How to Talk to Friends and Family About Trying a Plant-Based Diet

There is little in life that is harder than watching a loved one go through a difficult health crisis. While there is a lot we can do to be there for them, there are still so many things that are outside our control. It can be especially challenging to see someone special affected by a lifestyle-related condition and feeling confident that, if they would only change some things about their daily habits, they could get better.

We must tread lightly in these situations to protect the emotional health of our loved one and ourselves. But sometimes we feel really strongly about having a conversation about steps they can take to improve their health—including increasing the amount of healthy, plant-based foods in their daily meals.

Shifting diets away from unhealthy Standard American Diet fare and toward more whole, nutritious plant foods can reduce rates of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and more. But how do we convince people to give it a try? There are a few important elements to remember.

1) Putt yourself in their shoes

Firstly, it is usually ineffective to go in guns-blazing when trying to talk to someone about the benefits of plant-based eating. It can overwhelm people and turn them off to the idea. To make sure you are effective in giving them the info, walk a mile in their shoes. Your loved one is probably scared, sad, disappointed, angry or perhaps even feeling guilty about the state of their health. Be sensitive to these feelings, as they can color how new information is received. For instance, lecturing someone about how the foods they’ve been eating all their lives is not the way to get someone to listen and could make them feel worse after talking to you.

2) Knowing the difference between “plant-based” and “vegan”

A large portion of plant-based eaters also identify as vegan. To be plant-based is to include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds into one’s diet—and perhaps a certain amount of animal products. To be vegan means there is a strong ethical reason (or collection of reasons) for not consuming, using or purchasing any animal products. Many vegans choose this lifestyle because of the conditions in which animals are bred and raised for food in factory farming and others are vegan because of the destructive impact this food system has on the environment.

If you are talking to a loved one about the health benefits of plant-based eating, stick to the science on how these foods can benefit human health. Vegans already face public scorn and many people will shut out anything a vegan has to say simply because they define themselves with that term. Recognize the difference between the terms and reconcile any disappointment that your loved one may consider leaning more plant-based and not becoming a full-blown vegan.

3) Providing information vs. lecturing

If you are in the process of creating quizzes over the content you’ll be giving to your loved one—stop and reflect. Did your friend or family member ask for a lecture? If so, go forth and educate! If not, take a step back and re-evaluate what kind of conversation would actually be beneficial for them. This is an optimal time to ask them directly what would be helpful. Would they like a book recommendation on the topic? A documentary? A Ted Talk? A face-to-face discussion?

4) Relinquishing the idea of having control over their actions

No matter what, we cannot control the actions of others. It’s a struggle that doctors and dietitians know all too well. People can provide information and encourage action, but the rest is up to the afflicted person.

5) Taking care of your own emotional health

The notion that we can provide all the compelling information in the world, yet our closest love one may not implement any changes can be devastating. Our own emotional and mental health can take a dive when we want so desperately for someone to take healthy steps and it does not happen. If you are struggling with this plight, you are certainly not alone. Find support in the form of a good friend, a good book (like Dr. Melanie Joy’s book Beyond Beliefs: A Guide for Improving Relationships and Communication for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat-Eaters), or a professional counselor who can help you find a way to deal with the hurt.

Related:
Why Veganism is the Future
What is Tapping and How Can It Reduce Stress?
5 Vegan Remedies for a Sore Throat

Photo credit: Thinkstock

112 comments

Veronica D
Veronica D5 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D5 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D5 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Danii P
Danii P6 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Danielle S
Danielle S8 days ago

Not bad advice. Thanks!

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Danii P
Danii P17 days ago

Thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S19 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S19 days ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven19 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven19 days ago

thanks for sharing

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