Feature image for advice on being a vegan teen living with parents

Being a Vegan Teen: Dealing with Parents

Explaining to your parents that you want to be vegan can be challenging, despite the vegan teen community getting larger all the time. You’ve seen the carnage of the animal industry, decided you want no part of it, done your research, and you’re ready to commit to veganism.  You then tell your parents about your decision and you’re met with concern, derision, or both.  What do you do?

TLDR: Be patient with your loved ones. Learn to cook your own food with a good vegan cookery book, and just do the best you can while you live with your parents.

Going vegan is always difficult on family dynamics.  This is because when someone adopts a belief that is contrary to the customs of the family it is usually met with some well-meaning resistance, and veganism is no different. As a teenager, this can be even more difficult.

The stereotype of a vegan teen is someone who has made a rash decision and isn’t necessarily well-informed, or is likely to change their mind later on. This is of course an unfair image. But being well-informed and prepared is vital.

At this age, you are ultimately dependent on your parents or guardian for your welfare, the roof over your head, and the food you enjoy. This usually means they set the rules. If they are not exactly thrilled about your choice to go vegan, it can make life quite difficult.

Let’s focus on the positive though. There’s still a lot you can do as a vegan teen.  Here are some tips to help you and your family deal with your new vegan lifestyle.

Don’t try to prove your parents wrong

Many people are misinformed about veganism. It is this that usually leads people to be skeptical about veganism and find it a threat in some way. 

Some of the common concerns your parents will have regarding veganism will be:

  • Concerns over veganism as an extreme diet or eating disorder
  • Concerns that veganism will make you ill through malnutrition
  • Animals don’t matter morally
  • We are designed to eat meat
Your parents may suddenly graduate a PhD in nutrition once they find out you're vegan
Parents often graduate in nutrition once they find out their teenager is becoming a vegan.

How to Tell Parents You Want to be Vegan

Hearing misguided things about veganism can be frustrating. Mostly because, by now, you probably know they are ill-founded beliefs.

The temptation is to bust out your facts and figures and bombard them into submission.  This won’t work.  People don’t respond well to being proven wrong[1]https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201811/why-certain-people-will-never-admit-they-were-wrong.  Backing people into ideological corners usually just escalates the tension and causes people to become even more defensive. Rarely does it result in people accepting their point of view is flawed and ill-thought-out.

It can be intimidating for parents to realize their child may know more about a subject than they do, like meat production. Most people prefer to stay in the dark about how their bacon and burgers get to their plate.

Instead, be mature. Try to be sensitive and careful not to provoke your loved ones because you are ultimately questioning a belief system they may not even know they had.  This is tough for anyone.  A vegan tenet is to do as little harm as possible, and this includes harm to your family dynamic.

Be Calm and Collected

Most importantly, be calm and open when the questions come your way, which they will.  Sometimes the questions about veganism will even come laced with anger or condescension.  Answer questions candidly and express your reasons for going vegan. Whether that be as an objection to the mistreatment of animals, the damage to the environment, your own personal health, or a combination.

Approach the situation with maturity and some understanding of your parent’s concerns, and they’re much more likely to be supportive.

Write a Vegan Shopping List For Your Parents

Your parents have been shopping for you your entire life. They’re, probably, pretty good at knowing what you do, and don’t, like.  It’s understandable, then, that having to relearn all this can be hard for them.

Consider making a list of food you require and why you need it, then.  It’s important to know what you need nutritionally and where you’re going to get your B12, calcium, and protein from.

Here’s few ideas to get you started:

  • Tin of green lentils
  • Tin of Chickpeas
  • Tinned Tomatoes
  • Carton of soy milk
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach leaves
  • Plain peanut butter
  • Brown rice or Quinoa
  • Pasta
  • Tofu
  • Gardein, Quorn, Tofurky, or other faux meat
  • (Some junk food too, if you wish)

Depending on your parent’s own diet, they may already buy a lot of these foods.  Rice, pasta, and vegetables are not exactly exotic ingredients anymore.  In fact, you or your parents could easily switch out the beef mince in some dishes like spaghetti bolognese for a vegan mince. This means the changes don’t seem so drastic, you’d still be sharing in the same meal.

Work with your parents on this if you can and try and find some other ingredient swaps that can fit into their existing repertoire. Helping your parents in this way will show your commitment to veganism.

Learn to Cook Vegan Dishes

Sometimes, despite all your efforts, some parents are just not going to budge. They may refuse to cook you vegan food and discourage you from following a vegan lifestyle. Again, don’t judge them. Veganism is a challenging and disruptive concept to a lot of people and it’s deeply misunderstood.

Instead, cook your own meals.  Buy yourself a vegan cookery book or look online for simple starter recipes.

I recommend vegan cookbooks with recipes that take 30 minutes or less. The recipes are really quick and don’t require a lot of ingredients or kitchen prowess. The convenience of these recipes means you can prepare and eat your meals with the rest of your family.

Prepare your own meals.  Show you are taking veganism seriously and given enough time your parents may come to think differently. If not, don’t worry. Just keep going and when you come to be independent you will be proud of yourself for staying the course.

Just Do the Best You Can

Most of all, don’t beat yourself up if veganism is impossible for you currently.  Being a vegan teen is not easy. If your parents refuse to help and support you, and you are too young to get a part-time job to buy your own food, do what you need to do. It is important to keep healthy.  Do not starve yourself.

When you are older and able to strike out and do your own thing, buy your own food, cook your own meals, veganism will still be there.


1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201811/why-certain-people-will-never-admit-they-were-wrong