Help This Veggie Teen Out

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Today, I counted how many steps I have to walk to go from the front of the clinic to inside my favorite Charlotte restaurant:  96 steps.  Yes, just 96 steps.  And I wonder why I always succumb to takeout when I’m stuck in the office.


Same old, same old.  Black bean burger on a whole wheat bun.


And a Napa cabbage salad with nuts, feta, carrots, onions, corn, and other goodies.  With balsamic on the top.


Help This Healthy Teen Out


So, just two days ago, I wrapped up the initial draft of the healthy eating chapter of the second Operation Beautiful book (with the help of a RD).  One of the call-outs is about how to get your family on board with a healthy diet, which I think is a problem a lot of kids face.  Ironically, yesterday I received this e-mail from a reader named Christie, a teenager interested in becoming a vegetarian.


Christie wrote:


“I have a dilemma on my hands and am wondering if you can help me out. I’m 17 and still live at home with my parents. For the past year or so, I’ve become increasingly interested in transitioning to a full vegetarian diet. My problem is that I have a very unsupportive family. My family is very "meat and potatoes" to the point where it’s rare to even see a vegetable at dinner.


I have been eating very nutritious vegetarian breakfasts and lunches for about 6 months now (as I don’t eat them with my family), yet dinner always consists of meat.  Every time I bring the topic up (which I always try to do at low-stress times), my parents shut me down with huge guilt trips.


They claim that I’m adding unnecessary stress and "just one more thing they have to worry about.” If I say that I have no problem cooking my own beans/tofu/other sources of protein, they claim that doing so would just make them feel guilty for not being supportive. I’ve offered to cook dinner using these vegetarian sources of protein for my whole family to try, but they scoff at the thought of eating tofu or other "hippie" foods (as they like to call them).


I know how bitter I sound, but I am at a loss of what to do next. I’ve read countless books and blogs on vegetarian nutrition. This is not something I’m taking lightly or a fad I want to try, but a serious diet change for the long haul. I’ve done my research and I know the commitment this takes. I don’t know a single person who is a vegetarian therefore I have no one I can look to for advice, which is why I’m coming to Healthy Tipping Point. 


I’m staying at home for university next year, so this isn’t something I can wait out until September. Do you have any thoughts on what I can do next? My parents refuse to educate themselves on this subject, no matter what movies/books/blog suggestions I offer. Although they have no problem with the diet itself, they think it’s such a huge social issue that they guilt me into eating meat.”


Here’s my advice to Christie, but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, too:


  • You don’t need your parents’ approval on your dietary choices, and they don’t need your approval on theirs.  The bottom line is that you can’t force your parents to cook for you, and now you’re at the age that you can cook for yourself (Yay!).  Guilt trips can be hard but don’t let it phase you.  You aren’t kicking a puppy!  Recognize that a lot of this guilt may be about you growing up or cutting ties – not about what you eat.  When in doubt, smile and change the subject.


  • Stop offering to cook your own vegetarian protein sources and just do it.  You can precook a block of tofu (try my favorite Perfect Baked Tofu recipe) and stretch it out over three dinners.  Or you could crack open a can of beans and eat some on the side. 


  • Similarly, stop offering to cook dinner for the entire family and just do it.  Come home from school and whip up an omnivore-friendly casserole, like the Santa Fe Casserole


  • You might want to offer to cook dinner two nights a week (say, Mondays and Wednesday).  Promise no tofu will be involved and cook a vegetarian dish you know will like.  Other examples of omnivore-friendly dishes:  homemade pizza or meat-free lasagna or ziti.


  • If you don’t mind preparing meat for them, consider making meals that your family can ‘build’ themselves, like veggie or meat fajitas or burritos.


  • If you can’t count on your parents to provide healthy sides, bring your own side dishes to the table.  Roast a ton of vegetables (broccoli, parsnips, Brussel sprouts, potatoes) and spread it out over several dinners. 


  • If you make “hippie” food 🙂 or veggies for dinner, make it in large batches and place it on a serving dish in the middle of the table, even if you strongly suspect no one else will eat it.  This will help you blur the line between “your” food and “their” food. 


  • One other issue you might have to deal with is groceries.  If your parents aren’t willing to pay for certain foods, you might have to pay for it yourself or do a separate shopping trip. 


  • People are really sensitive about food choices.  Your parents might feel attacked about eating meat or not enough vegetables (“Who does she think she is to tell us how to eat?!”).  I would stop trying to educate them about why you’re becoming a vegetarian – maybe you can revisit that topic down the road, but right now it’s driving a wedge between you and your parents.  I tend not to talk about the reasons that I’m a vegetarian unless someone specifically asks me.


Check out these other related posts, too:



Were you a teen who tried to make healthier choices at the family dinner table?  Do you have any advice for her?  What are some omnivore-friendly vegetarian dishes she could whip up?  Feel free to link to recipes in the comment section!



  • Lauren January 26, 2011, 1:45 pm

    Honestly, if it’s something you feel very strongly about (and it appears you do), I would just do it! So you have to deal with your parents saying stuff…just brush it off. If it feels right to you and will make you happy that’s the most important. And yes, pizza and pasta are really good options! Even something with eggs, quiche etc, would be meat-friendly. Good luck! And remember, as long as you are not seriously hurting anyone, never compromise on your values and what you believe in, even for your family!

  • Julie January 26, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Something with eggs (aka breakfast for dinner) might work out well, have bacon/sausage in the omelettes for the meat eaters, peppers & onions for you. Or do pancakes with meats on the side. You could also do a stir fry with rice & mixed veggies & just reserve a meat-free portion for yourself before your family adds chicken/beef/whatever. Pasta is also always a good choice.
    It just amazes me how non-vegetarians have such a strong opinion on vegetarians and their reasons for not eating meat. So strange. I’ve encountered it a lot since becoming a vegetarian & all I can say is for her to hang in there! It gets easier.

  • Kaci January 26, 2011, 1:53 pm

    I agree just do it. I became veggie when I moved to Ohio…talk about strong willed meat eaters!! My office is filled with men, meat eating potato men! Sure I got comments, etc but I just kept going and now 3-4 years later I’m loving it and it’s not even a issue anymore. My boss one day bought breakfast for the office and it was so cute, he got me 2 hashbrowns and a yogurt parfait from McDonalds. HAHA!! I was so proud. Good luck with your journey!!

    • Katie January 26, 2011, 4:06 pm

      Kaci – I hear ya! My parents live in a small town in Ohio. Since becoming vegetarian over 6 months ago, my Dad calls me “not normal” – jokingly, but persistently! And although supportive, my Mom’s always saying – well I’m making this, what are you going to eat?! I think it’s funny because I’m 29 and capable of doing what I want, but I can imagine it would be really tough at 17 and livng at home!

      • Jacalyn January 26, 2011, 7:49 pm

        “not normal” and “hippie” – i hear those a lot. I am from TEXAS. Imagine the difficulty in finding vegetarian restaurants. Let me tell you, there are a lot of beans in my diet when we go out to eat. I end up staying home and cooking more than I ever have since becoming vegetarian. Imagine my dad’s disappointment when I told him. He loves grilling steaks when we come visit. The day I told him, he looked like I kicked his dog into the street. He is use to it now and always looks for vegetarian options on menus when we go out to eat.

  • Anne January 26, 2011, 1:57 pm

    Hey, good ideas, but my parents would have flipped if I was in the kitchen cooking up a separate vegetarian dinner while my mom was roasting a pork chop. It would have been viewed as hurtful to my mom and divisive. I might suggest to try to make inroads with 1 member of the family (ideally a parent), chat (not over a contentious mealtime), and discuss how both diets can co-exist happily. It may take awhile, but maybe it will work?

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 2:01 pm

      This is a good idea… Find an ally!

      • Jacalyn January 26, 2011, 7:51 pm

        I can tolerate cooking meat, so I cook meals for my husband that he can add meat to. I’ll make pasta and sauce and cook some chicken in a different skillet. When it comes to dinner time, we make our own dishes.

  • Jen January 26, 2011, 2:00 pm

    Great advice Caitlin!

    As a Mom I will offer a little advice, but take it as you will since my 3 kids are under the age of 10. Your parents honestly just want what is best for you (and it sounds like they believe the same thing my own parents and in laws believe; meat, potatoes, some times vegetables = meal). I would stop trying to educate them, that is just going to put them on the defensive.

    If they aren’t ready to eat *hippie foods* yet, then tell them that you support their decisions, can they please support yours. Tell them that you are willing to cook your meals separately, but be prepared to have to cover the cost on your own, and then that way they don’t have to worry about it.
    Just as Caitlin pointed out, you aren’t kicking puppies, just changing your eating habits 🙂 Good luck!!!!

  • Jen January 26, 2011, 2:06 pm

    I love your advice!

    • Becky January 26, 2011, 2:46 pm

      I agree. You gave REALLY good advice Caitlin!

  • Jasmine @ Eat Move Write January 26, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I don’t have advice for her, because I only wish I had been that awesome and mature at 17. I do, however, want to just comment and say that I wish her so much luck. You are very mature and I really commend you for making decisions to better your health. Things will work out, they always do. 🙂

  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing January 26, 2011, 2:11 pm

    This is good advice. It can be hard to start making your own healthy lifestyle decisions while still under the parental roof. It was SO much easier for me just to have what my parents had for dinner than cook something myself.

    It’s a fine line, but starting to cook your own small meals or sides will get you in the kitchen with your parents, they might take it more seriously and see your effort.

    As others have said, less talk and more do but might show your parents how you really feel 🙂

  • hippierunner January 26, 2011, 2:12 pm

    Those are great suggestions, Caitlin! Christie- stay strong! I made the mistake of not cooking for myself and preaching about vegetarianism to my family while they ate, etc. Sounds like you’re being smart enough not to do that, so great job and keep it up! Show them you can eat well enough without stressing them out. Good luck!

    • Jacalyn January 26, 2011, 7:53 pm

      I agree. Preaching or “teaching” is probably offending them. Good luck!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 26, 2011, 2:13 pm

    I totally agree with everything you’ve said Caitlin. I think it’s so great, Christie, that you’re making such a big effort to educate your parents and be flexible. Ultimately I think they should respect your choice. This is just an idea, but maybe if they heard about the benefits of a vegetarian diet from someone else (eg your doctor) they’d think differently. I hope you have some luck in getting their support – you can do it! 🙂

  • Cyndi Eggers January 26, 2011, 2:14 pm

    I’ve lived a life of being teased for what i eat and don’t eat. You really have to just do it. Unfortunately they will all wonder why 20 years from now “you look the way you do and are running marathons at 38.” At 17 my parents couldn;t understand why I went and bought canned veggies with no added salt. My reply was “I don’t understand why YOU buy the ones WITH the salt.” Just yesterday my 9 year old asked “why are you the only one in the family that knows about healthy living and is active.” My response… “because I educated myself and did what i thought was best for me.”

    • Lili January 27, 2011, 1:53 am

      Wow your 9 y.o. Said that? 🙂 what a role model you are! I do not have kids yet but I always think about educating them about healthy habits.

  • Christie January 26, 2011, 2:16 pm

    This is such great advice, thank you all so much!! I’m excited to try these ideas out, and the support really means a lot to me. 🙂

  • Jessica M January 26, 2011, 2:16 pm

    I would try and cook large portions of foods and store them in the fridge. This way you will have dinners to eat for the week and minimize your time in the kitchen. I just know that it would bug my parents if I was using their kitchen at the same time they are.

    Like other people said, I wouldn’t try to educate them, just do it! Good luck!

  • Michelle January 26, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Hey there Christie- I am a mom of a 11, 12 and 16 year old. The 2 oldest and my husband and I are veggies – my 11 year old isnt. My 16 year old lives one week at his mom where he needs to eat meat. He makes the best choices he can but he understands that her concerns are out of love. His mom understands his desire and loves him but thinks he is wrong.

