How To Enjoy Holidays With Carnivorous Relatives

This post is by Trevor Justice with contributions from:
Nomi Shannon, author of The Raw Gourmet
Lara Adler, Holistic Health Counselor
Roberta Schiff from the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society
Raederle Phoenix, Raw Nutrition Expert
Whether you want to take a "gentle activist" approach at the dinner table, or a non-judgmental "Buddhist" approach, this article will be a Godsend.

You'll learn from the wisdom of four long-time vegans, and hear comical stories that help you realize that you're "not the only one".

If you have additional tips or suggestions to share with our community about this topic, we'd love for you to post a comment at the bottom of this post. If we like your suggestions, we may include them in a forthcoming ebook and credit you.

Disarming Hostile Situations

As a vegetarian, vegan, or raw fooder, you may find yourself in a situation where a host doesn't understand your dietary needs, or an omnivore at the dinner table questions your food choices. In your presence, they might feel judged or guilty for eating meat. In these situations, the last thing you want to do is add more fire to theirs.

Nomi Shannon recommends “smiling your biggest smile” and then saying in the most loving way that you can, “I feel great on this diet. It seems to be working excellently for me. As long as it continues to, I'm sticking to it.”
This is a really inoffensive thing to say. You’re not asking them to change. You’re just giving them a simple explanation with a huge grin on your face. Nomi says that she can guarantee that almost anyone will back down in the face of a beaming smile and a statement like that.
Omnivores often have developed some shame or guilt for eating meat, but not enough to give it up. So what happens? This makes them defensive. It can help to point out that you love them regardless of what they eat.
Lara Adler also uses a method of “disarming” verbal attackers. She likes to say, “I feel really great eating the way that I do, and that’s my motivation.” She admits that it's tempting to then ask, “What is your motivation?” But that isn't really appropriate for most formal holiday dinners.
Sometimes when you’re presented with arguments, you may feel like you need to fight the battle. Often the best way to “win the war” is simply to not fight, but to display your own personal health and happiness.
Lara says that disarming is the best way to go, even if somebody takes their knife and dings on a champagne glass and says, “Excuse me, I’d like to attack you… Why do hate me so much for eating the turkey?” You don't lose anything when you smile and state that your diet is working beautifully for you.
If somebody does pull you aside and say, “What’s the big deal with this diet thing you're doing?” or “Why aren't you eating like normal people?”, then you can simply ask – in a really polite non-defensive way – “Why does my personal choice bother you so much?”

Gentle Activism & Educating Your Family and Friends

Roberta Schiff suggests “gentle education” of omnivore friends and family. As long as you keep your statements factual and don't make any accusations. You can express that you feel a lot of sadness when you think about the way animals are raised and slaughtered. That it makes you unhappy that we feed so much of the grain we grow – about 80% in this country – to animals, and that this practice contributes to world hunger.
This moves the focus to how you feel. When you make a statement starting with “I feel” or “I think” or “I am affected this way”, then you're making a statement about yourself, not about them.
It's an “I” message, rather than a “You” message. This is sometimes called “nonviolent communication” or “compassionate communication”.
Instead of saying “you’re killing animals,” or “you should feel ashamed”, just talk about yourself; “I feel sad that so many animals are kept in cages and treated inhumanely.”
You'll need to gauge each meal and who is present for how you want to handle the situation. In some situations, keeping the topic far away from veganism and humane animal treatment may be the best thing you can do. Just stay focused on enjoying the company and being positive. In other situations, you may decide to drop one or two statements about how you feel.
Away from the dinner table, if you're approached and further questioned, you can try saying, “I’m noticing that you care a lot about what I eat. Why is it so important to you?”
The thing about it is, it’s no longer a debate about “Is it healthy?” “Is it moral?” “Is it better for the environment?” It’s no longer about any of that. It’s about, “Why is it important to you? Why do you care so much? Why does this matter to you?” That puts the ball back in their court.
In situations where someone becomes really offensive, it can be helpful to remember (and to tell yourself as many times as needed): “Everything they say is about them”. They likely have similar issues with other people; what they're saying isn't really about you.
I’ll give you an example, as a parallel. I have an uncle who is a bigot. He’ll say things that are very inflammatory at the dinner table. All my other relatives know it, too.
I can let myself get provoked and argue with him but there’s really no need, because everything he says is about him. Every time he says something bigoted, everyone knows that he is being insensitive. I don’t need to say anything about it for them to know that.
Likewise, if someone attacks you in a way that’s insensitive, even if your relatives don't come to your defense, they know that what was said was insensitive. You don’t need to say anything to make sure that they know it.
I had another experience years ago while I was having a raw food potluck at my house. A very hard-core raw food guy came over. Everyone else prepared a nice dish, something to be savored.
This man, he brought fruit. He didn’t chop it up or make a fruit salad. It was just whole fruit. He put it on the table and nobody ate it because the other food was more attractive.
At the end of the potluck I said to him, “You know, it would really be nice when you come again if you’d prepare a dish like the other people did.”
And he said, “Well I don’t believe in that, because if I chopped up the fruit and it didn’t all get eaten then it would turn brown and it wouldn’t be any good the next day. So this is the way that I like to bring it. If that doesn’t work for you then I just won’t come to the potlucks anymore.”
I had two emotions about this experience. On the one hand, I respected that he cares so much about not wasting food. On the other hand, he was really rigid. It was a mirror for me, because I realized that my family sometimes experienced me in the same way that I experienced this man. My rigidity, for them, was challenging to work around.
For a host to have to think, “Oh I have to now make a special soup that doesn’t have meat in it and a special this and a special that…” I suddenly understood what a challenge I was creating when I would go to family dinners and other events. That gave me some perspective.
Its important to make sure not to overwhelm your host with your dietary choices. If they feel like they can't work around it, then just bring your own.

