Although I stopped eating animals more than 20 years ago, I’m living in a house full of carnivores. My husband and our four kids love meat (and would sell their souls for bacon), so the odds of me getting them to go 100% vegetarian are practically nil.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t shift the focus here at home away from eating animal products, or that doing so is difficult. In fact, it’s pretty easy.
Aside from simply serving meat less often, here are five tips for nudging your family away from animal products without anyone mutinying in the process:
1. Reset the table.
We eat with our eyes as much as our mouths, so try this visual trick: Instead of placing the pot roast or chicken casserole center stage, move it off to the side. Give a big, colorful salad or rainbow assortment of veggies the place of honor in the middle of the table, and your family may be more drawn to it.
2. Make subtle swaps.
Kids — and partners — are likelier to embrace vegetarian
substitutes if you don’t broadcast minor switches. So the next time you make pancake batter, use almond milk in place of cow’s milk. Rather than adding eggs to cookie dough, try applesauce or chia seeds. Months from now, when your family swears they hate veggie alternatives, point out that they’ve been enjoying them all along.
3. Try something new.
Get your kids interested in fruits and veggies by letting them choose a special one each week. They probably won’t be gung-ho at first, but they might come around when they discover how many unique options are out there. From star fruit and salsify to pluots and purple broccoli, there are lots of surprises to be found in the produce aisle.
4. Treat meat as an add-in, not an entrée.
If you’re making spaghetti and meatballs, serve the meatballs alongside the sauce, not in it. On taco night, put the seasoned ground beef in the same size bowl as the rest of the fixings. Get your family in the habit of adding a little bit of meat to their plates — rather than adding a little bit of everything else to a plateful of meat — and they’ll begin to see that meat is an option, not the option.
5. Be honest.
Veggie burgers aren’t “just like regular hamburgers,” and soy cheese isn’t “exactly the same as real cheese.” They’re not. And the more you insist these products are no different than their meaty counterparts, the more you invite (unpleasant) comparisons between the two. So don’t pretend that Boca Burger you’re serving is made of beef. Tell the truth: It’s made of bocas. Or something.
And above all else? Don’t preach! Nothing turns people off to the idea of cutting back on meat and dairy
like being lectured to by a holier-than-thou vegetarian. Just lead by example. Order your pizza sans pepperoni. Opt for a soy latte. At the ballpark, choose a bag of peanuts over the requisite hot dog. Slowly but surely, they’ll get the message that animal products aren’t the only game in town.
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