    I often make one meal with a veggie and meat option. Add to that I dont eat wheat- I can have meat sauce, veggie sauce and two types of pasta on the go for one meal!!!

    Since you sound like you want to do this in a way that is good for you and your parents I dont think it is about how to “confront” your parents- I think that you need to focus on their love and concern for you. To me being veggie doesnt always have to be a 100% thing. Maybe you can learn that all or none isnt necessaraly going to help you live in a positve enviornment at your parents home.

    As well, celebrate your success!! You eat veggie two meals a day!! That is great. And if you can slowly add different dinners (like in Lauren’s list) to the mix maybe in your parents will slowly soften. And before you know it you will be eating veggie 4 days a week then every day.

    Then again- if you dont care what your parents reaction is and can live with the outcome, whatever it is- follow the other advice and Just Do It!

    • Becky January 26, 2011, 2:50 pm

      I think this is really good advice too. The notion that everybody has to be “all or nothing” with however they eat is too narrow and not achievable for many people. Try “easing” into it and see if your family is more responsive that way.

  • Meghan@travelwinedine January 26, 2011, 2:17 pm

    I became a vegetarian as a teenager living at home, and I started with more “normal” vegetarian food. One of my favorite dishes after track practice was stuff we already had: whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, kidney beans, and a scoop of ricotta cheese. Delicious, simple, and everybody eats pasta!

  • Sara January 26, 2011, 2:17 pm

    I became a vegetarian at 18 while living at home during my first year of college. It wasn’t that hard, though my mom was more supportive than your parents seem to be. She did struggle at first with what I would eat, but I would just eat sides and be perfectly fine. Now there are a lot more vegetarian products out there, so that could be helpful to you. I’d do what others have said: Just do it! Don’t get defensive, don’t try to educate (they’re clearly not interested in that), just eat what you want and don’t eat what you don’t want. And if they do try to argue with you, just tell them you don’t mean anything as an insult, and you don’t want to argue, you just don’t want to eat meat!

    The pasta/pizza/breakfast dishes ideas are great, too. Your family can see that you’re serious and that there is still plenty to eat without eating meat. Good luck!

  • Jessica January 26, 2011, 2:17 pm

    I became a vegetarian at 14. I was the only one in my family and it was hard at first, but after a while my parents were totally fine with it. I didn’t ask my parents to make separate meals for me since that would have been a big burden. There was always salad and a vegetable side at our house, so I learned to make either beans or tofu on the side just for me. My biggest advice though is to just give it time! Parents are just looking out for us. When they see you are making healthy food choices and committed to this lifestyle, they will totally come around!

  • Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun.blogspot) January 26, 2011, 2:18 pm

    First of all, I really love this post.

    Second, my advice would be to stop sugarcoating it for them. By that I just mean if they say they feel like they’re not supporting you when they see you making your own food, tell them yes, that is exactly what they’re doing. Why deny the truth? Just put it out there in a non-confrontational way (even if it’s just by not correcting them when they say it about themselves), and they’ll eventually figure it out. There is no need to pretend, for their sake, that it’s no big deal, it’s no problem, they’re totally being supportive–when they’re not. GOOD LUCK! Remember, you are your own person and no one else controls what goes in your body.

  • Emily January 26, 2011, 2:18 pm

    I am a vegetarian. Luckily when I decided to go veggie as a teen my mum was supportive of my choices. Other people have been more difficult to win over, but many of them have been eventually. The way they were won over was by me just quietly making my own choices and doing my own thing. Eventually people get interested and want to taste something – often they like it. And that leads to cooking meals for people. My meet eating extended family will happily come to mine for a vegetarian dinner now and all enjoy it.

    My advice would be that if you want to go veggie just do it. You know the important nutritional things so can make sure its all healthy. Cook for yourself – Caitlin’s advice for meal planning is great.

    The whole making them feeling guilty thing is such a bad reason not to do it. How they feel about you eating vegetarian is their choice. If they want to feel guilty for being unsupportive that is their issue to deal with, not a reason to just conform.

    If they get interested, ask questions, want to try bits of food or have you cook for them, then do it. Otherwise just do it for yourself.

  • Laura January 26, 2011, 2:19 pm

    Even if she can’t go vegetarian now (especially since she doesn’t buy the groceries, pay the bills, etc.) maybe she could go grocery shopping with her mom or dad and see if they could get more veggies to eat with dinner (since she mentions they don’t always have vegetables at dinnertime). At my grocery store a large bag of frozen peas, green beans, etc. is less than $2 most of the time. I just stick some in a bowl with a little water and microwave for 2-3 minutes so it doesn’t add much to dinner prep time either. Further, she could still eat whatever the family is having for dinner, but maybe just eat a smaller portion of meat and put more of the side dishes on her plate.

    I’d also encourage her to explore WHY she wants to become a vegetarian (I didn’t see that mentioned in her letter). Is it in a quest to be healthier or for ethical reasons? It is definately possible to eat a healthy diet and include meat. I feel like meat sometimes gets a bad rap, but (like vegetables) it’s all in the preparation. If it’s for ethical reasons, that is a different story. Also, if it is for ethical reasons her parents may view it as a “save the world” phase of being a teenager.

    • Christie January 26, 2011, 2:26 pm

      Shopping with my Mom is a great suggestion! I want to make the change for both health and ethical reasons. My sister has recently been diagnosed with a heart condition (scary!), and I feel like I know too much about factory farming to turn a blind eye. Thanks for the advice!

      • Laura January 26, 2011, 2:38 pm

        Glad it was helpful! So sorry to hear about your sister. I’ve heard dietary changes can help some medical conditions. Perhaps in a non-stressful/neutral time (riding in the car, for example) you could ask your mom if your sister’s doctor has mentioned any lifestyle type of remedies that could help her heart condition. If she asks what you mean you could suggest exercise, foods she eats, etc. Maybe the doctor will end up suggesting something that could benefit the whole family from a nutrition standpoint.

        • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 2:40 pm

          Sneaky, but effective!!!

  • Eliza January 26, 2011, 2:19 pm

    Like other previous comments, as a parent I probably wouldn’t take it too well if my daughter decided to cook her own separate meal.

    One, it goes against my whole ideal that I’m not a full-service restaurant serving different meals — even if she were to cook to cook her meals herself — and so I would really encourage her to seek a middle ground with her parents.

    Two, my role is to provide the food for nourishment for my children. Yet, I can see how a parent would take it personally, that *their* food isn’t good enough for the child. (Of course, this does not make it right, I’m just pointing out the irrational ideals that parents may have.)

    That said, I would encourage the teen to offer to help out more in the kitchen and become involved in meal planning with her family. (And that includes clean up, too!) By assisting the parents with shopping and encouraging the purchase of vegetarian items, or thanking her parent for the delicious vegetarian-friendly sides, can often help show the teen is making wise choices yet being respectful at the same time.

  • Jess January 26, 2011, 2:20 pm

    the idea of just do it is a valuable one. i’ve been wanting to eat more vegetarian meals and instead of asking my husband what he thought (although i knew he would be supportive), i just made dinner. sometimes there is meat, sometimes there isn’t; but the meals always taste good, are healthy and filling.
    good luck to you christie!!

  • Hannah January 26, 2011, 2:21 pm

    To Christie:
    It’s true that food is a huge part of society and a family’s traditions, habits, and even values. Maybe your parents are worried about you breaking ties with the family — especially at this point when you are almost done with school, etc. Even though you aren’t moving away from home, this is undoubtedly a time of a lot of changes for you and your family.

    When I moved away from home last year, I went vegetarian for about 5 months. Every time I visited home, my mom would make a big deal about “Oh, I forgot, I guess I have to get you special meals or something” and kind of try to make me feel guilty. I would tell her how great I felt on my vegetarian diet, and I think she could see that it was really working for me. Once your parents see that it makes you happy and FEEL good, they might be a little more receptive to the idea. But if all they know about vegetarianism is that it’s “for hippies” (you mention that you don’t know anyone vegetarian — it’s a foreign concept to them!) then they are going to be a little turned off by the idea. But also keep in mind that vegetarianism might not be for you — you won’t know until you try! I hope you can update us on HTP in the future. Best of luck!

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 2:30 pm

      Great point, Hannah – it might be a larger issue about letting go.

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In January 26, 2011, 2:21 pm

    I am not a teenager anymore, but just moved back home after graduating from college. My parents are not vegetarians, and it caused a TON of upfront stress at the dinner table when I didn’t want to eat what they were having.
    It is sort of worked out now that I just make my own meals, they make theirs, and we try to eat together. Occassionally I will make a dish that they want to eat, and sometimes my mom will make some veggies or a pasta that I can eat.
    My parents seem more supportive that yours, but perhaps just cooking it and showing they how excited you are to make your own meals will make it more acceptable. My parents know that I LOVE to cook so having my mom cook for me just isn’t as fun!

  • DefineDiana January 26, 2011, 2:22 pm

    I thought those were all great ideas. Sometimes you just have to get out there and do it for your parents to understand why it is important.

    A couple of years ago I joined a soccer team recreationally and my mom ALWAYS made comments about how “I was never interested in soccer growing up.” and it really annoyed me. I am not the same person now I was then, and this is something I want now, please understand my decision. The longer I stuck with it, the longer she saw that it wasn’t just something I was doing on a whim, but something I really enjoyed and was passionate about.

  • Alex @ Healing Beauty January 26, 2011, 2:23 pm

    My family is romanian and very meat and potatoes as well. My problems were more at large family gatherings, where the rest of my extended family was not supportive of my own “hippie” foods. What worked for me as a teen was to ask my mom to buy ingredients for vegetarian dishes and I would make them myself. Even if I was the only one who would eat it, I was proud for eating the way I wanted to.

  • Lauren @ Clean Eats in the Dirty South January 26, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I remember when I first went vegetarian – it wasn’t too tough for my family to alter the meals so that I could eat them, mostly because the foods we ate weren’t too healthy anyways. My mum would simply separate out a vegetarian portion before adding in the meat.
    However, when I went vegan, I learned that I had to do most of my cooking myself. It’s so rewarding, though, when you learn to have fun with food and prepare healthy, delicious meals for yourself. Although they’re far from vegetarians, my family is healthier because of my diet. I like to think I’ve helped facilitate the change 🙂

  • Michelle January 26, 2011, 2:26 pm

    I think all the advice here is great. Plus, when I heard “she’s 17”, i thought “she’s almost ready to move out!” Keep it up, Caitlyn, and eat how you want to eat. If this is the worst your parents have to deal with with a teenager, yay for them. Then when you move out, it’s all you all the time. This is a short term problem – there is no need to get them to fall in love with the idea, as they probably never well. But congrats to you for taking the leap.

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday January 26, 2011, 2:27 pm

    Maybe start by making a few meals on the weekend for the family (if this is not a stressful time of the week) so it can be more experimental for them than the standard weeknight dinner.

    You could also cook your food for your weeknight dinners on the weekend and just eat them throughout the week so you don’t have to worry about your parents feeling either stressed out or unsupportive.

  • Ali January 26, 2011, 2:28 pm

    I’m in graduate school right now and am currently researching family dynamics when teens transition to vegetarian diets and it is VERY COMMON for parents who have never tried vegetarian diets themselves to resist when their teens want to convert.

    Much of this comes from a place of caring (they are worried about teens being malnourished) but also from unfamiliarity (and yes,sometimes they feel they are being critiqued for their food choices, or that their kids are ungrateful). For many people, meat is a status object – it is expensive, so some families might feel like you are turning down an expensive “gift” of sorts. And also, meat is associated with masculinity, so if you are living in a family with a strongly dominant father, the rejection of meat will be further perceived negatively.

