One can most definitely stay on a healthful vegan (or raw vegan) lifestyle and be social at the same time. There is no need for awkwardness or alienation just because you eat different food than those around you. And we most definitely don’t need to succumb to social pressures to eat unhealthfully just because most everyone else is. In the most loving way, you can enjoy healthful vegan foods at social gatherings and at the same time not make others feel negative about you (or themselves!) for your choices.
In this post I will address two things. One: the topic of families wanting to raise their children on a compassionate vegan lifestyle and avoid unhealthy foods even in social gatherings. And two: tips for teenagers and older folk alike on staying healthy no matter whether you are at a party, restaurant or holiday dinner.
I often get asked what we do in social situations with Elvis in regards to our vegan lifestyle. People have asked, “Are most of your friends vegan and are you only surrounded by vegan food all the time?” The answer is no. Lots of our friends are not vegan and I love them just as they are. I accept them for who they are and they accept me for me. Being vegan is not a deciding factor for being friends. To me, it is more about acceptance and being loving towards each other, no matter our differences.
I have also been asked, “Does Elvis whine for other kids’ food when you go out in social settings?” The answer is also, no. Elvis is at an age now (3 years old at the time of this writing) where he is understanding why we eat the way we do in our family, and making steps towards actively choosing not to eat certain foods on his own.
INSPIRE YOUR CHILDREN
It is not only beneficial, but important to inform your children why you don’t eat certain foods in your family. Every child should have access to the information of where their food comes from, how it is grown, and the effect it has on people, the planet and the animals. Treating your children respectfully, by informing them of important issues, will help inspire your children to WANT to eat healthfully and choose to eat vegan on their own, even in social gatherings. Helping inspire children to take part in the joy of a healthy compassionate lifestyle is a beautiful thing.
We read Elvis three amazing children books by Ruby Roth: “V is for vegan. The ABC’s of Being Kind,” “Thats why we don’t Eat Animals” and “Vegan is Love,” which have all greatly impacted him. He has so many questions within each page of the books; it is quite beautiful. And he is so loving and curious about this topic. Because naturally all children love animals until told not to care for their suffering. I even see vegan activist “traits” within him as he talks to the animals pictured in the books: “don’t worry cow, I’m gonna break open the gate and let you free so you can go see your mommy and daddy!” You can get all three of these children’s books here: www.wedonteatanimals.com
We also talk to Elvis about how mom and dad love ALL people, regardless of their food choices- which Elvis does naturally anyways, but I believe it is important to address this as well! That is part of what the vegan lifestyle is: to promote LOVE, to love ALL beings, and to see the good in all people and animals.
Elvis now chooses not to eat animal foods on his own. He will sometimes see another child eating something and ask me, “Mommy, does this have animals in it?” And I’ll reply with the appropriate answer of either “Yes it does.” Or, “It has animal by products in it like milk or eggs.” Or, “No, but it has processed foods in it which make mommy’s tummy hurt so mommy still doesn’t eat that food.”
The other day we were standing outside of the grocery store and Elvis started a conversation with an older gentleman eating those round bella cow cheese ball things (I forget what they are called). He asked the gentleman, “Watcha eating?” The man replied, “Cheese.” And Elvis said, “Oh. I don’t eat cheese.” He said it, NOT because I told him to say it (for I never told him to say, “I don’t eat such and such”). He said it because he truly doesn’t want to eat it because he knows cheese comes from cows’ milk; and cows’ milk is meant for baby cows.
Be the best example you can be to your children for healthy eating (and for all things in life really)! When Elvis was 2 1/2, he went up to the food table at a party, and literally bypassed the pizza plate right in front of him to reach for strawberries behind the pizza platter-because pizza is a non-food to him. It doesn’t look like food to him because no one in our household eats it. If your child sees you eating chips, soda and french fries, they won’t be motivated much to avoid it themselves, even when you tell them not to. Because they will inevitably think, “Well YOU eat it, why can’t I?”
KID’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND SOCIAL GATHERINGS
You can inspire your child with chats before you go to a party and ensure her you brought all her favorite foods to satisfy her. When we go to a party, I always prep in advance all his FAVORITE snacks so he is sure to be content and excited with the choices I brought him. Also, I often ask the host in advance what dessert will be served so I can bring my own raw vegan version for him to enjoy with the kids! He is never unhappy or crabby because he isn’t eating what the other kids are eating. In fact, he is delighted with the food I bring him!
Last weekend we went to a three year old birthday party and they served german chocolate cake for dessert. I knew in advance because I called my friend Ayla to ask her. All my friends accept us and our lifestyle, with no ill feelings for eating our own separate food. She was happy to let me know what would be served so that I could bring Elvis a vegan version. So I prepped in advance a raw vegan chocolate cake piece for him to take to the party (recipe below)! Elvis eats right next to the other kids eating their cake and lollies, enjoying their company and it doesn’t make him feel isolated at all. He even shares with them his vegan food.