Bringing Your Own

At one point in Nomi's life she drove five hours to get to her sister’s house a couple years in a row. She asked her sister nicely if she would be willing to make a salad. Her sister's response was, “I’m not going to make a salad on Thanksgiving.”
More recently, Nomi has started bringing plenty of her own dishes to Thanksgiving dinners with her family. She doesn't mention that they're “raw” or that they're “vegan”.
Nomi suggests not trying to contribute a particular part of the meal. Often if you say things like, “I’ll bring the cranberry sauce,” you'll just get replies like, “No, no, I have that,” or “No, no, I have a special recipe.” It's also easiest if you're bringing something that isn't expected to taste any certain way, so that if it tastes different, it can be evaluated on its own merit, not in comparison to something it is “supposed” to taste like.
When you bring something, you can “sell your dish” without ever mentioning its cruelty-free ingredients. You can say, “Oh I have this special favorite. It’s this incredible pie recipe. You won’t ever taste anything like it. It’s delicious.”
When you do this, without mentioning that its vegan, you avoid getting responses like, “For vegan pie, this is good.” What you really want them saying is, “For pie this is good.”
Nomi likes to bring gourmet raw food dishes like marinated mushrooms, sweet potato fillets, soft marinated savory-spiced greens and cranberry sauce.

By bringing her own, she knows she won't have to go without, won't have to obligate her host with special directions, and she'll be able to have a positive influence on her family all without ever having to get into a debate.

Raederle Phoenix and her husband similarly like to contribute eye-popping gourmet raw food dishes to traditional omnivorous holiday spreads.

Raederle has found that raw vegan cheesecake goes over extremely well. “They can't even tell its a healthful alternative,” she says. “After the meal, if I decide to tell them, they're always amazed at the healthful ingredients.”

In some families, people will leap at an offer to be relieved if their cooking duties. In these cases, you can offer to host and prepare the meal the way you like best. You don't need to mention or emphasize that you're making a vegetarian or vegan dinner. You can say, “I'll make everything but the turkey, and you can just bring that if you like.”
If you're looking for ideas for vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, then you'll like "Enjoy Thanksgiving with Vegan Holiday Favorites".
Lara points out that its good to remember that any given dinner is just one out of thousands of meals you'll eat in a year. There is plenty of time for gourmet vegan dinners with veggie friends. If Thanksgiving can't offer a spectacular meal for you, that's fine. You're not there for the food, you're there for your family. If you want to go somewhere for the food and skip your family, that's a valid option to, and only you can decide whether or not that is appropriate for you.

Dealing With Cravings & Feeling Deprived

If you're worried about feeling deprived during a meal, then its an extra good time to examine whether or not you really need to go to this dinner, and whether or not you could go somewhere else. If you decide you definitely want to go, then come prepared.
Don't just bring yourself a salad and think you'll be okay with that. After you've finished your salad and the dessert comes out, you may find yourself uncomfortably wishing you had a healthful kind dessert of your own. Go ahead and make yourself the most wonderful dish you can possibly have for the occasion. Then there is no chance you'll be jealous of what everyone else is eating.
If you do make a mistake and find yourself at a meal and feeling deprived, it can be helpful to promise yourself to make a vegan version later in the week after you collect up the ingredients you'll need. And then follow-through on your promise so that you'll believe yourself next time you're in that situation.

Handling Communications

Lara and her father were once invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's place. The friend was mostly a friend of Lara's father, but he happened to be a vegetarian. His wife and children were not vegetarian, and they did serve turkey.
Since Lara hadn't seen this friend or his family for years, she asked her father politely, “Could you please remind them that I’m vegan and ask them if there’s anything that I can bring, because I’m happy to bring it.”
Her father replied, “Yeah, yeah. Sure, no problem. You know he’s veggie too.”
The day before Thanksgiving Lara said to her father, “Just checking in. You mentioned to them that I’m vegan?”
“Yeah, yeah, veggie. I remembered. I know. I wouldn’t forget.”
When Lara got there, the wife was still preparing food and Lara noticed that she was pouring cream into the mashed potatoes.
With a sinking feeling, she pulled her father aside and said, “Dad you told them I was vegan right, not vegetarian…”
Lara, a bit flabbergasted, said, “Dad, I’ve been vegan for 17 years, you know there’s a difference right?”
Then, in front of everybody, her father exclaims, “Oh, I told you that she’s vegan, right?”
Of course Lara was mortified. The wife's response was, “Oh Richard, I wish you would have told me that yesterday. I’m so sorry. I don’t really have anything for you, Lara. There’s broth in this, and there’s butter in that, and there’s cream in this.”
That year Lara ended up having salad and cranberry sauce for her Thanksgiving dinner.
Lara's story is a good illustration of why you can never go wrong by bringing extra food. Roberta suggests avoiding situations like this by following this simple rule: If something is more important for you than for the other person, then take care of it yourself. So if a host or chef needs to be contacted, you make the call yourself.
You can tell by the response of the chef or host whether or not your dietary preferences are within their comfort zone. If they say – “I’m glad you told me, yes, I can make some modifications for you. What can I put in the mashed potatoes instead of butter and cream?” – then you’ve made some progress.
If they’re unable or unwilling, then just make your own.