    My advice would be to suggest that this (awesome!) young woman doesn’t have to go into detail about why she is not eating meat (eventually her parents might be interested but it sounds like there is a wall there now in terms of being responsive). Perhaps just emphasize that she is turned off the taste, or doesn’t feel like eating it (in the same kind of language used to talk about other foods you don’t like.For example, if you didn’t like eggplant, you wouldn’t go into a 1/2 hour lecture to your mom about why eggplant is bad…..just say the taste doesn’t suit you or something simple and leave it at that).
    And make something else for yourself to eat – at 17 you shouldn’t even have to negotiate making food with your parents because you’re basically an adult (if she’s 17, she is certainly able to cook something herself and buy her own food – veggie protein is not that expensive). And I would also suggest that she should show her parents that she is doing some nutritional research to make sure she is getting all of the nutrients she needs (leave a few nutrition books lying around the house even if you aren’t reading them – just to send a message that you’ve done your homework and know that you’ll be healthy on this diet).
    Good luck – I’m sure the parents will come around one day!!

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 2:32 pm

      grrrrrrrrrreat comment, ali!

      • Nikki M January 26, 2011, 6:41 pm

        Love this comment!

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) January 26, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Gosh, I can totally relate. I love the recommendations given here. Don’t expect things to change overnight. Remember, your parents are probably used to feeding you meat since you were a kid, and for some, it’s their way of caring for you. I always feel like I’m rejecting my parents by rejecting their staple foods!

    If you’re willing to compromise (sorry if that sounds bad, but it could work), you can reserve eating meat at home for special occassions and be vegetarian when you’re outside the home. Don’t purchase any meat products yourself. This isn’t perfect, but it might work in your situation.

    Good luck!

  • Annette January 26, 2011, 2:29 pm

    All great advice! I would say to roll with egg dishes and add in a lot of veggies to dinner. Most people say they are not open to an idea because they have NOT tried it out yet!

  • Ilana January 26, 2011, 2:31 pm

    Ohh can I relate. I became vegetarian around the same time my stepfather started the Atkins diet – obviously the opposite of vegetarianism. My mom was very frustrated at me for that and most times I’d end up eating a plate of spaghetti and a side of iceberg lettuce salad. It wasn’t for years that *I* learned how to be vegetarian “the right way,” so in hind sight it’s not surprising my family was not at all supportive. I agree with Caitlin about stop trying to educate your family – when I try to make my mom understand that peanut butter should just be peanuts and maybe salt, no added oils or sugars, she shuts down on me, but instead I just do me, cooking and eating what I want even if that means eating something different than the rest of the family. People get very defensive if they feel the way they’ve always lived is being attacked, so I just don’t talk about it, until someone asks me. It’s not worth it for what you eat to become a constant battle of wills.

    Quick food ideas- A can of beans is cheap, quick to open and prepare with seasonings and veggies and have with a carb or a salad, roasted vegetables are usually a crowd pleaser (everyone likes maple-roasted squash, for instance), a bag of baby spinach costs like four bucks and can last a few days in salads and on sandwiches.

    Just for positive reinforcement, I do agree with most of Caitlin’s points above, and I’ve found they’ve worked for me. My mom tells me she now always reads the ingredients on packaged foods and always only buys when she can understand what all the ingredients are and why they’re there, and my dad tried out my vegan lifestyle when we were on vacation together for two weeks, and three weeks later he reports that he loves it and is planning on sticking to it! So for all the battles and struggles I had with my parents early on, they’ve come around to see that I’m onto something here. Only NOW do I give them my books – In Defense of Food, The Kind Diet, The China Study. I would have never shared these books with them earlier because they would have scoffed at my attempt to brainwash and propagandize. You just have to live and show that you’re really thriving, and they will come around to see it that way.

  • Jenifer January 26, 2011, 2:31 pm

    Ok, I’m going to chime in as the mom of a teen (15) girl. This comment..”they claim that doing so would just make them feel guilty for not being supportive.” (In regards to her cooking her own food), really makes me suspect that they already do feel guilty for not supporting her, but perhaps hope that she will just grow out of it or it’s just another fad. As a mom, it’s very hard to see your children making decisions, especially big ones, without you sometimes.

    I really have to applaud this young lady for taking a stand for herself and her body! Keep with it honey,they eventually are going to come around, and while they might not embrace it as a choice for themselves, they will at least respect you for choosing it for yourself.

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 2:34 pm

      Thanks for giving us a mommy point of view – i think you are right!

  • kristin p. January 26, 2011, 2:33 pm

    I became vegetarian when I went to college and my family was very unsupportive. I would make, buy and eat my own foods and get teased for it constantlyyyy. They would complain about my veggies being in the fridge or the way they smelled. It was really hard honestly but after a while I just realized that I couldn’t change their attitudes about my “hippie food” as they called it also! haha. You may need to just do what you believe in and what is right for you no matter what your family says about it. I know it would be nice to have their support but it is really hard to change people’s attitudes about food. Just make it clear that you are doing this for you and not trying to “change” them and hopefully they wont be defensive about it 🙂

  • Allison @ onewhitetulip January 26, 2011, 2:34 pm

    I tried to go veggie at the age of 13. My parents are very healthy eaters, and we really only ate meat 3-4 times a week, but my mom took it very personally. She saw turning down food that she and my dad lovingly prepared as a personal assault, even thought it wasn’t.

    My recommendation for you is to start small, if you can! Try to just get some veggies on the table – make just one side dish or a salad for everyone every night. If your parents are anything like mine, they’ll be supportive about eating healthy much more quickly than a no-meat diet.

    Caitlin mentioned this, but I often make meat as a side dish for my husband and just eat a veggie main dish – say, pasta with red sauce for both of us, and meatballs cooked on the side for him (with a big, yummy salad). Everyone wins!

  • Julia January 26, 2011, 2:37 pm

    If you can prepare your own breakfast and lunch, you could make sure that they are nutritious and full of fruits and veggies, and then just eat the vegetarian part of your families dinner. I know it’s not ideal, but at least it’s a start. I had a friend who did that and often ended up eating dinners of baked potatoes and iceberg lettuce salads, but she made sure to get plenty of protein and vegetables at breakfast and lunch. Good luck!

  • Ilana January 26, 2011, 2:37 pm

    Also, as to this part of the email –
    “If I say that I have no problem cooking my own beans/tofu/other sources of protein, they claim that doing so would just make them feel guilty for not being supportive.”

    Well, they should feel guilty for not being supportive! But, you shouldn’t actively go out of your way to make them feel guilty either.

  • denita January 26, 2011, 2:37 pm

    I can say, as a meat and potatoes person growing up…the idea of vegetables would not have happened. You would have annoyed me by trying to push your food on me. The only option I would see as viable for a meat and potatoes family…I am assuming that this is more than just mom, dad, daughter…but probably atleast one additional sibling involved. You buy your own, cook your own and importantly…clean up after yourself. If you can not do all three, eat what is provided for you at dinner, skip the meat if you want, and supplement with snacks after dinner and with breakfast and lunch. And importantly don’t talk about the food choices at the table.

  • Stephanie January 26, 2011, 2:37 pm

    I think you gave her very thoughtful advice. It couldn’t hurt for her to try preparing things on her own (maybe even at a friend’s house if her parents don’t want her using theirs) and bringing it to her own dinner table to show that it doesn’t have to be divisive. She can still share thoughts about her day and have good family time without defending her position or trying to change their own eating habits.

  • Chrissy (The New Me) January 26, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I went vegetarian when I was 17, despite the protests from my meat-loving family. I did the exact same thing you’re doing – ate my own, vegetarian breakfasts and lunches and then ate dinner with my family. When I finally decided to go full-veg, I would eat whatever sides my parents made and then have a grilled cheese or a frozen veggie burger or some pasta and sauce – things that were quick, easy and painless to make. My parents didn’t try to talk me out of it, but they teased me (and they still think it’s a phase, even though it’s been 11 years!). My best advice is to just do it. Don’t discuss it or make a big deal out of it – just eat what you want and eventually they’ll come around.

  • Jenifer January 26, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Ok, someone educate me…. why is is often refered to as “Hippie Food”? While I have not totally made the switch over yet, I try very hard to be educated about where my food came from, and not one thing I’ve made, or seen would I refer to as hippie food. Am I missing something majorly yummy from the hippies? : )

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:22 pm

      You’ve never heard vegetarians teases as “damn hippies”?! That’s what my grandpa calls us, LOL

  • Leah @ Why Deprive? January 26, 2011, 2:42 pm

    I think you gave her some really good advice. Honestly, from age 16 on, both my brother and I cooked pretty much all of our own meals. Sometimes its just easier that way. He wanted nothing but junk, and I ate mostly vegetarian. We also bought a lot of our own groceries, so our food choices didnt cost our parents anything extra. That made my mom a little more accepting.

  • Margaret January 26, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Hi Christie,
    During high school I became a vegetarian after seeing some distrubing footage on TV; I’m pretty sure I was 17 at the time too. I subtly approached my mom about it and said that I didn’t think I could eat meat anymore. She put a lot of questions out there and even threw in a passage from the Bible. My family’s not super meat and potatoes but potien was the star of every meal and it always came in the form of meat. I also consider(ed) myself fairly spiritual as well so I said I’d take what she said to heart and consider it, but nonetheless it was something I knew I needed to do for a while (didn’t make a life-long committment upfront). I told her not to worry about making something separate; I’d work around it and she seemed to think that was okay. Without announcing it to the rest of the famiy, I just didn’t eat the meat related things on the table and it just sort of went from there. When asked, I think I started just by saying that I really only felt like the other things or wasn’t that hungry or that the sides were so delicious that I wanted to eat more of those. I definitely got a few inquiries from friends and they all thought to throw in the punches, but I kept playing things in my head and knew no matter what it was worth it and I needed to do it.
    Caitlin’s suggestion of “just doing it” is great. In no way am I saying to hide it, but I think just doing it subtly can show your family that it’s not as different or difficult as they may think. Your family (and friends!) will get over it, and I say that in a very good way!
    Good luck and send us an update!

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:24 pm

      Thank you for sharing your perspective and good for you for considering what you mom had to say, too! 😉

  • Marie-JourneytoBodyZen January 26, 2011, 2:44 pm

    I have found that I get to eat *more* of my favorite two foods now that I’m a vegetarian: pizza and burritos! Veggie pizza and burritos are awesome and easy to make. Plus, my meat-lovin’ husband will always eat these with me 🙂

  • Kara January 26, 2011, 2:44 pm

    I was in the opposite position. My parents were all about “hippie food”. When I was recovering from anorexia, they had to change their low-fat, no-fat cooking for me and they actually like eating full fat cheese now. I guess it’s easier to convince people to eat more fat than it is to convince them to try tempeh 🙂

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:25 pm

      I prefer cheese over tempeh for sure! 🙂

  • Rebecca January 26, 2011, 2:47 pm

    don’t mind preparing meat for them, consider making meals that your family can ‘build’ themselves, like veggie or meat fajitas or burritos.

    YES! This is exactly what our exchange student does, and vice versa. She is okay with preparing/handling meat, because she is the only one in her family back home who is vegetarian. The few times she has cooked for us, she has made meat dishes, as well as a pasta or veggie dish. And when we make meals, we make sure that they’re either A) partly without meat (pizzas, fajitas, making her a separate smaller pan of whatever it is without meat, etc) or B) no meat (like pasta dishes). Sometimes she will just eat salad and fruits/veggies or beans or something. It works really well. And we didn’t eat that much meat to begin with, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to change our habits a little. 🙂

    • Christie January 26, 2011, 3:57 pm

      This is a great idea! I feel like meals that everyone chooses their own toppings for (ex tacos, burritos, etc.), while not the healthiest, are probably a very good way to approach it in a non defensive manner. Thanks!

