Our choices about what food we eat—and don’t eat—are among the most personal ones we make (parenting is another one).
Your family and friends may not share your healthy eating philosophy. Though it may not matter to you if they do, differences in eating can cause people you’re sharing meals with to worry or feel uncomfortable. It may bring up their own insecurities about their eating habits or what they don’t understand about healthy eating.
In the past, I’ve found that being a guest in someone’s home (or simply sharing meals together) with people who do not follow plant-based eating means that we end up talking about food. A lot. Food debates, questioning my decisions, and offering me or my daughter food that does not align with our plant-based eating are all things that have come up frequently and repeatedly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about food. But I would love even more to simply enjoy each other’s company and have the nourishing meals be a backdrop to the experiences we have together.
So what should you do when you want to socialize and plan visits with people who eat differently than you?
As we head into the season of family visits and vacations, I thought it might be useful for you to have a resource to make those conversations as simple and straightforward as possible.
Here’s what I do now: I send an email like the one below to my host two or three weeks in advance of our visit. If they’d like, we have a phone conversation about the content after they’ve read it so they can ask questions.
What I’ve found is that this eliminates uncertainty and worry on their part—bridging the gap between them and myself—and allows me to relax and enjoy our time together instead of fielding questions every hour about what we can and can’t eat.
Here’s a fill-in-the-blank template for telling your hosts about your plant-based eating before your visit:
Dear host’s name,
I’m so looking forward to seeing you next week/in 2 weeks.
Since we’ll be sharing meals together during our visit, I wanted to let you know that I currently eat a plant-based diet/vegan/vegetarian.
What this means is that I don’t eat meat/fish/dairy/oils/processed foods. However, I do eat all kinds of starches, vegetables/fruit, and some healthy sweets.
If we choose to go out to eat together, ethnic restaurants—such as Asian cuisines, and Mexican—will have plenty of options for me.
If we’re sharing a sweet treat or dessert, sorbets and fresh fruit are perfect.
I’m sharing this information with you so that you can ask any questions you’d like ahead of time, and so food does not have to take center stage in our conversations and activities during our visit.
And, know that I respect your personal eating habits and don’t expect you to adhere to mine during the visit. I would love to share my resources and recipes with you, but only as you wish.
Thank you in advance for not offering (my family and) me any meat/fish/dairy/oils/processed foods that I have to say “no” to.
I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have ahead of our visit. And I’d love to cook some plant-based/vegan/vegetarian meals together while I’m there—just say the word.
Food for thought: What are the most effective ways you’ve found to talk about your food choices with the people you love?