Eating Holiday Dinners Someplace Else

Instead of accepting your family's invitation to a holiday dinner, you can choose to find a vegetarian, vegan or raw food dinner happening that same day, and let your family know that you'll be a few hours late to the family gathering. You can join your family for board games, cards, movies or discussion after the meal, and skip the unpleasantness of unshared food values.
Its especially common to find vegetarian and vegan holiday dinners on Thanksgiving day, because most non-meat eaters are at least a little disturbed by the dead animal on the table, especially when everyone is praising its flavor and preparation.
Most urban areas have a vegetarian and or vegan group as well as a raw food group on To use the site, all you need to do is type in your zip code and a search term such as “vegan” and you'll find the nearby groups. Once you've joined a group, you can look at the upcoming events, and even suggest an event if they don't have the sort of thing you're hoping for upcoming.
I was surprised when I went to Nashville, Tennessee. On meetup I found both vegetarian group and a raw food group. There were actually more people in the raw food group. There were 12 to 15 people that showed up for every meeting.
Raederle always opts for raw food gatherings when possible, including when traveling. She remarks that its easy to find raw food groups on meetup, even in places like Wichita, Kansas, they have active and thriving raw food groups.
In the Buffalo, NY, area, Raederle has gone to several raw vegan holiday dinners. “They're actually the best raw potlucks you'll ever attend,” she says. “Because people really go out of their way to prepare something special when its for a holiday meal.”
Another option is to put together a dinner with a few vegetarian and vegan friends and a few “orphans”.
There are always people who don't have anywhere to be on Thanksgiving and are delighted to be invited to your vegan dinner. Even if they’re meat eaters, they’d rather be with some people who are celebrating – even if it’s without meat – than spending the holiday alone.
None of us have to eat a holiday dinner with our relatives. It’s a choice. We could stay home and just make something ourselves. We could get together with our veggie friends, or eat with a local veggie group, or go out to a restaurant, or we can go eat with our family. Any choice is valid and great. Its just important not to lose sight of what you're choosing, and what that is going to mean for you when it comes to the meal.

If You Choose To Enjoy The Holiday With Omnivores… But Are Struggling

Remember that you're not there to convert them. You're there to spend quality time with people you love. Even if it hurts that the people around you are doing something unhealthy, remind yourself that you were not always where you are today, and you would not appreciate anyone else telling you what is best for you.
The chances are that your family is more likely to take it from someone else than from you. Nomi remarks that it doesn't matter how many books she writes, she'll be the same “schmo” to her family.
A friend of hers – another raw food person – put out a newsletter about that. He’d been trying so hard to get his mother to give up dairy. Recently, his mom called him with excitement in her voice. She had gone to a talk by Dr. Barnard and she was all excited that she wasn’t going to eat dairy anymore. He writes, “I could have said something like, I told you so,” but of course that wouldn't help. From this experience he realized that information his family really took to heart wasn’t going to come from him.
Whenever you make the choice to dine with omnivores, say to yourself, “This is not about the turkey or ham on the table. This is about getting together with my family.” Then take a moment to appreciate that.

How My Attitude Has Changed Over The Years

When I was younger, I was militant in my belief. I refused to sit at the table if anyone at that table was going to eat meat.
For two years I didn’t attend a lot of family dinners. I also had to decline invitations to dinners with friends or tell them, “Hey, I’m not trying to change you but if you order meat I’m not going to be able to sit with you.” Sometimes they’d be nice enough to order vegetarian, but not always.
For two years I kept up that policy, but then I found some situation where I just couldn’t bring myself to ask the people I was eating with because I barely knew them. They were acquaintances.
I started making exceptions. I realized I was holding my family and my close friends to a different standard, to a more difficult standard than my acquaintances. I realized that wasn’t really fair.
As I got older and allowed my mind to open a little bit. I realized that factory farms and widespread animal cruelty are still relatively new. Its only become such an unsustainable and inhumane practice in the last hundred or two hundred years. Individuals have hunted animals and fished in clean ocean waters for thousands years.
I choose not to eat meat. I’m fortune enough to live in a time and a place where I can thrive on a vegetarian diet. Not everybody has had that luxury.
At some point I realized that the real battle is against factory farming, not againt all meat-eating in general.
I read John Robbin’s book, Healthy at a Hundred, where he talks about the societies that are extremely healthy, even after they’re a hundred. All of these societies have in common a mostly plant-based diet, but none of these societies were purely vegetarian or vegan.
When I look at all these things, I think, “Who am I to judge all of humankind since the beginning of time?”
Those are some of the things that soften me in my judgment toward other people.

When Omnivores Try To Relate

Often I find people trying to find common ground with me and in some way. They’ll say, “Well, I’m not a vegetarian, but I do buy grass-fed beef,” or, “I don’t eat veal,” and I always praise them for that.
I’ll say, “That’s great,” as well as other positive affirmation. They’re trying to show me that they care, in some way, about how animals are treated or that they care about eating closer to nature and that’s good. That common ground is a great thing to have.

What do you say when someone says, “Well, plants are alive. They have consciousness. Why do you eat plants?”