      • Rebecca January 26, 2011, 5:34 pm

        Yeah, it’s a pretty good compromise (for now), I’d say. It might give them a different perspective or something, let them get used to it slowly, you know?
        It works pretty well for people with intolerances or allergies or things like that, too, I think. 🙂
        Good luck with this, by the way! 😀

  • Amy B @ Second City Randomness January 26, 2011, 2:47 pm

    My parents would quickly confirm this for you- but I was a stubborn stubborn girl. Still am (but that’s not the point). But anyways, I decided one day that I was just going to cut hamburgers out of my diet. Completely. My parents never stopped giving me crap about it. They thought it was ridiculous. But eventually, when they made burgers, they realized it wasn’t hard to also throw a chicken breast on the grill…

    Just keep being serious about your choice. Make your own food. Or just say you’re going out to pick up something for yourself if all they’re giving you is a meat dish for dinner. It’s your own dietary choice- if they don’t understand it, they’ll at least eventually learn how to adjust to it.

  • Michelle January 26, 2011, 2:48 pm

    I think you gave her really good advice. I became veggie at 15 and my dad was much like Christie’s parents. I didn’t give him a choice. I sat down, explained why it was important to me and that I didn’t judge him for it but I would no longer be eating meat. From there on out we planned meals together. I always made sure there was a side that I could modify into my main meal. I also kept easy added things around (pre-cooked beans and rice, sandwich options) that I could add to our main meal without drawing a lot of attention. I think planning meals together and making them feel included is key. I know it helped my dad feel less alienated by my choices.

    Lastly, good luck Christie! I know it’s hard to be veggie in a meat centric house hold but you can do it!

  • Stephanie C January 26, 2011, 2:49 pm

    I came here to say something but I think you did a great job already!
    I never had that problem.. my mom never enjoyed cooking and if I ever offered I am sure she would have jumped at the chance no matter what I was cooking.
    Now that my husband and I are vegetarian, she tries to make choices available when we come over, but sometimes there isn’t anything available.

  • Heather @ Alis Grave Nil January 26, 2011, 2:50 pm

    I think this is a touchy subject. As a parent, I would have a really hard time hearing that someone told my kid to ignore me (and/or my cooking) and put their food out when I had prepped a meal. That could be a huge insult depending on the culture or family we’re talking about and how much their mealtime means to them. Cooking is an intensely personal and caring thing to do–feelings get hurt easily. I understand the 17 year old wanting to make her own choices, but I feel like that’s a tough call if someone else buys the food. Demanding or choosing one course of action might make other things more difficult, later. Also, I know people are saying “she is almost an adult” but 17 isn’t adulthood. Not by any stretch, and I don’t mean that in an awful way. I teach high school and there’s still a lot of parenting needed even when teens don’t think that’s what they want. There are a million types of parents out there, too. Some parents see food choice as part of their sphere of control. She sounds bright, mature, awesome… but I think something different happens when you’re on your own and you can buy (or not buy) anything you want for yourself–clothes, food, cars, etc. When you live at home and you’re a minor, it could be an area of tension.

    I applaud her desire to be healthy. I think there’s also the health of the family to consider. I think as she grows and matures she can make the changes she wants (as she is clearly doing on her own for breakfast and lunch, anyway) and she will be able to live however she thinks is the right way. I think adding a side is the best option, not plunking down an alternative.

    I think the important thing is that she is clearly educating herself and trying to make smart choices when it comes to her eating and her relationships. That’s wonderful.

    Interesting topic!

    • Tiffany January 26, 2011, 3:04 pm

      As a parent, I can see where you are coming from. But I think ANY parent should be able to respect their child for making a very mature decision to eat healthy. This reminds me of the whole I Used To Be Fat show, where the kids’ parents were the biggest obstacle to eating healthy because they didn’t want to have to eat it/cook it/see it. I think a high school kid making the decision to be a vegetarian should be respected. A vegetarian diet is probably the cheapest diet around. Fruits, veggies, cheap protein sources. Most families are already buying the staples of a veg diet anyway (aside from tofu, etc), so I don’t see why her parents are being so resistent.

      • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:27 pm

        I like this exchange because I can see both sides. By 17 though, I mean – I would hope a parent would trust their daughter to make the right choices, especially if you were saying “I want to eat more vegetables.” LOL Most kids never say that!

        • Heather @ Alis Grave Nil January 26, 2011, 8:09 pm

          I agree. And I think her choice is sound. I have just encountered enough parents through teaching to know that people don’t really like it when you interfere with the parent/child relationship. It just might be a big can of worms, and she’s almost 18. Soon she will be able to decide for herself, no matter what.

          I don’t think the issue is whether or not going veggie or eating more veg is good. I think it’s a parenting thing and people can be really protective of those decisions.

        • Heather @ Alis Grave Nil January 26, 2011, 8:14 pm

          I should add that a lot of my experience (and probably, opinion) with alternate diets comes from having a husband with allergies to 41 known foods (including wheat, milk, eggs, lemon, garlic, onion, barley, soy…) We’ve had enough trouble getting family to understand our alternate food choices and we’re adults who need to do it for medical reasons. Food can be an emotional thing for people, especially when it comes to tradition.

          I wish her the best. 🙂

  • AJ January 26, 2011, 2:52 pm

    I like the idea of making omnivore friendly dishes to show Christie’s family that vegetarian food is more than tofu and “hippie food”. (I think that this is a common misconception among people not familiar with a vegetarian diet) Other commentors already mentioned pizza and pasta. I also suggest quesadillas (and other Mexican dishes), minestrone soup, chili, macaroni and cheese. Maybe Christie’s family already likes some of these dishes. Hopefully as Christie cooks for herself and shows her family that vegetarian food isn’t just tofu, they will come around.

    Good luck Christie!

  • Tiffany January 26, 2011, 2:55 pm

    I think you gave her some great, honest advice. It seems like most “meat and potatoes” families are the worst when it comes to their children switching to a healthier/vegetarian way of eating. The advice to just do it- cook your own food but make it a ‘community dish’ at the table is great. It would be a great way to introduce healthier foods to the family without being pushy. I also suggest making some veg treats. There are SO many great veg baked good recipes out there (and healthy ones, too!) that it would be a great way to show the family that its not all “hippie” food.

  • Kelley January 26, 2011, 2:58 pm

    I had a pediatrician tell me when I was 13 that I would die if I didn’t eat meat. She told me I’d never make it to my 20s! I cried and my family left her practice. Isn’t that sad?

    I was a vegetarian for a few years during my teens, and I just did my own thing and eventually my family left me alone about it. They thought I was just being a ‘picky eater’.

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:28 pm

      Oh MY!!!! That is crazy. At least your parents stopped taking you there!

    • Jennifer (Mother of All Students) January 26, 2011, 4:55 pm

      One of my daughter’s friends (12 years old and in 7th grade)tried becoming vegetarian, but the athletic coach told her that she could not be veg if she wanted to continue to play sports! Can you imagine?!

      My daughters and I are all veg. I told my daughter that it was a good thing she didn’t try to tell her that (she dropped athletics at the beginning of the year, so it was not an issue with her)! I would have gone all sorts of bat sh** crazy on the coach!

    • Liz January 26, 2011, 5:25 pm

      So weird because I had the exact oposite experience. I lost interest in eating meat at around 6 years old (my mom says it’s when I found out where meat came from, haha). When I went to the pediatrician, my mom said, “tell her she needs to eat meat” and the Dr. responded with, “The healthiest people I know are vegetarians”.

      I guess I was lucky… As a kid I stopped eating “real” meat at a young age (ground beef, chicken breasts, steak, etc). I still ate processed meat once in awhile- hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc.- until I was a teenager. As I ate less and less meat, my mom ate less and less as well(I assume because it was easier).

  • Rachel S January 26, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Reading Christie’s story felt reminiscent of my own struggle to transition to vegetarianism while still in high school! I started college last year, so while I’m at school, being a vegetarian is easy. When I go home though, it can be difficult because my mom seems frustrated sometimes even though I do the same thing she’s been doing-offer to cook my own protein sources. It has gotten easier though, when I just go ahead and cook a meal for the entire family(that doesn’t have tofu, as my family would definitely not eat it!). Or, I’ll make chili, one batch with meat and the other with just beans for me. I’ve even introduced my family to roasted veggies by preparing a huge batch so there are extras they can try. And most of the time, they’ve liked them. So I guess I could say it has gotten easier when I’m at home for visits. As long as the vegetarian meals I make for them have mostly-familiar ingredients, there isn’t a problem.

  • Allison @ Happy Tales January 26, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Caitlin, I think your recommendations and tips are spot on! It’s obviously a very touchy subject right now, so I think it would be best for her to just start taking ownership of her own food choices, and that way her parents will actually see that the vegetarian dishes are not that “scary” or “in left field” as they orginally thought they were… I think your tip of creating a bigger portion and serving it on the table is excellent! Even if she doesn’t think her parents will touch it, I have a strong feeling that they would at least *try* it. I bet if she took your tips and put ’em to action, her parents would start to make some alterations to their own diets over time. Having a seperate budget might be an issue, though. Especially if she has to support her own food budget. It’s doable, though!

  • Jess January 26, 2011, 3:05 pm

    I had this same issue in high school. Eventually, my parents came around and my mom would make meat separate from the rest of the meal, but it took me actively going to the grocery store and buying my own groceries to cook. They still didn’t “get” it, but I never made that my mission, which is the only way to save your sanity! Veggie food isn’t very expensive, especially if you’re doing a lot of legumes. Good luck!

  • Charlie January 26, 2011, 3:06 pm

    Your recommendations are great! I think that just making dinner is a great idea because that way her parents can sea that vegetarian food can be tasty!

    Chili is a great dish to make since it is exactly the same with or without meat.
    And my stuffed peppers ( are great for omnivores. My (carnivore) boyfriend said it was one of the best meals he ever had ;).

  • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:08 pm

    I became vegetarian when I was 14. I stood my ground and assured them that it wasn’t just a phase and eventually they got over it. Until I really started cooking for myself, I was basically living on pasta, which wasn’t ideal but necessary since (1) my parents wouldn’t cook me anything else and (2) I felt very strongly about my decision to not eat meat.
    As they slowly began to realize that vegetarianism was not just a phase for me, they eventually opened up to cooking foods that weren’t pasta.

    I told my parents that I was transitioning into being a vegetarian about three weeks before I actually did it. Then, I picked a day and told them that as of that day I would never eat meat again. Having a definite starting point and standing my ground despite negative opinions was really effective for me. Now I’m almost 22 and still a strict vegetarian. 🙂

    If it’s a change that you really want to make, don’t let your parents tell you how to eat. Go for it. Being a vegetarian is awesome and is one of the best decisions that I have made health-wise and for me personally.

  • Nikki (Barefoot and Loving it) January 26, 2011, 3:09 pm

    Thanks for posting this!! I am currently going back and forth on going vegetarian. The only problem is that my live in boyfriend requires meat in EVERYTHING. I would end up cooking two different meals. I am going to look for some good advice here!

  • ashley January 26, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I think your recs are spot on Caitlin.

    On another note, tI went through a similar situation where I wanted to go vegetarian at 14 and my “meat and potatoes” parents were totally against it. My mom was especially against it as she was convinced it could not be healthy for someone my age to go vegetarian. Finally, we agreed that we could go to the doctor together and if the doctor said it was fine and healthy for me to be a vegetarian, I could. (She was convinced he would say no) When we went to the doctor and asked him about it he replied “I’ve been a vegan since I was 10” LOL it did not work out for my poor mom the way she thought it would. we still laugh about it the irony.

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:29 pm

      Hahah this is an awesome story. Zing!

