Do you want to go vegan or vegetarian but your partner (or the people who you’re living with) are not on board? How do you deal with the differences in food, meals, grocery shopping and everything in between?
Personally, I started my plant-based journey earlier than Phi. The transition in diet was already difficult itself, so having to live with someone who ate meat was very hard indeed. Fortunately, we’re now both plant-based but I’ve learnt so many things from that experience and I’m excited to share it all with you!
Meal planning can help everyone co-exist in greater harmony. While you plan your plant-based meals and the other person plans their meat meals, you can also plan neutral meals together. This can help reduce costs, food wastage and helps you bond. For example, breakfasts and side dishes (such as salads and soups) are generally vegetarian or vegan anyway so it could be a common dish in the household.
We recommend planning meals that are easy to make food swaps. Dishes like burgers, burritos, sandwiches, nachos and similar all have the usual ingredients in them but you can opt for a vegan patty while your partner eats a meat patty. Eventually you can even make pasta sauces and curry bases that are plant-based and add respective vegetables or meats into it. This way, there is less mess in the kitchen, less separate cooking and more fun together!
Grocery Shop Together
It might be easy to do grocery shopping separately when you eat different diets. Also, some households work differently and that’s okay. However, we encourage people to grocery shop together if they can because it’s a bonding experience over your dietary choices. Your partner may not usually browse at the produce section but because you buy the majority of your food there, he/she might realise that those potatoes are looking quite delish!
Exposure is great for people who are new to the plant-based diet. Plus, shopping with non-vegans is good because you’ll expect what’s in the kitchen and you don’t have any weird surprises when you open the pantry or fridge door!
One Night Compromise
Choose one night (or two, or three!) of the week where both of you eat a plant-based meal. While some may say this is unfair because the omnivore has to eat a plant-based meal (rather than you eat meat), a gentle reminder that an omnivorous diet also includes plant foods too is usually suffice! On a health perspective, it’s also recommended that meat eaters have some plant-based only meals some time during the week too.
Curries, pasta, burritos and burgers are plant-based meals that are often approved by meat-eaters.
This is an excellent way to bond with each other over your beliefs. You can cook a plant-based meal together and marvel at how easy and delicious it is. Naturally, conversations about the topic can ensue and you can introduce them to the plant-based world.
Different Fridge or Allocate a Specific Shelf
Okay, this might sound a little crazy but hear me out. There are many couples and families who have seperate fridges to store their vegan and non-vegan foods. Some people find it uncomfortable to have animal products in close proximity to their fruits and vegetables. This is understandable because when you’ve been plant-based for a long period of time, the smell and texture of meat becomes quite unpleasant.
There are so many different sized fridges available nowadays meaning you don’t have to spend a lot to buy a smaller one. If buying another fridge isn’t an option, a good idea is to allocate a shelf for animal products. We feed our dogs a raw diet so we have a specific shelf in our fridge where we keep their meats. It also helps to have good storage boxes to prevent any smells or leakage from occurring.
Different Pantry and Utensils
Similarly, we recommend organising the pantry into vegan and non-vegan foods. Practicality-wise, cooking is more efficient when everyone knows where their things are. It also reduces the possibility of mistakes (for example, using a non-vegan food product) and any conflict surrounding that.
One thing that we really do recommend is to have separate chopping boards and utensils. This isn’t just a ‘living with an omnivore’ kind of situation but it is a basic culinary knowledge. Using separate colour-coded cutting boards for meat and plant foods prevents cross-contamination. This is important in a health sense as bacteria from meat transferring onto fruits and vegetables can lead to food poisoning. Furthermore, some people are also uncomfortable with using the same crockery that’s been used for animal products, even if it has been sanitised.
At Embody Nourish, we believe that kindness trumps everything. Even if you don’t do any of the things above, practicing kindness will pave the way and the rest will fall into place. Kindness comes in many forms.
It can include understanding why your parter may not be plant-based or may not be ready to change like you are. Perhaps he or she hasn’t been exposed to the information or research that’s out there or nutrition isn’t a priority in their life right now. It’s also worthwhile to remember how hard it was for you to transition and they might be experiencing the same (or even worse) when they try to go plant-based.
A common frustration many people experience is that they cook for their partners who eat meat while they are plant-based. We believe communication is paramount in these circumstances and that it’s nice to have a little bit of empathy. The partner may not know how to cook (in which case learning together is a great opportunity) or they may have little time to do soafter coming home from work. We also think meal prep is a good solution here too.
Of course, there’s also more to the world than whether you eat plant-based or not. Always remember that despite this dietary difference, you obviously live together for a reason. Whether you’re roommates, family or partners, it’s important to appreciate the relationship and the things you like or love about each other outside of it. This difference is actually going to make the grow relationship stronger.