You may feel that someone is being passive aggressive when they ask you this question, and perhaps they are. It is possible that they are asking seriously, or that they actually wish to have a philosophical debate with you. Regardless of their intent, its best to stay calm when you reply. If a question angers you, it may be best to give yourself a deep breath before answering, or even say, “I've got to run to the bathroom for a moment. I'll be with you later.”
If it's clear the person is trying to harangue you, you can brush off the question with, “Give me a break. Really!”
For a more serious answer, you can tell them, “Plants can’t run away. They’re not designed that way, whereas an animal can run from someone who’s trying to kill it. However if a person is really bothered by pulling a plant up or eating the whole plant then they can just eat things like fruits and nuts. Things that will fall off the plant on the ground and rot if nobody comes along to eat them. Even lettuces, radishes and carrots will rot if they are not pulled up and consumed.”
Another possible response is going back to the approach of turning the question around on them, “I notice you’re really concerned about my food intake. Why?”
You can even try to discover their motive for asking the question, “Are you asking me this because you actually care about plants, or because you just want to antagonize me?” And, of course, that’s embarrassing the person, but they asked for it. Unless, of course, they were just asking it philosophically, in which case they'll likely say so without a hint of embarrassment.
Depending on the situation, you might add, “Well, back in the times when animals got to live a free life, in the wild, the way they were supposed to, and then a person hunted them and killed them and ate them, that was one thing. I don’t have a problem with that.
“But when animals are in factory farms, inhumane conditions, they’re cooped up, they’re shot up with hormones and antibiotics, they’re castrated — that doesn’t sit right with me.
"My eating plants is no different than eating an animal that lived its entire life in the wild, free, like it’s supposed to.”
— Trevor Justice
Nomi’s website:
Lara’s website:
Roberta’s website: (The abbreviation for Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society)
Raederle's website:

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56 Comment(s)

  1. During the holiday, planning is crucial and one good way of letting people know that your "lifestyle" of eating has changed is to simply be verbal about it ahead of time…via letter or phone call to the primary hosts where you are attending. One good way to really smoothen things over with the other guests is to compliment them on how great their dinner is so that they are not judgemental at what you eat . But when asked something like " why aren't you eating meat" or "why did you make the choice" you can simply say "Although your dinner looks great, I'm choosing this lifestyle because it's something I really believe in."

    John | Reply

  2. I just love this!! Thanks for the comback lines…i'm sure i won't remember them but i'm thinking about writing them down so i can come back on smart aleck people that try to get my goat about me being vegan!!
    Thank you!!

    Charlene | Reply

  3. If I'm asked why I choose to be vegan, I'm surely not going to tell them it was because of health reasons. I'll be very clear, it is for my concern over animals and to respect their right to live. If they'd like more detail about it, I'd be happy to discuss it more after the meal. I'd also tell them it isn't the most appropriate time to discuss it at the table. 

    MJ | Reply

    My primary reason for being vegan is that I think it's wrong to kill or otherwise exploit animals. Health simply does not come into it, even though I do think that a vegan diet is healthier (fortunately). I simply cannot respect the choice to eat meat, and I find it upsetting to sit down at a table with people who are eating meat, even though I sometimes do eat alongside meat-eaters. 
    But do you REALLY not have a problem with people who hunt animals for food? If it was okay in the past, then surely it's okay now? If not, that's contradictory. I like some of the responses you give, though I feel that if I'm asked I need to give an answer that pinpoints the cruelty – to simply say that I like this food and it suits me is not enough. I could never say that eating plants is no different from eating an animal from the wild: it is VERY different.

    Ann | Reply

  5. This article & info. is great – thanks so much for the great responses & insight! They are
    awesome (been looking for softer approaches for a long time…..) One other thing I add, is about
    health (as mentioned). I mention that its a healthier lifestyle, and that I prefer not to eat
    someone's Mother, Sister, Brother, Father or anything with a heart/blood…. etc (don't use this always – but sometimes people get a little chuckle, – BUT – it does make them think about it!) You have
    to first (as you say) try to first determine the company you are with & where you are…..
    aagin, thanks so much!
    get a little chuckle

    Renate Wald | Reply

  6. I have been approached many times with the saying "plants have feelings too". My response is that if a person or animal looses a limb it doesn't grow back whereas plants and trees can loose a limb or fruit and it will produce another. This usually leaves the person thinking about the comparison.

    Ron Caldwell | Reply

  7. I'm not not only vegetarian but have gluten sensitivity. Even tough family and friends highly encourage me to eat meat more now then ever. I kindly refuse and let them know that my lifestyle works for me. I also bring my own dishes with enough to share. Most of the time they will not partake of the extra dishes. I gave a vegan cooking class last night to our church and community. This way I was giving them options and facts about being vegetarian.

    Nancy | Reply

  8. Thanks so much for this great overview of 'all the reasons'. I live in France and am thankfully spared the Thanksgiving excess fest, but Christmas and New Year around around the corner and they are very meaty indeed in this part of the world. 
    The big smile is defo the way to go. I think it was Aristotle Onassis who once said 'Nobody can argue with a smile'. I love that saying as it has a number of clever little layers!
    The line that really works well for me when I get hounded at meaty events about 'Why' is first of all leaving a slightly pregnant silence before answering 'For all the reasons'. (Followed by the big smile). That usually shuts everyone up as they all know the reasons by now – health, sustainability, climate change, ethical, compassionate etc etc. 
    And then I sometimes add, 'but I'd be happy to chat to you about it some other time if you like', which takes the tension out of the conversation, and inevitably everyone (relieved!) starts talking about something else. 
    Thanks again for this great blog entry. It is now on my list of favourites!
    Go well,

    Vera | Reply

  9. I spend Thanksgiving morning volunteering at a shelter for cats (cleaning), then I come home and cook a tofurky and have TG with my feline family.  Been doing it for years.  Why spend major holidays with difficult people (a.k.a., relatives)?  Just ruins everything.

