I have a secret: I was born into a family of meat eaters. As a child, animal products practically made up the entire base of my food pyramid. Growing up, we joked that loving cheese was a prerequisite to being in the Hunt family. But once I became a vegetarian, my family members happily made accommodations for my diet. My uncle even makes an entire pot of vegetarian chili just for me on Christmas Eve! (Side note: you haven’t fully experienced Christmas until you’ve celebrated it with cornbread and home-cooked chili.) Even my meat and potatoes grandfather eats vegetarian meals when I’m around.
But not everyone is as accommodating. When you first go vegetarian, you’ll likely run into people who criticize your choice to give up meat. You’ll probably get lectures about your chosen diet and hear a lot of jokes from people who just don’t get it. I have found that the best way to quiet the naysayers is to feed them delicious foods that they simply cannot criticize.
When you are invited to a pot-luck or when you host a dinner or party, you have a big opportunity to surprise all your meat-loving friends with foods they would happily eat at home. Here are my tried and true tips for feeding meat eaters.
Skip the Fake Meats
Just say no. Even vegetarians don’t love most fake meats. We get used to them, and they are helpful for protein consumption, but does anyone really like a vegetarian roast? Skip these altogether. There are so many scrumptious vegetarian foods out there that it’s stilly to feed veggie meat to a meat lover (plus, you can avoid all the unnecessary Tofurkey jokes).
Get Comfortable With Pasta
Pasta is one of the easiest dishes to make for gatherings and parties for several reasons. First, almost everyone loves pasta. It’s comforting, filling, and versatile. Second, people are already used to eating pasta without meat and dairy. If you produce a killer vegan pasta, nobody is going to complain about the lack of meat. Do they miss the meat in mac and cheese? Nope. It’s just hearty and delicious comfort food. There are so many fantastic vegan pasta recipes out there; you’ll absolutely be able to find a crowd pleaser, no matter how picky your friends’ palates.
Have A Go-To Salad
Every gathering needs a salad. But don’t just bring a garden salad that anyone could throw together. You can do so much better! After all, you’re the veggie person in the family. Show up ready to impress. A great salad will have some sort of grain (quinoa and couscous are good options), multiple leafy greens (kale, arugula, spinach, or romaine), lots of colorful vegetables (carrots, beets, Brussel’s sprouts, cucumber, etc.), and some kind of extra topping like seeds or dried fruit (I like pumpkin seeds or dried cranberries). Top off your salad with sliced avocado or home made vegan croutons.
A lot of Asian staples are already vegan. Thai and Indian cuisines are especially vegan friendly. Just make sure you skip the egg in noodle dishes, and incorporate lots of creamy sauces. Some easy options for beginners are pad thai, fried rice, and curried cauliflower. Yum!
Bonus Tip: Feed Yourself
After you’ve been vegetarian or vegan for a while, your family and friends will be more used to the idea and they’ll be more prepared for your dietary restrictions. But at the beginning, be prepared for them to forget on occasion. For this reason, it’s a good idea to bring a dish that can function as a main course if needed. If you bring a salad, make it hearty. If you bring a side dish, make sure it’s something you love and can eat a lot of.
You’re not going to convert everyone you know to a veggie diet, but the more delicious veggie meals they eat, the more your friends and family will come to understand your choice. With each delicious dish you prepare for a meat eater, you are helping to smash stereotypes and encourage others to look into a vegan diet. Go you!