How to Eat Vegan in a Non Vegan FamilySep 16, 2021
When I went vegan almost 12 years ago, my family didn't join me, but here I am thriving as a plant-based mama of 3 all these years later. One of the questions I get asked all the time is whether I make separate meals for myself and my non vegan family. My answer has always been and always will be a resounding "No!".
When I first went plant-based for the animals, I struggled with how to continue to feed my family their favorite meals without compromising my values and vegan diet. It's been a journey, but I've found a system where I can make one meal for dinner every night and please everyone. I'm constantly discovering new meal ideas to feed my omni family, and below I've shared my 5 favorite ways to eat vegan in a non vegan family.
1. Start with a vegan base.
If you start with a plant-based meal and build from there, you set yourself up for dinner success! For example, instead of trying to figure out how to veganize a roast chicken and potatoes meal, start with something like black bean and sweet potato enchiladas. If the non vegans in the house want animal protein, you can make a separate casserole dish and add shredded chicken (that you can buy pre-made at the store) to a few of the enchiladas. It's the same meal with just a slight modification.
Ethnic dishes are a great place to start. Italian, Indian, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines are some of my favorites. Pasta casseroles can easily be animal enhanced with a side of Italian sausage. Savory Indian dishes where robust sauces are the cornerstone, (think Butter Chickpeas and Tandoori Tofu), can be double batched and simmered with separate animal and plant proteins at the same time. Stir frys and noodle dishes can be served with tofu and chicken on the side for family members to customize to their preference.
2. Embrace DIY meals.
Any meal that allows each person in the family to "build their own" is a winner. Food bars are my dinner solution at least once a week. Prepare a couple different meal components that are vegan and have a variety of plant-based and non vegan toppings that include at least one of everyone's favorites. Serve it all buffet style and let family members go to town creating their meal.
Some of my family's favorite food bars are:
- "Sushi" bowls
Want more food bar ideas? Check out our free download here.
3. Make salads a meal.
Salads for dinner? You bet...and the family will love it! Start with a robust, loaded salad. Some of my go-to's are a big fat Greek salad, a fajita salad and an Italian chopped or antipasto salad. The key is to pile this salad with lots of veggies and fun toppings. Then, make double batch of a marinade (or buy one from the store) that fits your salad theme and set aside one batch for a plant protein such as tofu or tempeh, and another for chicken, fish or meat. Meal prep the marinade on the weekend and marinate the proteins over night. While you're assembling the salad platter, put someone else to work on cooking up the proteins. Lean, green and delish!
4. Take some help from the store.
Homemade doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself, nor does it mean you have to make everything from scratch. Our grocery stores have some wonderful prepared fresh food options and I use them whenever I can to bring more ease to my nightly dinner prep.
Once I have my meals laid out in my meal plan, I'll review them and identify where I'll need to have a non vegan option. For example, if I'm making a Tandoori Tofu for pita night, I'll pick up a pre-marinated Indian inspired chicken at the store to have as an option for my non vegans. If I'm making Portabello Asada tacos, I'll pick up a package of Trader Joe's Pollo Asada as an option for my husband and son who are not mushroom fans. With a simple store bought option, I ensure everyone has something to eat and I'm only making one meal.
5. Go big with sides.
I love making side dishes the main event for dinner. I might make a couple of different vegetables or salads, a savory and hearty grain and before I know it, there's just a little bit of room left for traditional protein. That's when I'll serve up some of the marinated tofu I batch cooked on the weekend and the chicken my husband makes as part of his weekly meal prep.
It doesn't have to be fancy when salads and veggies are the main event...and I'm not talking bland and boring vegetables and tossed salads. Think Street Corn & Quinoa Salad, a Grilled Broccolini Caesar Salad with Roasted Chickpeas or Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts. (Try out our members-only Recipe Library for only $1.) It's a veg feast!
More Family Meal Ideas