    Greta Wyrick | Reply

  10. Regarding the plant thing ("plants feel pain too, plants die when you eat them too," etc.) — I say that first, many plants don't feel pain or die when you eat them. Fruit trees want their fruit to be eaten — it's how they procreate. (Then the seed is tossed to the ground or pooped out.) Certain other plants don't die when eaten. We cut our greens, and they grow back. Etc. The other thing is, I forget the numbers, but each pound of meat takes tons of plants (being fed to the animal) to create. So eating animal products kills a lot more plants than eating plants straight, if someone is eating plants that die when you eat them. Eating nuts and seeds also doesn't kill the plant.
    Also, humans do not have the physiological features of carnivores or omnivores — so although I think it's okay for lions, etc.  to hunt (though I don't want to see it ), I don't think it's okay for humans to hunt. 

    Gabrielle Lennon | Reply

  11. 'I feel better and don't like eating animals' usually suffices as an answer when people ask why I'm vegetarian. You don't have to elaborate.

    A. | Reply

  12. I agree with you deeply! I greatly appreciate this article and hearing others whose feelings echo mine. Lovely to connect with you all and to learn these excellent suggestions! Many thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Rebecca | Reply

  13. I've bee largely vegetarian for over 30 years now. I have had ups and downs due to family pressure but I do largely avoid meat. A big problem is with the kids who want the food that they see and that means meat products. Sometimes the worst kind too but trying to convince them otherwise is an incredibly difficult task..
    I manage to avoid meat for the most part these days. I manage events by simply eating around the edges of the food. In other words, I avoid the main meat part and just eat the other things that are being offered, Granted many will be tainted with meat but, as I said, I am not 100% vegetarian.

    Ian Dixon | Reply

  14. I don't feel a need to 'defend' my personal choices.  If someone has a question, I answer it.  On occasion I bring my own food in case there are problems of my eating or not.  At times I can even choose to fast. Never had a problem. 

    Heather Nichol | Reply

  15. If you have a positive attitude about your lifestyle then people are going to gravitate towards you in a loving manner, but if you act like being a veg. or vegan makes you a step up from everyone else well then you will get an attitude from people.

    Susan | Reply

  16. I just let them know that I'm "anti-slavery" for all beings.

    That pretty much ends the conversation!

    fred | Reply

  17. I had my first heart attack at 38.   Doctor's orders.   Even though that isn't true.  

    Dean | Reply

  18. It is hard not to defend and not to preach! I remember as a child hearing my Mom forcing her religious views on others. I decided that I wanted to be a person that was a magnet, a person whose light shines so that people wanted what I have. I hope to glow with the gift of health and vitality so that people remark how great I look and if they want to know, I will share with them what I do to be fit and healthy!
    If they don't want to know, that's fine. I hope that when they are ready they will remember me and that I am someone they will reach out to.

    Sherry Fritz | Reply

  19. I've been a vegetarian for 26 years now, and my favorite reason to give people when I don't want to engage in an argument is when asked "Why?" is "Personal preference". There's no logical argument against personal preference, and it works great when the goal is to shut down the conversation.
    When I do want argue (which is less often, when the person insists on being unreasonable, I go into a long diatribe about how serial-killeresque hot dogs are ("we're going to kill the animal, take bits and pieces from all over the animal, stuff the bits into its own entrails and then make it into the shape of a penis…")  or I might go on about how when I was a kid, if someone made me eat chicken and it I ran into a vein… I can really get descriptive. 

    Laura | Reply

  20. I try to respond with politeness and humor, when possible. Most people are honestly curious, a couple may want to go veg, and the few who are truly rude and antagonistic don't deserve my time.
    "Why did you go vegan?" "I was 17 and I wanted to rebel, but my parents were hard to shock."
    "You're really missing out on this [meat]." "Thanks for thinking of me. You know, you're more than welcome to try what I brought!"
    "Plants have feelings, too." "Why would a plant develop the ability to feel pain when it can't use the information to help it escape? Also, the animals you eat consume more plants than I do."
    "Your diet is unhealthy. You really need to eat []." "I only take health advice from people who are healthier than me. I can run a half marathon. Want to race?"
    I've been veg over 20 years. I have experienced several friends and family members becoming vegetarian after talking to me, but it's usually 3-4 years down the road. The people close to us eventually learn to accept us after the novelty wears off.

    Jessica | Reply

  21. I am also vegan and gluten intolerant. Some of the gluten free stuff is awful and expensive, but there are many choices, especially online. My approach to Thanksgiving( at which we worship the carcass on the table) is to not attend. I think I may make the others uncomfortable and I find it difficult to conceal how I feel. this may not be the way, but it is my way. I am 85 years old.and have certain privileges.
    I once walked out of a business luncheon-rabbit was the first thing on the menu and then a very religious lady ordered veal. She used to tell me that if I didn't believe in hell  that I would go there.I think being a baby calf and taken to slaughter immediately or worse, confined to a crate,deprived of everything, was hell for him.I had been told that there would be something there for me to eat  and there was no. I walked out shaking,but I had to do it.Business luncheons are obligatory but there were no consequences,

    Pat | Reply

  22. If I am asked why I eat Raw or Vegetarian, I put the question back on them. I ask them, are you asking because you are curious to know and learn or does it make you uncomfortable? This way they become defensive instead of me. Depending on their answer we can then have a conversation about my choices and theirs. Looking and being as healthy as you feel is also an advantage to your argument for your dietary choices. Being a non-drinker for many years due simply to not liking alcohol has always put me on the receiving end and it is usually due to the other person's discomfort and/or guilt for over indulging. I find it is best to discuss the feelings 'they' have about my choices than it is to discuss my choices, then I am not on the defensive. I acknowledge that my choices do not make me 'better' than anyone else but neither do their choices. I do what I think is right for me and mine as hopefully so does everyone else. I am still open to learning so my choices continue to grow and change and for this reason discussion is always welcome.