***If you are one of those people who unfortunately don’t have supportive friends and family in your life towards your vegan lifestyle, make efforts to find friends that DO accept you for who you are. With family, be strong in your convictions and continue to do your research so that negativity and peer pressure don’t get you down. Be loving to them always and show them how you are accepting of them and their lifestyle, and would like the same respect.***
Elvis enjoying the raw vegan chocolate cake I made him to take to a Birthday party. With him is his sweet friend Hana, the birthday girl, enjoying her cake/lollies that was served at the party
6 months preggo with baby number two in this photo!
RAW VEGAN GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
(Kid’s size portion. Serves 2-4 kids)
1 cup dried mulberries
3 tbsp coconut flakes
5-7 raw walnuts
5 Medjool dates, pitted (rehydrate in warm water if they are not moist)
1 tsp carob or raw cacao powder
1/2 a creamy avocado
1/2 a young coconut meat
6-7 Medjool dates, pitted (rehydrate in warm water if they are not moist)
1 tbsp carob or raw cacao powder
a splash of coconut water, only if needed to help blend
Strawberries and coconut flakes
Food process the filling ingredients. Set aside. Blend the Frosting ingredients in a high speed blender, like the Vitamix Blender (click on the Vitamix banner on the upper right of this page for FREE SHIPPING on the best blender on earth!)
Press down half of the filling into a small container and top with half of the frosting. Let set in the freezer for 20 minutes then top with the other half of the filling. Top with the rest of the frosting and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, top with sliced strawberries and coconut flakes and devour with your kiddos! This dish is quite rich, which is why 2-4 kiddos could easily share this together.
This last party I also brought a fruit platter to share with everyone. Bringing enough food to share with other kids makes Elvis feels especially included, because then others are eating what he is eating! The other snacks I brought him last weekend were coconut meat and special raw carrot almond crackers. And a container of guacamole with lettuce, snap peas, and bell pepper for dipping for me and him to enjoy together (since I’m a hungry pregnant mamma who needs to eat too!)
I also want to share another example for making a social event just as special for your little ones as the kiddos who enjoy the typical fare: Halloween. This past year Elvis was very excited to dress up in a shark costume that our friend so sweetly handed down to him. After we went trick-or-treating with his best friend Iyla, the “Switch Witch” (i.e. ME) came and dumped the junk food-like-products in the trash where it belongs, and traded it for healthy, conscious, and delicious raw vegan treats! I gave him a couple raw vegan chocolates (that he’s never tried before. Quite a treat!), individually wrapped flax crackers and raw walnuts (his favorite nut), the perfectly packaged sweet fruit-LONGANS, hand-made-in-Peru finger puppets by a people before profit company, a sticker, and coconut meat of course! He was so stoked. He doesn’t care about not eating the candy. He’s overjoyed for these kind of treats! He doesn’t have a palate for unhealthy foods, so these simple delicious foods are very satisfying to his taste buds. Eating differently than what is the social norm does not AT ALL have to mean being anti-social!
TIPS FOR PARENTS WITH CHILDREN AGES 1 TO 2 1/2 YEARS OLD
Before children are capable of understanding where their food comes from and WHY you don’t want them to eat certain foods, a slightly different approach is helpful. I still totally brought all of Elvis’ favorite snacks like dried bananas, coconut meat and avocado, but there were times when he wanted to eat something another child was eating at a party and hadn’t yet experienced that we as a family don’t eat the same foods as most people do. After a couple social gatherings he still didn’t realize WHY we weren’t eating the foods that most people around us were, BUT he DID start to realize, “Oh, well whatever the reason is, it doesn’t really matter because Mommy brought DRIED BANANAS! and COCONUT MEAT! MY FAVORITE!” (He wasn’t speaking clearly these thoughts so much, but you could see it in his eyes and facial expressions. haha!)
Simply come prepared with your child’s favorite snacks and surround him or her with the activity part of the party to ensure their happiness and contentment.
Some people say, “Wow that’s a lot of work!” and can’t believe I spend so much time avoiding unhealthy foods at parties. But personally, I enjoy making raw food for my family, and whatever is priority in your life is easy, normal and not a chore. It is not that often that we go to a kid’s birthday party, maybe once every couple months or so. So it doesn’t feel like a big deal to make it special for Elvis. At simpler occasions, like going out to a restaurant with friends, I bring much simpler foods for us to enjoy. Which brings me to topic number two:
TIPS FOR TEENAGERS AND OLDER FOLK ALIKE ON STAYING VEGAN NO MATTER WHETHER YOU ARE AT A PARTY, RESTAURANT, OR HOLIDAY DINNER
“You don’t have to compromise your diet for social events. I’ve had success on 80/10/10 only because I’ve kept it a priority in my life. And having it a priority doesn’t mean that it takes over my life. But I just know that when I’m feeling my best, and I do when I’m on 80/10/10, Im going to be more of an enjoyable person to hang out with for my friends and family anyways. So it’s really worth any effort that there is. And also know that good friends, at least my friends at this point, don’t really care about what I eat, because friendship is more important than food anyways. So if you have good friends, they’ll get over it.”-Kat Green
There is no need to feel stressed about eating different foods than those around you in social situations. In fact, stressing and worrying about it is often picked up on by other guests and creates awkwardness. Creating an ease in your environment makes a much more enjoyable experience for both you and those around you. Let me share an example with you to further explain.