  • Ashley January 26, 2011, 3:14 pm

    I’m 18 and I became a vegetarian when I was 13. I wanted to stop eating meat when I was 11 but my mother swore I needed it and she’d force me to eat it if I stopped. I finally convinced her that I would be healthy and she was supportive, buying me meat substitutes and letting me munch on sides. Everyone in my family just thought it was a phase I was going through but now they say they can’t imagine me eating meat ever
    again. I’m vegan now, and I’m lucky that my family supports me, even if they don’t understand me.
    I agree that Christie should just do it! She might have to pay for it herself but if it’s really what she wants they can’t force her to eat meat. The guilt trips will go away eventually. There are always going to be people that don’t understand your choices, but its better to know that these people love you and will always accept you, and there’s a whole blogging community that has your back.

  • ashley January 26, 2011, 3:16 pm

    my experience is not with meat but with sweets . . . i decided to get rid of sweets for my own sanity. all things dessert related were just too much for me – i couldn’t have just ONE of anything. i gave up sweets and got some push back from my family. no birthday cake on birthdays? no pumpkin pie on thanksgiving? no ice cream on hot summer days? i was [and still am] asked all of these questions, but i eat a bowl of mixed fresh fruit while others eat cake and suck down watermelon while others eat ice cream in the summer.

    it was unhealthy for ME to go down the path i was with sweets, but here i am, 4 birhtdays later, still cake free and my family just goes with the flow.

    its not what we’re DOING [or eating], its just that we’re spending time together! my body is still present as birthday celebrations and thanksgiving dinner, but i’m HAPPY and HEALTHY and having a treat, just like everyone else.

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:30 pm

      Interesting perspective! You truly could sub out “vegetarianism” for a lot of choices. Like choosing not to consume alcohol if your family is heavy drinkers. Or desserts, I suppose!

  • Sarah January 26, 2011, 3:16 pm

    i think those are great pieces of advice caitlin. i guess i was lucky that my parents never really gave me hard time about not eating meat after they realized i truely did not enjoy it. i think the bottom line people need to realize is food is a personal choice. yes it would be wonderful if everyone enjoyed all kinds of food and people didn’t have dietary restrictions but that is life. we are also lucky that so many different ways of eating are very mainstream now. i think the key to people accepting how you eat is for you to not judge how they do. as far as getting people to enjoy vegetarian food i think a big thing is to not label it. just tell them what the dish is…don’t say it is vegetarian. focus on the food and the ingreidents and not a label. i had some friends over to watch a football game last weekend and made a dip from eat, drink & be vegan. when they found out it was vegan they were nervous. once they tried it they loved it.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) January 26, 2011, 3:18 pm

    I feel her pain. When I was growing up, we did eat healthy, but I tried to go vegetarian with no support at all from my parents. I always cooked anyway, that was not the problem. They just felt like I should eat meat. It is hard and unfortunately parents feel like they have the final ruling in those situations and I guess they do. I have learned to be a different type of parent and let my kids make their own educated decisions. They are still young, but I feel like it is important to support your children no matter what understanding that you need to be there for them and help guide them. I, now, am a vegetarian, however my family eats meat. We all have to make the best decisions four ourselves. I went way off subject here, but sadly, if her parents aren’t behind her, she may have to wait until she is not under their roof.

  • betty@runbetty January 26, 2011, 3:18 pm

    To your teen reader: I’m sorry your family isn’t being more supportive of your dietary choices. However, I suspect that they maybe they don’t REALIZE just how unsupportive they’re being. And I don’t necessarily suggest you try to change that.

    What I DO suggest, is making vegetarian food LESS about “being” something/someone different, or a commentary (social, health or othewise) and MORE about honoring what YOU LIKE. When I became vegetarian, it was easier for my parents to accept, because they knew I genuinely didn’t LIKE the taste/texture of meat. And of course they didn’t want me to starve. So, we worked together to find foods that I enjoyed eating.

    Food and taste is very individual and very subjective. Hopefully you can help your family to understand that although your preferences are different from theirs, it isn’t a commentary or judgement. That different doesn’t have to be bad or good. It can just be neutral.

    Good luck, and hang in there. Be true to YOU and your tastes and beliefs.

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 3:32 pm

      I 1000% percentage agree!

  • Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans January 26, 2011, 3:19 pm

    I decided to become a vegetarian at age 14 and I am positive my parents thought it was a fad. At first I just cut out meat and ate everything else but soon realized I needed more options. When I asked for a cookbook as a present I think that they began to realize how serious I was. Luckily they supported me and even tried some of my attempts at vegetarian fare and soon I saw that they were buying veggie friendly items without me having to ask for them. I think the key might be for parents to see that you are serious about it and yes, teenagers are capable of making healthy choices as well as ethical ones. Good luck!!!

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape January 26, 2011, 3:22 pm

    I definitely get parents being against the change. I’m not a vegetarian but I have recently cut back on meat. My parents were not too keen on it. The key is to show that you are getting protein from other sources and to eat healthy. If they see you chowing down on bad food, they obviously will not support the diet change. If you focus on whole foods and whole grains, though, they may be more apt to embrace the change.

  • Marina January 26, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Well, my experience with other people and my diet is…colorful. I am not a vegetarian, but I eat a lot differently than people around me, so I’ve had my fair share of arguments and fights about whether my eating is healthy or not. I’m in a recovery from some kind of eating disorder, but my food choices were always healthy. When people saw I’m eating enough, and that my food looks good and sounds interesting, they wanted to try it. I suggest you do the same, convince your parents your health won’t suffer, and enjoy your meals. I bet they will want to try them!

  • Haleigh January 26, 2011, 3:34 pm

    I would walk over to Big Daddy’s every day if I were as close as you are! Their black bean burger is pretty amazing. As for the meat and potatoes vs veggies… what a dilemma! Luckily, in my family, no one knew how to cook when I was younger. I don’t really know any advice to offer except to start cooking on your own.

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey January 26, 2011, 3:34 pm

    I think you gave excellent advice Caitlin! I was in a similar position.. kind of.. last year. My mom has been a vegetarian since I was 5, so it was normal to not eat meat. However, when I found out I was gluten/corn intolerant and also wanted to make the plunge with limited dairy consumption, my family was shocked (minus my mom). My extended family still has some hang ups about it – I’m not sure why. They’re getting open to the ideas that I eat differently though!

  • Allison @ Food For Healing January 26, 2011, 3:35 pm

    im glad you posted on this subject, its such a common topic/problem for teens, especially when still living at home. but in the end it is your own choice. I loved how you answered the question 🙂

  • Rachel January 26, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Luckily, I had a supportive family when I became a vegetarian. My mom was very supportive about providing vegetarian protein substitutes. My dad didn’t harass me about it, but he clearly never understood my decision. I became a vegan a few years ago, and that was a harder bullet for my family to figuratively bite. My mom was still supportive, and whenever I come home she always has a new vegan dish to try (vegan blueberry cobbler, black bean burgers, etc). I really appreciate it. Other people, on the other hand, often ask me “what do you eat!?!?” as if there are TONS of foods that are naturally vegan. That question is the most frustrating. You ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…you just ate a vegan meal! I’ve come to realize that some people will embrace your decision, and others will never get it. Hopefully, her family will respect her decision because they respect her, but otherwise, anyone changing their diet needs to be proud of their choice and stand by it, no matter what the naysayers do.

    • Rachel January 26, 2011, 3:41 pm

      I meant to write “as if there are NOT tons of food that are naturally vegan”

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 26, 2011, 3:41 pm

    the tips and suggestions offered are amazing. i have nothing to add other than to say i have so much empathy for this girl and for her situation…it just breaks my heart that she wants to do this and is getting shut down and not being supported. Grrr! why!!??

  • Lauren January 26, 2011, 3:48 pm

    I grew up not eating red meat through high school and gave up other meat in college. My mom would always cook something different for me, or when I was older, I cooked my own thing. I would recommend telling your family you want to do this, explain why, and make them listen. They can’t force you to eat meat, and you can probably make vegetarian meals based on food you have at home that isn’t tofu or hippie food. Start off with bean burritos or something, and cook something vegetarian that meat eaters. Just show them how you will eat and really explain why you want to make this change. Maybe you could even suggest a vegetarian recipe you could make with your parents and try it out.

  • Maija January 26, 2011, 3:49 pm

    This is something that is very close to my heart, as I became a vegetarian at age 13 with a pretty unsupportive family.

    Some things that helped us get around the discomfort of the first few years (yes years):

    just tell your parents how happy it makes you to be a vegetarian. At the end of the day, your parents want nothing more than to see you happy. Don’t bring in health, nutrition or a longer life- just happiness and leave it at that. It takes small steps.

    second: take Caitlin’s advice and just cook your own protein. Go out and buy it, cook it, and take the stress off of your mom’s shoulders (even though it doesn’t need to be there in the first place)– my mom was the SAME way getting so stressed out about what to cook for me and resentful that I didn’t want what she was cooking.

    third: this is more a food for thought piece of advice but you might stray away from labeling yourself “vegetarian.” I noticed this with my family when I transitioned from vegetarianism to veganism (learning my lessons from the first time around). Families get all wigged out when you have “special needs” or won’t eat “their food”. My mom got terribly upset at the idea of me turning down food offered at family get-togethers or me having special requirements at restaurants but I learned that once I told my mom I wasn’t a vegan anymore (but still ate vegan) nobody really paid attention to what I put on my plate. If you label it, they do pay attention though, and throw fits in eating situations even when you assure them you’re going to be okay. It’s quite odd in my opinion but whatever.

    It takes a lot of time for families to come on board- most of my aunts and uncles still don’t get it (after 9 years. NINE YEARS!!!) It just takes a lot of patience and assurances that you’re okay.

    Oh and one last piece- if you go to a “family style” restaurant and you’re the only one that orders a vegetarian dish but others want some… JUST SHARE IT. I know you might be like, well DUH, but no really sometimes I got all defensive about people eating my food when I couldn’t eat theirs but looking back I just looked like a total brat. Maybe I’m the only one but I just wanted to throw that out there 🙂 Best of luck, beautiful girl- I know you’ll do wonderfully!!

    • Christie January 26, 2011, 4:13 pm

      I totally agree! I find when I tell people I don’t want to eat animals, they’re much more responsive than when I say I want to be a vegetarian.

  • Kacy January 26, 2011, 3:54 pm

    I think your advice was great! When I ate vegetarian, I also received similar feedback from my family, but over time they shut up. Eventually people will just accept it and move on.

  • Jess@atasteofconfidence January 26, 2011, 3:55 pm

    I definitely agree with you- I especially think trying to educate one’s parents is a bad idea, just because it probably makes them more hostile to your message (even though I am sure you have great intent).

  • Maura January 26, 2011, 3:59 pm

    I don’t have any advice necessarily, but felt compelled to say that Christie, you don’t “sound bitter”- you sound frustrated, and rightfully so. Transitioning into adulthood can be tricky, but I have faith that you’ll navigate your way through and come out happy!

  • Kathleen @ Kat's Health Corner January 26, 2011, 4:08 pm

    You can try tacos, pizza, even lasagna. Breakfast for dinner is always fun. 🙂

  • Brittney January 26, 2011, 4:24 pm

    I’m not a full on vegetarian, but my husband and I OFTEN eat vegetarian and our families have both noticed that we do and asked about it. I usually explain that when I am cooking a lot of vegetarian things at home I see it is as a new cuisine to explore, and that it’s not limiting my diet, it’s expanding it. Instead of making the same meat/starch meals again and again, vegetarian cooking has broadened my horizons and challenged me to try new things. I like this way of explaining it because it doesn’t sound limiting, it makes it more of an adventure.