    Kathie | Reply

  23. When people question my vegan food choice, it's now a simple response: "Look, when I want your level of fitness and health, that's when I'll ask for your advice, okay?"

    Mike | Reply

  24. I get very little in the way of comments these days as people seem much more accepting of my "weird" way of eating.  One look at my vegan, beautiful, slim, pimple free  grandchildren seems to enough to convince people that we are neither abusing or depriving our children.  If I get a comment, I usually just smile sweetly (I hope) and say somehting like, "Each to his or her own.  If I don't comment about your eating dead animals perhaps you could reciprocate with similar acceptance to someone else's choices."  Usually it is senough and the subject gets changed very quickly

    Gail Webster | Reply

  25. I don't celebrate thanksgiving. The bible encourages us to be thankful everyday. But when I do eat meals with relatives I have stated how this plant-based diet has really helped my digestion ( they understand health reasons) also If someone says you won't get enough protein… Well there's so many ways to get protein. Soybeans, nuts, legumes, quinoa, etc… But also that plant-based proteins do not take calcium from your bones to be used by your body. Plant-based protein is easily used by your body

    I don't celebrate thanksgiving. The bible encourages us to be thankful everyday. But when I do eat meals with relatives I have stated how this plant-based diet has really helped my digestion ( they understand health reasons) also If someone says you won't | Reply

  26. When people question me, or make comments about vegans being "food snobs" I gently remind them that food is fuel for our bodies, and what we put in our bodies depends on our individual health condition. I always tell people that I run very well on a vegan diet, and I follow that with:
    "my doctor tells me to keep doing whatever it is I am doing".  That usually is enough for them.

    Cal Gal | Reply

  27. Some vegetarians and vegans might be asked how they get enough vitamin K2, which is only found in animal foods. Fortunately for vegans vitamin K2 is also produced in the following way: "Bacteria in the colon (large intestine) can also convert K1 into vitamin K2. In addition, bacteria typically lengthen the isopreneoid side chain of vitamin K2 to produce a range of vitamin K2 forms, most notably the MK-7 to MK-11 homologues of vitamin K2. All forms of K2 other than MK-4 can only be produced by bacteria, which use these forms in anaerobic respiration. The MK-7 and other bacteria-derived form of vitamin K2 exhibit vitamin K activity in animals, but MK-7's extra utility over menaquinone-4 (MK-4), if any, is unclear and is presently a matter of investigation." (

    Don | Reply

  28. "The longer I have a Zen practice, the less right eating meat feels for me. As my Zen teacher says, 'Maybe carrots do have feelings. However, looking into the eyes of a carrot and looking into the eyes of a cow, I have a very different experience, such that right now I am going to eat the carrot, and I am not going to eat the cow.'"
    One of the things I'm thankful for is that I rarely encounter people who want to play that kind of "gotcha!" game. :-)

    Lexica | Reply

  29. I don't really care what other people eat.  That is their business.  I care, however, that I eat how my heart tells me to eat.  
    When I go to dinner with others, I make sure I have what I need.  If they or the restaurant does not serve what I need, then I take it with me, or eat plenty of food beforehand so I can nibble at a salad rather than be hungry.
    When people ask, "Where do you get your protein?", I just ask them back, "Where do cows get their protein?"… or deer, or goats…  That usually gives them something to 'chew' on for a while.  
    When people chide me for eating vegan, I smile and say, "Yes, and I am VERY healthy."  But I guess not ever vegan can say that.  

    Patricia Robinett | Reply

  30. Don, as for K2 – you might be happy to hear that there is a vegan source of K2.  Natto is a Japanese soy bean (or I make my own, as you would yogurt, with black beans) that contains K2.  Google.  It's a savory, so hot rice, natto, tamari, mustard and green onions make a great combination.  

    Patricia Robinett | Reply

  31. These days I simply say I saw the movie Forks over knives recently and wished I had seen it when it first came out as I would have become vegan earlier for those who know I am vegan. 
    I always bring food I can eat everywhere I go even to my 50th high school reunion. 

    Daphne Stevens | Reply

  32.    It really is amazing how many people will ask why eating plants is any different from eating animals  and how after all "plants also have a consciousness".Look, you can go into a garden, pick a vegetable,  just eat it ,and it is wonderful. To eat an animal is, of course, a much more complicated  matter. You might just say to the person that" If you really don't know the difference in harvesting a plant  to eat ,and slaughtering a flesh and blood animal with the same sense organs as yours, then what can I possibly  tell you? "
    I often say " I once enjoyed eating meat as much as anybody, but once I became mindful about what I was really eating I  found that didn't enjoy it anymore."
    Even more forcefully.."If you really want to know I think that everyone is just asleep when they don't realize that eating dead flesh is completely gross"
     All that being said, if you are saying these things to a person while they are engaged in the process of eating meat ,you probably will only succeed at being incredibly them.There might be some people who would lay down the knife and fork mid meal, but  I have not run across any of them.
    We could say "You know I am glad you asked me that question. If you don't want to spoil your dinner right now, maybe we coulld discuss it afterwards?" Happy Thanksgiving!