A month or so ago, Elvis and I were invited to my friend’s birthday dinner at a sit down pizza restaurant. Elvis and I drank a large glass of freshly squeezed tangerine juice before walking down to the restaurant (we live right up the street from town). I simply brought a large avocado for myself, and Elvis’ food with me in a bag to the dinner. For Elvis I brought coconut meat, kale from our garden, bell pepper slices and dried bananas. When it came time for ordering, I didn’t order anything for Elvis (because I brought his own food), but I ordered for myself a double order of a large veggie salad on the menu. I asked for no dressing, no croutons, and no cheese. Just raw veggies. I also asked for a side of lemon. My salad came out at the same time as everyone else’s pizza orders. I simply squeezed lemon juice over the salad and sliced and mashed the avocado I brought all over the salad as “dressing”. What a delicious and filling salad it was! Elvis sat there next to me sweetly, happily and fully content munching on the kale and coconut meat I brought him.
There were a lot of people at that dinner table who did not know us. So at first, they were surprised by my gigantic bowl of salad and the fact that my son was not eating pizza and soda like the rest of the kids. Some of the comments I received were, “How is your child NOT begging for the pizza at this table?!”, “what is the huge salad you are eating?”, “are you guys vegetarian?” I simply replied to all the answers politely and lovingly. I never respond in a condescending way and I always make a point to redirect the conversation back to them after answering their questions. Making sure the conversation gets directed AWAY from being about diet in general is very helpful. It is not that there is anything wrong with sharing your lifestyle with others! It is more so that in such a setting, generally showing people how your life is not all about raw food helps people to see, without having to say anything, that one can most definitely eat healthfully in a social situation and be just as social as the person sitting next to them (AND have just as good a time!) Doing this create an easiness in the environment. People soon realize that you are just as “normal” as they are, that you are NOT judging them for eating pizza, that you do NOT think yourself “holier than thou”, and that you are NOT a freak. And within minutes they realize that the fact that you are eating different food than them doesn’t have to be weird or uncomfortable.
Every once in while you may come across someone at a party or dinner who is rude and condescending and wants to get in a debate with you. Just be kind and loving in your response and you might even want to say, “Hey I’m happy to have this conversation with you if it’s what you want, but maybe can we take a step over here so others who DON”T care about my diet don’t have to listen to this conversation?”
If you are looking to stay vegan and not necessarily WHOLE foods vegan or raw vegan at social gatherings, it is actually quite easy now a days to get vegan substitutions at many restaurants. Even just ordering a triple order of the “side” sweet potatoes with a salad and lemon juice is quite easy. At Mexican restaurants one can order a bountiful meal of soft corn tortilla tacos filled with beans, rice, guacamole, salsa and lettuce. Just make sure the beans and rice are vegan beforehand. Sushi restaurants are the easiest places to get healthy vegan meals by ordering cucumber/avocado rolls in abundance topped with pickled ginger. Whatever type of restaurant, calling in advance to find out what (if any) foods on the menu are vegan can be beneficial too.
When going to a party, bring a large platter of homemade vegan/raw food to share with people! Most people love to try new dishes and actually find relief to see healthy food at a party. When it comes to family holiday dinners, I always offer to be the one who makes the salad. I make two giant bowls of salad to serve to everyone, with enough to feed us vegans too. If you are looking for cooked food at a family gathering, ask your mom or dad-whoever is the chef in the family-to “veganize” some of the traditional dishes. Or offer to do it yourself. Or simply request that they make a separate side bowl of mashed potatoes that uses coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and butter in the recipe. Our personal experience at both my and my husband’s family gatherings is that our family is happy to make everything very easy for us. But I know not everyone’s experience with family is like ours. If that is the case, simply bring your own food to family dinners and make enough to share when you can. And as I mentioned above, be loving to them always and show them how you are accepting of them and their lifestyle, and would like the same respect.
I really think it is helpful to realize that you don’t have to sacrifice feeling GOOD when being social. So often growing up, I remember going out to eat with family at a steakhouse, ordering a burger with fries, and leaving the restaurant feeling tired, sluggish, and overall not good. So gone are those days. I love being able to enjoy myself socially, feel good while doing it, and NOT feel deprived all at the same time! Whether you are looking to stay vegan, whole foods vegan, or totally raw in social gatherings, anyone can do it with a little preparation
I’m going to end this post with an amazing and super inspiring video by my good friend Kat Green. Her tips for eating in social situations on a low fat raw vegan diet are sure to help and inspire you!
Mango Island Mamma, Ellen Fisher