  • Ally January 26, 2011, 4:27 pm

    THIS. All of this. I am currently transitioning into an almost-vegan lifestyle (completely dairy free with the exception of yogurt, meat and eggs every so often), mostly due to intolerances. and in my VERY Italian family, that sometimes is not conducive. Fortunately, my parents just understand that that’s the way it is for me. My mom has actually started to put cook food separately because she knows I can’t tolerate dairy. The other night we had polenta with dinner and she made a little extra for me without the milk or cheese. That’s love! 🙂

    Of course, my father will make fun of me for eating tofu and nuts and flax seed bread and weird nut butters, but I love what I eat and wouldn’t change any of it! Well, maybe I’d like my tummy to be able to tolerate Ben and Jerry’s again! 🙁

  • Lesley January 26, 2011, 4:27 pm

    Hi Christie! I think Caitlin’s tips and a lot of other comments I’ve read have covered it all already, but I wanted to add that I’ve been there and you can do it. I’m not currently a veggie, but I did it for 9 years starting when I was 13. It did not go over well with my mom, and looking back I think all she was feeling was being overwhelmed. She had enough to do without having to figure out how to cook differently, ya know? So, I was just left to fend for myself, and even though she never really ventured beyond pasta dishes, she came around. An easy start is to build on things that people already like. If your parents are big on meat and potatoes maybe you guys can make potatoes together, but you can make your own sides to sub for the meat. Good luck!

  • Caitlyn (A Spoonful of Life) January 26, 2011, 4:29 pm

    I know exactly where Christie is coming from. My mom looked at me like I was an alien when I said I was considering becoming a vegetarian. I haven’t made the jump to being 100% vegetarian at this point, but am considering it. Having the support and understanding of your family is definitely helpful when making such a choice.

  • Katy (The Singing Runner) January 26, 2011, 4:32 pm

    I was a vegetarian from when I was 7-17. My dad was one for many years and that is why I became one. He started eating meat again when I was 15, but I continued on the vegetarian diet for a few more years until I finally went back to eating meat with my family. They never told me to go back, but I felt bad, so made the switch. However, I did tell them that I would not eat red meat or pork, since they never sat well my in stomach.

    Once I started college the following year, I slowly began becoming a vegetarian again. Now at age 20 (almost 21), I consider myself a pescatarian because I do eat seafood and eggs, for now. I am researching a vegan diet right now, but the only thing standing in my way is my love for Greek Yogurt. 😉

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul January 26, 2011, 4:39 pm

    This is interesting! B/C I have a lot of stomach indigestion issues if I don’t eat a certain way. So now for a few years, I’ve been cooking up my own stuff more and more even thought sometimes I eat mother’s cooking. It’s hard to have my fam understand that this really helps me and that they should perhaps not be so scared of it too. I think it’s just fear of going away from tradition, especially the Korean tradition for them. I suggest that when they’re not there, just make a batch of whatever she’d want for next time. Just like you said Caitlin. Also, to just wait on them to see the great results and enhanced health just b/c of this habit. My folks are sloowwwlly seeing those results and not so scared to at least try them anymore. 🙂

  • Claire January 26, 2011, 4:52 pm

    There recently was a claymation movie made here in Australia about this very thing. Check out Tegan the Vegan, very timely for your teen poster. I’ve never had any issues with this, my parent would have supported me if I decided to run off and join the circus, vegetarian didn’t phase them. That said, as a mother myself now, it is almost a little intimidating to see your kids so grown up and independent, maybe her parents are struggling with the transition to adulthood.

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 10:55 pm

      Off to check out Tegan the Vegan now!! Sounds cute.

  • Sara January 26, 2011, 4:57 pm

    I see why this is so difficult, easier said than done just standing up to your parents when you live at home. I would say ask your ‘rents what “hippie food” they would allow you to cook at sides for the family (that maybe even they would eat, sweet potato hash etc) and then just use tofu and beans as your easy proteins for a complete meal. Try to push the “delicious” and not necessarily just nutritious aspect of your additions 🙂
    Good luck!

  • Christina January 26, 2011, 4:59 pm

    I’m 25 and married and my family (my husband is very supportive) gives me a lot of grief about being a vegetarian. Every time I eat a meal with them, I get many snide comments such as: “When are you going to stop doing the whole vegetarian thing”, “I wish you ate meat, so you would split this with me”, and “I thought you were going to eat meat sometimes”. I get a lot of eye rolls, and they make me feel like I’m somehow hurting their feelings by not eating meat. My mother also likes to pick restaurants that make it very difficult for me to order at.
    The best advice that I can give you is to do what you want to do, and don’t cave into their pestering. Eat what is best for you without forcing what you eat on them. Then you can ask them to extend the same courtesy to you. Personally, I find the more my family badgers me about being a vegetarian, the more I want to be one. Good luck dear!

  • Jennifer (Mother of All Students) January 26, 2011, 5:04 pm

    My daughter, who is 14 and also veg, has a friend the same age who is vegetarian, but her family is not. She eats the sides that her mom prepares, and then will eat either Boca or Morningstar Farm products for the protein. It is not the ideal choice for a daily veg protein, but it is something.

    I agree with some of the others who say to go shopping with your mom, and offer to pay for the veg food.

    My mom advice: Don’t keep pushing the issue. Your parents will get irritated, and dig their heels in even more. I know this because that’s what I do when my kids are persistent with me about something I disagree with. Although, I think it is great that you are wanting to go veg (2 of my teen girls and myself are all veg), you have to give them time.

    Good luck hon, don’t compromise your values. Stick with it, it will get easier! (((BIG HUG))) to our veggie sistah! 🙂

  • Kelley January 26, 2011, 5:10 pm

    I think almost any vegetarian can relate to this issue. When I first became vegetarian I faced a lot opposition from my friends and family. People close to me have accepted it but I have never had people be so interested and upset about what I do and do not eat. It’s hard to ignore all the negativity but it’s important to stick to your guns- it does get easier!

  • Baking 'n' Books January 26, 2011, 5:11 pm

    Gosh – I can’t keep up with all these posts! I have to go back and little time…boo.

    I LOVE the advice you gave her! I am not vegetarian, but I think your advice is spot-on. Just Do It. That’s what I was thinking 😉

  • Jamie @ A Healthy J.D. January 26, 2011, 5:12 pm

    I’m 27 and I know how hard this can be. I had my mom come visit me for Thanksgiving and the entire time she tried to guilt me into eating turkey. I purchased her a turkey and let her cook it the way she wanted but she kept pushing me to try it even though I’m a vegetarian. She also complained about the lack of marshmallow covered canned yams, stove top stuffing and Cambpell’s soup green bean casserole after I spent hours making sides from scratch for us. I felt so dejected and it reminded me of our unhealthy relationship when I was a child. At the end of the day though I ate what I wanted and she ate what she wanted and we left it be. So I’d agree, sometimes when the people you love are so unsupportive of your lifestyle you may need to just say screw it and do what you want. It may not be a happy resolution but YOU will be a happier person AND at your age it’s time to realize that your parents aren’t perfect and that you are the only one who controls what you do. It was a hard lesson for me to learn and as you can see, I’m still learning. Good luck and take solace in knowing that you aren’t alone, like Caitlin said when it comes to food people are very sensitive about their choices!

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 10:57 pm

      This comment made me sad… I’m sorry your mom reacted like that but it does sound like you’re reacting in this healthiest possible way.

      • Jamie @ A Healthy J.D. January 26, 2011, 11:07 pm

        Thanks Caitlin, I’ve wanted to express my own frustrations about this on my blog but I’m afraid she would read it and be hurt. She has a ton of mental issues with food (she is a recovering anorexic who is now obese) and its just sad. I think knowing this makes me understand and accept it. I’m just thankful I don’t live under it anymore and that I have a wonderful and supportive husband.

        • Caitlin January 27, 2011, 9:59 am

          I’m so sorry 🙁 It is sad. Mental disease blows.

  • Eliz@The Sweet Life January 26, 2011, 5:12 pm

    Lots of great advice posted here so I will only say that I wish her the best and hope she has the confidence to do whatever she feels is best, knowing herself and her family as she does.

  • maria @ Chasing the Now January 26, 2011, 5:17 pm

    I agree with the advice you gave. It’s not easy, but you have to do what is best for you–you’re no longer a kid! My parents didn’t eat very healthy when I was growing up *still don’t* and going home from college was always a weird transition. Most of the time I grocery shopped for myself and cooked a separate meal.

  • LauraJayne January 26, 2011, 5:17 pm

    For me, it was key to let my family know that I did not expect them to change their lifestyle AT ALL. I always offered to cook dinner, but if they said no, I just made my own food. When I went to family dinners, I would just ask if there was going to be vegetarian options – if not, I’d bring something fast, like a veggie burger and a bun – and eat my own.

    I’m lucky, because my family was (and is) really healthy already – they eat a ton of fruits and veggies – but not even my sister admits that some of my “veggie” meals (without tofu or other fake meat, which I won’t eat either) are actually good AND filling!

    It’s a process, but once they see you are serious and that this is important to you, they will learn to live with it. After all, they love you more than they care whether or not you eat meat! Good luck!

  • Meredith January 26, 2011, 5:22 pm

    I went vegetarian while I was in middle school, and my mom’s biggest concern was how I would get my protein. I read up on the subject myself before talking to her about it (rather than suggesting that she read a book . . . she was busy enough without reading assignments from me!). Also, I think the way you bring it up is important — if you mention ethical reasons, I think people who aren’t vegetarian sometimes feel attacked, like you’re telling them they are doing something morally wrong. Actually, I don’t tell people why I’m vegetarian unless they ask, and then when I answer I always phrase it “for ME, PERSONALLY” and mention that how we eat is a personal choice, and that I don’t push my choice on anyone . . . (so hopefully they’ll take the hint and not push their ideas on me!).

    • Christie January 26, 2011, 10:29 pm

      I never considered the idea that saying I want to change for ethical reasons would make someone feel attacked, but I completely see where you’re coming from. Thank you for that!!!

  • Leah January 26, 2011, 5:40 pm

    I can understand the frustration of going vegetarian while the rest of the family eats “meat” & “potatoes”. I slowly went vegetarian through university as meats started bothering my system. My mom didn’t understand, but I was able to eat the sides available. Sometimes this let to slim pickings as the vegetables on the table were always few in number.

    When I lived at home I didn’t do any of the shopping (no money) so it was hard, but if I went shopping with my mom I could add things to the shopping cart…

    Now with 3 kids of my own, we do lots of build it yourself meals… pasta, burritos (tortilla optional), pizza… It works well for us – my husband and son eat the most meat, my daughters will eat some meats, and I eat vegetarian. Breakfast for dinner also works well as we can each choose (or not) our own sides or toppings.

  • Kris @ tryingtotri January 26, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Going vegetarian can be a challenge at any age with parents, spouses, and kids too! Christie, I applaud your choices, and wish you the best. My advice would be to try to do most of your own cooking, at times when your parents aren’t trying to do theirs.

    As a mom of three, trying to eat healthy myself, and trying to get four confirmed meat eaters to give up meat… well, we’ve compromised. I still eat some meat, by choice. I cook a lot of meals that start out vegetarian and then have meat added to their portions (pasta & sauce, pizza, quesadillas, tacos, etc.). I finally refused to be a short order cook and cook different meals for everyone, and the “boys” finally realized some of what I was trying to feed them actually tasted OK.

    Good luck!

  • Camille January 26, 2011, 5:59 pm

    I would suggest cooking a heartier vegetarian meal for your family to shift their perception a bit. In the end, eat what makes you feel good, your body is no ones but your own!

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) January 26, 2011, 6:04 pm

    I’m 21, but I still live at home and I make all of my own meals. Sometimes I cook for my whole family, but my family is content eating small dinners when they get home from work. They prefer to eat bowls of cereal for dinner, whereas dinner is my favorite time to cook!

  • Laura January 26, 2011, 6:11 pm

    She needs to not worry about the guilt trip and start cooking dinner at least once a week for everyone. I’m not vegetarian but really enjoy eating vegetarian meals a few times a week, despite living with some meat and potatoes types.

    My advice is to start gradually. Don’t stick to things just like tofu, which has such a bad stereotype. Learn to make things like a frittata with cheese and vegetables, falafels, lentil soup and black bean burgers. Keep things simple, and remind family members that things like black bean burgers aren’t supposed to taste like meat. It’s just a new food and source of protein.