    Carole | Reply

  33. Have you seen the Youtube clips on Forks over Knives. If you look at that it will give you one reason why I am vegan. We can discuss this more when you have seen it!

    eddie sheehy | Reply

  34.  In my book health Food or Heroin I write about how the  the hero of my book chuckie dealngelo goes from shop lifting steaks to becoming a vegan.  Happy thanks giving Jon nardelli

    Jon Nardelli | Reply

  35. I love to walk and not hurt !  Vegan food is very good, I love it.  When I was eating dead cows, I was in so much pain that I could not move. Life is good and I will never go back.

    Jinny | Reply

  36. My relative old me that Dogs and Cats eat meat, why can't we?
    I simply replied with "As humans we have a choice"
    They had nothing more to say.

    Adam | Reply

  37. You could also ask “How do you feel about people in other countries who eat dogs and horses?… If that bothers you, why is eating cows and pigs OK?”

    Trevor | Reply

  38. We live in Australia and so don't celebrate Thanksgiving but with end-of-year office parties and Christmas coming up, I know a lot of people who will feel sorry for me. As a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free vegetarian I tell people that I and my family feel vital and healthy and that we really believe we are doing the right thing by taking responsibility for our health and the health of our planet. As a nutritional health coach I can see the great the great resistance to changing old habits. Keep smiling, that always disarms would-be critics

    Ally | Reply

  39. I loved reading the article.  Even enjoyed most of the comments. But it seems to me that some of the vegans on here are almost spoiling for a fight with anybody who questions them — at least by some of the responses to have on hand when somebody asks the "why" question.   I eat meat.  Generally wild-caught or local-raised.  I enjoy eating raw as well.  Unfortunately, I live in Alaska where the options for being vegan are very slim.  Regardless, I enjoy meat as much as I enjoy veggies.  If a vegan asked me why I eat meat, I would just reply that it is my preference and works for my health.  I see no point in giving scathing replies intended merely to embarrass or annoy the questioner.  It wouldn't make me a better person for being rude to another who simply questions, or who is being rude. 

    Michelle | Reply

  40. Food is like politics and religion, people can be very strong in their opinions and it can become personal, so I don't bring attention to what I eat, or don't eat.  That being said, if I am comfortable with the Host, I will tell them I am Vegan / Raw.  If not, I eat before I go and  I bring a big salad, make the dressing, and bring  a raw dessert.  I have found, in a lot of cases, everyone gets a healthier meal if the Host is aware and  will show me, "this side of the table has all the items that are meat and dairy related and the other side does not";  everyone eats from the vegan side as well.

    CC | Reply

  41. I volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksging.  When I said I was vegan I was pleasantly surprised to her saing "Good for you."

    Esther Fishman | Reply

  42. I find that the closer the relatives, the less likely they are to question my food choices. Distant uncles, in-laws, etc., may find it amusing and entertaining to single out me and my food choices. Perhaps they have problems they don't want someone else to point out at the table… so I choose compassion in my dealings with people, despite how creepy they may be acting toward me. That said, I just try to associate with family that I know won't taunt me.
    But when the questions do come up "people need protein!" and "it's just not natural!", I just disarm with this simple turn-around, "why? Do I seem unhealthy?" They never know what to say, since they know I have a lifelong yoga practice and am a distance runner. It's confusing to them, and stops the conversation in its tracks. Besides, talking about why I am vegan is not appropriate for the dinner table. they can ask me in private, without an audience to explain the real details if they want.

    Lisa F. @ The Valley Vegan | Reply

  43. I usually casually ask when was the last time they were sick ………(they all were sick a lot) and then I tell them I have not been sick for over 5 years……not as much as a cold.

    debbie | Reply

  44. Very simple. My son asked me to get some real Turkey and I told him I could not do it. It would be I said to ask you to vote republican just this once :) worked like a charm 

    Claudia Katz | Reply

  45. I used to eat meat most of my lifetime. And yes I have problems for people to except my decisions. Sometimes I tell them that I am healthier and feeling better then ever, but usually they tell me that I should not lose any more weight and start eating normally. So I just started saying to some people that I am allergic to it and it is funny, that this they will not question. No one can argue with something that you are allergic to. At least it has worked for me.
    These tips were very interesting and I will use some (if I remember them). Thanks again.

    Irene Kastner | Reply

  46. I chose to eat with more than the purpose of getting full, but maintaining my health.  You do you and let me do me.

    Joi | Reply

  47. When ordering out – just saying no meat  or I'm a vegetarian , do you have any dishes meat free?  They then offer fish dishes. So my answer is taken from One of the  BEATLES. " I DONT EAT ANYTHING WITH A FACE OR A MOTHER". the look is worth a  words. I have had many tomato – avocado sandwiches.  A side of spinach is filling. My big problem is " Sugar".  In working on that !   

    Micki Fogarty | Reply

  48. Hi!
    I like when people respect my choices so, I respect others choices; I don't eat meat but my husband it's a meat eater. I cook for him and I bliss the food. I ask forgiveness to the animal that offers his life to feed my family and I say: thank you for your offering.
    I teach this to my son and who has ears to hear will hear. We are all different and I don't want to force someone to follow my path. I have no problem to eat everywhere and generally I don't say that I don't eat meat. I use my Love and not my Ego. I didn't make this choice to feel superior, I made this choice because I felt that is the write thing to do for me and the Earth. I would love to see more and more people awake to a higher Consciousness  and ready to change their eating habits, so when someone asks me why I don't eat meat, I explain. I worked in the Meat industry so, I know what I'm talking about. The people that kill the animals, have generally no respect for them. I realized that in the old time, people had more consideration for their food because they were in contact with the Earth and it fruits and with the animals. Today, we don't know where is coming all the food we eat; we are disconnected from the reality and we just look at how nicely wrapped they are and how perfectly well they look – we don't know that the nature doesn't make the apples at the same size, same color, same flavor naturally. Man can, by adding all kind of chemicals in the soil, in the fruits, in the air… etc. But man too, can be kind and loving and peaceful and we all have a duty: to do our best to preserve this beautiful planet for the future generation. So, if you can not stop eating meat, eat less. All these animals you eat, deserve the same love and compassion like your dog, cat, horse, etc. A baby cow is cute, a baby pig is cute, a baby chicken is cute… Just imagine if everybody will decide to eat half of the meat that is eating now. Ouah! The richest people in the world will be very upset but you will feel much better, healthier and happier.
    I send you Love. Everything is about making choices from a place of Love.
    ps: I'm from Europe so, sorry for my English mistakes.

