likely to accept your wishes to go vegan in the long term.
10. Suggest a trial period
Another compromise would be to see if your parents will agree to a 30-day trial period. If you can meet certain conditions, e.g. you make the effort with shopping and meal prepping, plus you can prove that you’re taking accountability for eating healthy meals, then maybe it’s something they’d feel more comfortable agreeing to moving forwards.
What If Your Parents Still Refuse to Accept You Want to Go Vegan?
This is all well and good, but what if you can honestly say that you’ve tried all of the above tips and you still feel like you’re hitting a brick wall when trying to convince your parents to let you go vegan?
The short answer is: there isn’t a lot you can do about it.
Right now, you’re living in their home and by default their rules, so they do have a certain level of control over you. Once you’re 18 and you move out, you’re free to do whatever you want. But you’re going to have to accept that you need to respect their wishes for now.
The best course of action in this situation is to simply do what you can, whenever you can. For example, when you eat out as a family, opt for vegan meals. Be consistent with your choices, even when no one else is watching. Have credibility and integrity, and your parents won’t be able to help but notice this.
It may be tempting but don’t dig your heels in or make this into a battleground. The more you can treat the situation with dignity and act maturely, the more your parents are likely to be sympathetic to your view and attempt to meet you in the middle.
Hang In There! Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy, But It’s Worth It
If no one has said this to you recently, then I just want to finish by saying well done, don’t let this setback discourage you, and stay curious. I don’t mean this in any way patronisingly – it took me a lot longer to reach a vegan philosophy, so I have massive respect for anyone who has a grasp of their values and knows their own mind at such a young age. These are all the qualities you need to build a life of intention.
Remember that attitude is everything when it comes to anything you want in life. So no matter how indignant you are that your parents are in the wrong on this one, you’ve got to stay calm, considered and mature to get them on side and see your point of view.