    If she wants to cook tofu, maybe start with something like yakisoba or stir-fry and add lots of vegetables so the tofu isn’t as noticeable.

    And just understand that not everyone is going to like the vegetarian foods. At least if they try it, they may either be pleasantly surprised or can say with authority that they don’t like it. If they don’t like the foods, she should just make her own dinners without worrying about the guilt trip. At the end of the day, it’s her health.

  • Ali @ Around The VeggieTable January 26, 2011, 6:15 pm

    Christie, I feel your pain. I am now in my late twenties (yikes) but I phased out meat when I was in middle/high school. My family has ALWAYS been extremely unsupportive of this decision, in spite of the fact that it has zero impact on them. Try to find peace in the fact that you are doing what is right for YOU regardless of what anyone else thinks. I completely agree with Caitlin’s advice as far as cooking (I always say, “don’t talk about it, be about it”). I still get grief from my family after almost 15 years of this diet, which is one of the reasons I started my blog. Read other people’s stories. It is great to be able to go online and see thousands of other people making the same choices as you. I feel like all these bloggers and readers are my support team for my lifestyle. Don’t compromise your beliefs to make others happy. You’re already perfect 🙂

  • D January 26, 2011, 6:22 pm

    I wanted to be a vegetarian when I was 11-12 years old, and my parents weren’t particularly supportive. They said that they didn’t want to cook separate meals, etc. which, to be honest, is a perfectly legitimate thing for a parent to say. I think it’s awesome that she is willing to cook her own meals, but if the family dynamic is centered around the dinner table (which is statistically proven to be a GOOD thing! It’s great to have family meals and a strong feeling of being ‘together’) then she should definitely try to empathize with her parents.

    I eventually became a vegetarian when I was 17, and when I became vegan and university and went back for vacations at home, I took over all of the cooking at home…and my parents are now happy vegans! Obviously your family doesn’t want to become vegetarian, too, but if you prepare some meals for the whole family (I think the ideas about tacos or meals you can “build” is a great idea. Same with building burgers/veggie burgers, doing taco salads, omelettes, breakfast for dinner, sandwiches, etc) then I’m sure they will appreciate it. It’s really about family coherence, and I’m sure that’s what her parents are feeling is being challenged.

    Also, a lot of commenters have said that the parents should be supportive of their daughter making a “healthy choice”. I agree, in theory, but this implies that the daughter is basically telling her family that they are NOT making healthy choices. Sure, limiting meat might be healthy in some ways, but there are many roads to health. No one likes to feel like they are being judged, so maybe it’s about feeling like the daughter is ‘rejecting’ the family values and trying to be better than them in regards to health.

    I think that, since she cooks her own breakfasts and lunches, she could make extra and leave some leftovers in the fridge. I’m sure that hungry parents and siblings will curiously peek at stuff, and as long as it’s not overtly “hippie” then there’s a good chance that they’ll try it out.

    What about if the daughter took her mom out and treated her to a vegetarian lunch or something? Make it a fun mother-daughter situation and go somewhere fun (but not too hippie :)) But really, what about making it funny and poking fun at the hippie thing, too? Being defensive doesn’t get you anywhere, but being a little self-deprecating and laughing about stuff can make a big difference.

    Another idea might be to get some vegan ice cream (soy/coconut) or cupcakes for the family for dessert? I know she doesn’t want to be vegan, but it might show the family that you can eat treats and “junk” food on a vegan diet, so it’s not some crazy, all-veggie diet.

    I do feel though that at the end of the day, she is living in her parent’s house and unfortunately, that comes with rules and limits. No one should be forced to eat or do things they don’t want, but if nothing works and she has to just nibble around the meat on her plate, unfortunately it might just be that way until she moves out.

    • Christie January 26, 2011, 10:35 pm

      Great ideas, thank you 🙂

  • Mrs. Muffins January 26, 2011, 6:22 pm

    I didn’t live at home when I made the transition to a vegetarian diet but I caught the same flak from my mother. She seriously thought I was going to die! How would I get protein!? And of course, some people really do feel guilty. Maybe they feel like you’re trying to be “better than them” by being healthier, eating a more ethic diet, etc… But it seems like you’re best approach is to just not make a deal of it anymore. Like Caitlin said, just do it. Just make your own veg protein sources and prove them wrong. It’s not a stress and hopefully at some point they will embrace your decision.
    Good luck!


  • Amilia January 26, 2011, 6:30 pm

    Hi Caitlin,
    I started following your blog few weeks ago. At first i did not know you are a vegetarian. But the food that you post in the blog look so interesting. Since then I started to cook more vege. My current favorate is steam vege with chili tempe..
    Thank you for opening my mind about vegetarian food 🙂

  • Maria (RealFitMama) January 26, 2011, 6:56 pm

    I am 31 years old, married, a mother of two girls, been a vegetarian for 8 years now and STILL get crap from my family. They make comments like “I don’t know how to cook your “hippie food” so I didn’t cook anything, be careful because if there’s meat on the table Maria won’t eat a thing (so NOT true), I don’t know what you’re eating these days so fend for yourself, how can you abuse your children and deny them meat when it’s good for them, how do you get protein, aren’t your girls HUNGRY… I just do what I do because I feel it is important. My husband is supportive and that is all that matters. My girls understand what they are and why.

    As far as being a teen still living at home I say to take Nike’s advice and JUST DO IT!! You can make suggestions (but they aren’t necessary) or you can just cook for your family and see how it goes. Don’t cook tofu or soy meats at first though. My family STILL won’t eat something if they know it has tofu in it. Make a great meal based on veggies, beans, grains, pasta or cheese and serve it to your family. They will either see that even meat free meals can be delicious and filling or they won’t. In the end it doesn’t matter.

    Just be ready to buy your own groceries and cook your own meals. It may be uncomfortable at first because I think a lot of people are extremely sensitive about their diets (healthy or not, vegetarian or not) and there is no reason to cause friction if it can be avoided.

    Check out for a ton of vegetarian meal ideas that are easy to prepare and cheap to buy. Most are even kid friendly (which is an excellent place to start when introducing vegetarian foods to non vegetarians).


  • Ashley January 26, 2011, 7:07 pm

    My family TRIES to be supportive (in that they are very kind & friendly about my food choices) but when it comes to reality (like making dinner), they are totally UNsupportive, in that the meals are things I can’t eat. It’s something I still struggle with, really!

  • Kim @ Kim Lives Healthy January 26, 2011, 7:08 pm

    I agree it’s probably a waste of her breath to educate her carnivorous family on why she’s becoming a vegetarian – they probably just don’t care. Last year when I switched to full-time veg, my mother-in-law practically disowned me and a few weeks later it came out that she was worried that we wouldn’t be able to share in all of her age-old family traditions, like bacon & pancakes, turkey at Thanksgiving, etc. because all of her family recipes had meat in them. It took us a few months of me hosting dinner at my house for her (and a few EPIC vegetarian dinners from whole foods’ website – specifically the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea & Lentil Stew) to convince her this was something I was serious about. She is coming around to the idea now of vegetarian grandbabies (!) – it just takes time and you need to understand why they might be upset with your choices, but in the end it’s your choice. When I was a teenager my mom let us buy our own makeup & clothes, so assuming your reader is already doing that, it shouldn’t be too hard for her to get her own groceries.

  • Kim @ Kim Lives Healthy January 26, 2011, 7:08 pm

    I agree it’s probably a waste of her breath to educate her carnivorous family on why she’s becoming a vegetarian – they probably just don’t care. Last year when I switched to full-time veg, my mother-in-law practically disowned me and a few weeks later it came out that she was worried that we wouldn’t be able to share in all of her age-old family traditions, like bacon & pancakes, turkey at Thanksgiving, etc. because all of her family recipes had meat in them. It took us a few months of me hosting dinner at my house for her (and a few EPIC vegetarian dinners from whole foods’ website – specifically the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea & Lentil Stew) to convince her this was something I was serious about. She is coming around to the idea now of vegetarian grandbabies (!) – it just takes time and you need to understand why they might be upset with your choices, but in the end it’s your choice. When I was a teenager my mom let us buy our own makeup & clothes, so assuming your reader is already doing that, it shouldn’t be too hard for her to get her own groceries.

  • Whitney January 26, 2011, 7:13 pm

    My family is the same way! It took me going out on my own and moving out to be able to change my eating habits. Sad thing was, I didn’t realize until much later that my parents eating habits weren’t ideal. I made pesto chicken not long ago for my dad and he literally said, “But why is it green??”

  • Erica January 26, 2011, 7:18 pm

    I’m not even a full-fledged vegetarian, but when I switched to a plant-based diet I received some scoffing from my peers for it. It’s weird but what other people say about your habits really affects your mentality sometimes. I hear\heard a lot of “Look, Erica is eating bird food.” or “WHAT are you eating?” etc. etc. However, I try to keep in mind that what I am eating makes me healthy and makes me feel good. That’s all that matters to me!

    Good luck to Christie!

  • Rebecca January 26, 2011, 7:25 pm

    I lived in a meat and potatoes family growing up and wasn’t brave enough to become a vegetarian until I moved out. When I returned home I made my dinners myself; they never ate what I prepared because they thought it was “weird.” I have shunned meat for more than 20 years and haven’t regretted it at all.

  • Lisa @ Healthy Hokie January 26, 2011, 7:50 pm

    I am considering going full vegetarian too. All this great information on this post including the comments.. Thanks Caitlin!

  • Marie January 26, 2011, 8:17 pm

    This is such a hard topic! I went vegetarian a year ago and while my boyfriend (bless him!) and family were considerably accepting of it, I still get comments from my mom like “well… here’s what we’re eating, what will you have?” or “Marie can you cut the (T-giving) turkey? Oh wait you don’t eat meat!” It’ll be these odd comments that I think are more because she honestly forgets or doesn’t know what to do. My dad called me a hippie when I first changed my diet, but he was (seriously) a hippie and a vegetarian for years, so he at least gets it, even though he now thinks it’s unnecessary. Both of them are supportive though, and my mom even bought a vegetarian cookbook and was excitedly cooking from it when I was visiting home for a week last month.
    It’s my boyfriend’s family that I have all the trouble with. His father will make snide comments, his mother is a DOLL about it but often forgets, his sister-in-law is okay with it, but his brother is the worst. He seems to believe that he is much smarter than I am and that I won’t understand that he is actually making fun of my food choices through the off comments he makes. Then there’s situations like this: Over Christmas at their parents’ house he asked me “So Marie, you obviously like to eat healthily.” I didn’t know where he was going with this and said, “Um, yeah I guess…” and he waited a while and replied, while laughing, “Well then, what was up with you eating donuts?” I just looked at him funny and said “huh? why wouldn’t I eat donuts?” and he laughed again and said “Well at the apple orchard you ate 3 fried apple donuts… what’s up with that?” Mind you, this was THREE months prior. It completely creeped me out that he was A) watching what I ate and B) SO concerned with what I ate. I simply told him “I believe in eating what I want to eat, and while I want to eat healthy, I just LOVE donuts. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to eat them.” He seemed pleased with my answer, which actually just annoyed me more, heh.
    The point is, people will always have something to say about how you eat. Despite it being such a personal and serious choice we make for ourselves, our society seems to find it acceptable to comment on how other people choose to fuel their bodies. It is an odd world, but all we can do is make the choices that are good for us, body, mind and soul. Your parents may never come around, but like so many other commenters, I’ve found that acting upset, seeming annoyed, or getting defensive or preachy will always backfire. I agree with everyone else: just do it. Eat the way you want to, to the best of your abilities, and hopefully your parents will come around to the idea and see that you aren’t threatening Life As They Know It. Good luck!