    mag | Reply

  49. If a question is asked or a comment made at the dinner table, smile and say – ask me again after dinner.
    When and if it comes up again – be brief – use sound bytes. Interesting ones if you can. "cow's milk is designed to grow a 30 pound calf to a thousand pounds – not so suitable for a seven pound baby or an adult human" or "The cows get infections from the milking machine clamps – so the USDA has an allowable standard of PUS acceptable in milk"  95% of eggs come from chickens crammed into cages stacked high inside buildings – if you walked in there the ammonia smell would likely drive you right out" Then STOP – don't be tempted to tell everything you know. Let them ask, even then keep it short. Keep a few copies of good literature such as Vegan Outreach pamphlets in your bag or car – give them out discreetly to those people who express an interest.
    And all the people who said bring some really good food to share are right on the mark. Food makes friends and influences people!

    Roberta Schiff | Reply

  50. ow to "speak vegan" in effective ways? Sarah and I have gone for years to my sister's vegan Thanksgiving, and this year a non-vegan man mentioned a hunter friend of his who sees the animals he kills as sacred. I was speechless and horrified that he said this at a vegan Thanksgiving. Sarah spoke up and said she disagrees with him, and that since we don't need to eat animals to be healthy there are better ways to be sacred. He responded that his friend believes his hunting practice to be sacred. I didn't want to start a fight but did want to clarify values, so I said that it seems his friend may believe non-humans are put on earth for our use? He said yes, I guess so, and the conversation moved on to other topics. It left me wondering if there might be more effective ways to handle this sort of situation…  Ideas?? 

    Sherry Zitter | Reply

  51. Hi Sherry,

    It is important for both vegans and omnivores to get over the idea that one of you is "right" and that the other is "wrong." Some of the most spiritually evolved and healthy peoples of the world have included some meat in their diet. Some of the most brilliant people and healthiest people have been vegetarian, vegan or raw foodists. Some vegans are not healthy. Some vegans are very robust. Some omnivores are very spiritual and respectful about hunting. Some are not.

    If you can not respect another person's beliefs, choices, and lifestyle, then you can not hope to ever influence them to be anything different.

    To help a smoker quit smoking, love them despite their smoke.

    To help yourself lose weight, accept yourself fully at the weight you are.

    "The precondition of change and growth is acceptance."

    In other words, there is no debate, no fight, no "right" and no "wrong" in the discussion. Not if anyone is to "win." When you argue, you both lose, because you're both just trying to make yourself right. When you both accept and respect each other, you both win, because you get to learn about the other person in an honest and loving way.

    If another person is trying to be right, trying to disrespect you or someone else, then the best thing you can do is ask, "What would love do?" And then do that.

    Perhaps say, "I understand that you have values that differ from mine. That's okay. I don't think any less of you. We can talk more about how our values differ and how we came to our own values for a better understanding of one another after dinner."

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  52. I just say that eating meat makes me sad. Sometimes I will say that I always wanted to be a vegetarian but I didn’t want to bother anyone. That’s why I always worked the grill. No one notices if you don’t eat the meat if you are cooking it! But I finally decided, “Hey, I am old enough to eat what I want now.” And i don’t want to be sad when I eat. I am here with you and I want to be completely happy!

    Maybe because I spent so many years hiding the turkey under my napkin, I know how to make my plate look really full and most people don’t even notice. And people are used to me bringing “this dish I am completely obsessed with lately. Do say you’ll try it!”

    There has only been a few occasions when someone was clearly trying to bait me, I just told them “You are so much stronger than me to be able to eat that knowing the horrible conditions, terrible drugs and awful genetically modified food that went into that poor cow. I am just not that brave.”

    DeAnn | Reply

  53. When someone says something offensive or insensitive to me, I ask in a hurt tone, “Did you *mean* to hurt my feelings, or did that just come out wrong?”

    Carolyn | Reply

  54. This is so great! I especially like Vera’s answer “For all the reasons” when dealing with someone who already really knows. However, I will probably just try the simple smile, and say that it makes me feel good.
    On the flip side, many many years ago I recall asking the first vegans I ever knew why they chose that lifestyle. I was really taken aback when they not only didn’t answer but avoided me the rest of the day. It’s funny, but I didn’t realize until just now how they probably were so sick of that question from judgmental people when in actuality I was asking out of admiration and I really wanted to know!
    So I will try to read the person who is asking. If they truly want to know, I will offer to talk to them about it more in depth.

    Rachel | Reply

  55. My favorite comeback ALWAYS is…as I look myself up and down…”I look like I’m doing ok, don’t I!!??” Or “does it look like I need advice??!!”
    Because…it’s very obvious that I look very healthy ;) )

    Jenne | Reply

  56. I also like to say “I don’t eat animals” (instead of I don’t eat meat) I like the shock factor.

    Jenne | Reply

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