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It is officially summertime. And with summertime comes a lot of cookouts, barbecues, and get-togethers outdoors, which is a lot of fun. But it can also be kind of stressful, especially if you’re plant-based or vegan. Or maybe you’re new to being vegan and you’re going over to people’s houses and don’t want to be the odd one out. Either way, we’ve got you covered!
If this is your first summer BBQ season as a vegan – and even if it isn’t – these seven tips will help make it as easy as possible so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything in front of the grill.
1. Bring Something Delicious
Remember the days when vegan meant only grilling vegetables and having a side salad? Luckily, those days are over. Nowadays there are vegan burgers that just blend right in with everything else that’s on the grill – if that’s what you want. If you don’t want to bring a Portobello mushroom to a barbecue, you can fit right in with a vegan burger, which is really fun. There are a lot of great plant-based meats that you can bring or you can make on your own and bring to the barbecue. The secret here is bringing a couple of extra portions just in case other guests get curious and also want to try one. It’s a great opportunity to show your meat-eating friends that you aren’t being deprived one bit.
Most hosts, especially if they know you’re vegan, will be happy to provide a tasty vegan dish or have some tasty vegan items for you there. But it’s probably a good idea to bring something for the grill, maybe even just a side dish like a potato salad or veggie kebabs. Bring enough for yourself, but also enough for other people in case there are some curious gatherers there as well. And even if no one else eats any of what you bring, at least you’ll have plenty to feast on for yourself.
2. When You’re There, Offer to Help Cook Something
Take a little bit of pressure off the host and offer to be there to cook something that is vegan so that they don’t have to take bandwidth when they’re likely already a little bit overwhelmed to accommodate you. See if you can be accommodating to them and offer, say, as soon as they’re done with their burgers, you’ll clean the grill and put your burgers up there so they don’t have to worry about it. That way you make sure you’re covered and you’re taking stress off them. You’re trying to be flexible and considerate to help them out a little bit. That’s always a nice thing for any host.
3. Don’t Feel Ashamed
When you’re at the barbecue, you may get asked a lot of questions, especially if you’re there with people that you don’t really know. They may ask about the way you eat, and that’s okay as long as it’s coming from a place of genuine curiosity. And it’s also okay if you don’t have all the answers. So, what you can do is just be honest, and speak from your experience. If people ask, tell people how you feel eating plant-based.
If you feel like the person asking is coming from a place of judgement, you can always say that your doctor recommended it for you. Sometimes we just want to be at a barbecue without answering a bunch of questions. So, a great escape can be to blame it on your doctor. Change the subject to take the heat off you.
The overarching theme is to not let anyone make you feel ashamed about your choices. You’re doing what’s best for you, and not everyone may relate to that, and that’s okay.
4. While You’re There, Enjoy the Sides
Don’t look at your plate like you would the standard American diet when you go vegan. Instead, when you’re at a barbecue, go for the sides and fill up on those delicious veggies. If you’re thinking about what to bring, cold veggie salads like broccoli salad are always so refreshing and delicious in the summertime.
Don’t feel like you have to replace that hot dog with a veggie hot dog if that’s not what floats your boat. We still want your plate to be abundant and colorful and for you to enjoy what you’re eating. Your plate is most likely going to look different to other people’s plates and that’s okay as long as it’s tasty!
5. Be Cautious of Tricky Conversations
Barbecues and parties and fun summer events aren’t necessarily the place to be judgmental or preachy, even if people are being challenging. It’s maybe not the best moment to explain why you’re vegan or why someone should go vegan. If someone asks you a question about your diet, give a simple answer. Offer to even speak to them afterwards if they really want to know more about your lifestyle. And if you want to, you can redirect the conversation as we talked about in Tip Three.
Most people are against animal cruelty or want to feel better in their bodies. So, keep the conversation or focus on what you have in common with the other person at the party who is asking you questions. As most of us grew up eating meat, it can be really hard for people to wrap their heads around not eating meat. So just remember, you were once in their shoes (more than likely), which can be helpful.
6. Lead By Example
If we show people that we’re not confident or enthusiastic or that we’re not being mindful about what we’re eating, then they may have hesitation. But, if we lead by example, then this can be really powerful. Let’s say you bring something to a cookout and everybody wants the recipe. This is a great opportunity to let people know that vegan food is delicious. It’s not just plain dry lettuce that has no flavor, spice, or color. A lot of times it looks very similar or tastes very similar to animal-based products.
So, if you come in with a delicious dish, show people that you’re enjoying it (and other vegan items) and that there’s nothing weird about it, then you may find that some people are curious. You’d be surprised how many people are going to ask questions because they may have considered it. Go to the barbecue and show that you are vegan and thriving!
7. Consider Hosting Your Own BBQ
Hosting your own vegan barbecue can be a bit more work, because you’re bringing people in and you’re doing a bit more cooking, but it also guarantees that you have plenty to eat and lots of vegan options. Plus, it’s an amazing opportunity to show friends and family that you don’t need animal products to have a very delicious and fun barbecue. And if you ask people to bring a dish to share, just make sure everyone understands what dish is vegan and what dish isn’t.
And if you like to entertain, then this just gives you a chance to make beautiful labels and get fancy with it. Maybe people haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy a vegan cookout or perhaps they have some preconceived notions about what vegan food looks or tastes like. So, if you have this array of vegan dishes, especially things that they’re used to so they don’t feel like they’re missing out, then they might give it a try, too.
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