  • Kayla January 26, 2011, 8:42 pm

    I think your tips are great. I tried to go vegetarian when I was younger but my family thought I was crazy. I was too young to go out and buy my own food and veggies and fruit were rarely on the family grocery list and tended to be “missed” if I tried to add them so I had few other options. I clearly remember many meals of starchy sides and a veggie (always corn, peas, or green beans) as my whole meal. I finally stopped because I was hungry and sick of the comments. So I really hope Christie is able to make it work!

  • Jaclyn January 26, 2011, 8:47 pm

    Oh, I know exactly how this girl feels. My dad is Dr. Atkins’ biggest fan. When I was in high school, I decided I wanted to become a vegetarian and my parents absolutely refused to entertain it. I was very, very much under their thumb and tabled my personal feelings about eating meat (and so much more). Once I went to college, I went vegetarian and was vegetarian for a few years, but it got too hard for me to sustain a vegetarian lifestyle. I had no support from my parents, no one to help me learn about good vegetarian nutrition, and I didn’t know how to cook. I ended up going back to eating fish and poultry because I just didn’t know how to be a healthy vegetarian and had no help. After nine years eating fish and poultry I have learned to cook and have a LOT more knowledge about nutrition, so I decided to become vegetarian again. Telling my parents was AWFUL. My mom was cool about it, but my dad made snide, backhand comments all throughout my last visit home. In order to smoothe things over I had told my mom not to worry about cooking for me and that I would cook for myself. Well, she took that literally, and didn’t cook any protein for me – but the kitchen was always “full” when I wanted to cook in it. I had side dishes (mashed potatoes and string beans) for Christmas dinner. It’s sad for me to see that there is still no support from my family. I’m a healthy, active, intelligent 29-year-old who is trying to make good choices, and my husband is totally on board. Why should my parents care?

    I think that many families make it so difficult because, even if you say nothing about your reasons and don’t preach, they still feel judged. I would have loved to say, “Well, Dad, you have Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, and risk factors for heart disease… so is it possible that you don’t have all the answers?” But I said nothing, quietly ate my kale salad (while my whole family – except my hubby, bless his heart) made fun of me. I tried to be the bigger person and realize that they may have issues concerning food that come from a place of deep-seated insecurity and have nothing to do with me. But it’s just as hard as an adult as it was when I was a teenager, to hear my parents laugh at my choices. When I explained to my mom that I have so much more energy now as a vegetarian, she asked me where I got my energy from, if not from meat. I explained that energy comes from complex carbs, and her response was “But carbs are bad!” My parents’ beliefs about food are equal parts myth and social conditioning, with very little factual information to back them up. I just have to do what is best for me.

    I wish I knew what to say to this girl. Maybe she can be stronger than me and not wait to tell her parents what she wants. I tabled it until I was in college and still suffered from being uninformed and having no help. It definitely sounds like she has done her homework, won’t make the mistakes I did, and deserves for her parents to respect her wishes. I wish my parents respected mine. And I’m an adult, a married woman, a homeowner and a practicing attorney.

  • Ella January 26, 2011, 8:53 pm

    My family was very unsupportive of me becoming a vegetarian at first. I’m studying nursing and have taken some nutrition classes so I told them I had researched it and knew what I was doing and just ate the way I wanted to even with their protests. Eat what you can at the family meal and then have some beans or yogurt or an egg later to round it out.

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss January 26, 2011, 9:03 pm

    I lived at home when choosing to drop meat. It wasn’t that big of a deal considering my family doesn’t normally eat the same meal for dinner- much of the time it’s a “eat what you want” I was able to make what I wanted, obviously. But it’s true- family doesn’t need to approve of your diet!

  • Parita@myinnershakti January 26, 2011, 9:21 pm

    My favorite all veggie sandwich is what I call the V-BAST! It’s a veggie bacon, avocado, spinach, and tomatoes on toasted wheat bread. What helps it make it extra delicious is a little bit of mayo and a sprinkle of curry powder. YUMMY and simple!

  • mary (what's cookin' with mary) January 26, 2011, 10:37 pm

    Oh my goodness that cabbage salad sounds divine!!

    Thank you for sharing your story Christie 🙂

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit January 26, 2011, 10:39 pm

    Great advice for this girl! Good luck 🙂

  • Matt January 26, 2011, 10:45 pm

    I miss Mr and Mrs Wangalang-Boyle, also known as Thatcher-Bond

    • Caitlin January 26, 2011, 11:01 pm

      I will try to post more pics!

      They miss you too!

  • sarah@sarahnotsoplainandtall January 26, 2011, 11:00 pm

    I know how it can feel when people question your dietary choices…in High School people always used to poke fun at me for what I ate. One of the easiest things to prepare and it would be a large bowl of veggies and some whole grain crackers to dip in hummus!! mmmmm sooo filling and Veg too!

  • Jolene ( January 26, 2011, 11:23 pm

    I always tried to make healthier choices. I offered to make hamburgers for my family, and secretly served them veggie burgers. They had no idea, and told me how much they liked the burgers!!! Hehe. I made them all the time, and only recently told them (years after moving out) what I had really cooked for them. Luckily they didn’t mind!

    • Caitlin January 27, 2011, 10:33 am

      hahah you are sneaky, jolene!

  • Amy January 27, 2011, 12:11 am

    My 15-year old daughter recently decided she wanted to become a vegetarian (after watching Food, Inc. and The Cove). While I share a lot of the same sentiments about eating meats as she does, I still am not entirely ready to eliminate meat out of our diets completely. I am, however, 100% supportive of my daughter making the choices in her diet that she feels so passionately about. And I’m proud of her for making a conscience decision regarding her health, her body, and her ethical values. I agree with most of the suggestions already thrown out there. I would suggest tagging along in the grocery store and picking out some healthy foods. Or just cooking a meal, and offering it to other family members. It’s hard for me to imagine not being supportive of my daughter’s decision, so really, I’m not much help. Some things that have worked in our house though have been having her help prepare dinner, preparing meals that are ‘assemble-your-own,’ having pasta, beans, and lots of veggies in the house, serving salad fixings at every dinner, and asking her for suggestions for dinner ideas. It also isn’t that difficult to ‘hold the meat’ on some dinners (ie: spaghetti or stir fry). Anyway, that probably wasn’t too helpful, but good luck Christie! I hope your family comes around and I commend you for being healthy at such a young age!

  • Leila @ spinach and skittles January 27, 2011, 12:35 am

    I think you gave her great advice, and it sounds like for a while she’ll be cooking for one. Maybe try meatless Mondays? For a carnivore pleasing vehicles meal my burlattas are always a hit!

  • Sasha January 27, 2011, 4:26 am


    Such great advice! Congrats to Christie for already eating 2 vegetarian meals in a day! I think:
    1. helping out in grocery shopping (& sneaking in veggies), helping to cook dinners with your mom and making all-veg sides is great.
    2. Instead of trying to educate your parents, you could just say you don’t like the taste of meat so much, or you could even pretend to have stomach-uneasiness or bloating when you eat meat. (Sneaky yes, but it might make them less defensive if they thought you have a genuine physiological issue with meat 🙂
    3. Try and incorporate more veggie/nut snacks during the day so that you end up eating less at dinner (which is a healthy habit anyway).

    All the best to you and I’m so impressed with your mature decision.
    Way to go, Christie!

  • kell January 27, 2011, 8:56 am

    i just wanted to add that it also wouldn’t hurt for her to have a real heart to heart with her parents. i just think that so many family traditions and rituals are surrounded by food – maybe give her parents the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are just worried their daughter wont be as “involved” or even invested in these traditions if she is not partaking in ‘all’ the festivities. i would guess that they are not in any way trying to prevent her from being more healthy or staying true to her values – but that they just want to feel like she also values the family and family traditions. maybe she just needs to reassure them that she respects and honors the family and plans to make 100% sure that her choices will not in any way exclude or limit her from enjoying family traditions (like thanksgiving)or every day gatherings (like family dinners).
    i had a similar heart to heart with my mom when i decided to eat a vegetarian diet as a teen and once we both realized the ‘butting of heads’ was much deeper than just the food and she was reassured that i wasnt rejecting how she had raised me or planning on dismissing her for her decisions to come – things were much better. in fact, after that, it even seem to bring her joy to make sure i had vegetarian versions of what she was serving – it was very sweet!
    good luck to christie and her family in working it out!

  • Lauren @ vegerunner January 27, 2011, 11:05 am

    Tips for a future veggie… I have been a vegetarian most of my life (I’m 29, and turned veggie when I was 8) – I can tell you I’ve dealt with my share of naysayers my whole life. However, if it’s a decision that you’re making based on strong personal beliefs and/or ethics, you should do it with a clear conscience. Giving up all meat/poultry/fish is the best thing I ever did for myself and for the animals and for the environment and for the economy (the benefits list goes on and on and on… 🙂
    I think Caitlin gave you some good advice. The stigma of being vegetarian is slowly – but surely – going away. Even Burger King has a meatless burger on its menu now. It’s not hippie food. If people make fun of soy, I remind them that soy comes from a bean, it’s not a foreign chemically engineered substance.
    There are some AMAZING veggie cookbooks out there to get you started – How to cook everything vegetarian by Mark Bittman is one fo my favorites. And veganomicon is also amazing (awesome vegan recipes with minimal “weird” ingredients used – most stuff can be found in most pantries/fridges).

    Enjoy your new, cruelty free, healthier diet! it is the ONLY way to go! 🙂

  • Lauren @ vegerunner January 27, 2011, 11:09 am

    I should also add that most people who are hostile about vegetarian diets simply aren’t informed. (and many times, sadly, don’t want to be informed, because it’s easier to look away than to recognize why eating meat isn’t great for you). Make your family a bargain – you’ll compromise your diet AFTER they’ve read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer cover to cover 😉 I can all but guarantee you they will start to see things differently!

  • JavaChick January 27, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I was lucky. I grew up with parents who felt that veggies & healthy foods were important, and we ate quite a variety (for the times and the small town I lived in). While my parents do eat meat, we didn’t necessarily have met at every meal. My siblings and I were also interested in cooking from an early age, and our parents encouraged that.

    I think in your e-mailer’s situation, I would try to make clear to the family that she doesn’t expect them to eat the same way she does and that she’s not trying to make them feel bad. And if they could at least share some components of the meal – like the starch and the veggies, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal to prepare one serving of a vegetarian protein. Maybe once they realize it doesn’t have to be completely different from what they eat, they will come around.

  • Sara @ OurDogBuffy January 27, 2011, 10:57 pm

    I completely understand how she feels. My husband is supportive, but none of my other family understands. So I try to just not bring it up. My mother always claimed I’d miss key nutrients, etc. No, not if I do my research and make sure I’m getting it in. I’ve got it under-control. It’s a process. Plus it takes time for others who knew you ate at least some meat to transition to the fact that you eat none and not a ton of dairy. Good luck to your reader!

  • Olivia R. January 29, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Unfortunatley, I have never had experience with something like that, but I know how it feels from going to camp and such. I live in a really open community, Ann Arbor, MI, and I’d say 2 out of 5 people are vegetarians! I’ve been vegan for almost 3 years now, and I’m a freshman in high school. I did have a nasty experience going to a greek (yeah, I’m a greek vegan 🙂 church camp and having to go through SO MUCH CRAP just to be able to bring a few containers of hummus, soymilk, and cereal. Just start cooking! Honestly-what Caitilin said is great, you dont need to make tofu or offer it to your family. On thanksgiving I made an amazing sweet potato lentil stew and some people tried it, and loved it! (The recipe is on my blog.) Good luck with everything!!

  • Kayla April 11, 2011, 11:01 pm

    My mom was super supportive of me- she’d be proud and say “I make my side dishes vegetarian entrees!” and always included plenty of veggies at every meal. Good luck! I know its hard (my uncle criticized me vehemently, but eventually got over it) but stay strong!

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