We are gathered here today to say goodbye to your parents’ milk dependency. But as your parents may have mentioned when thinking about your early years, weaning can be a slog. The tantrums, the suspicious looks, the flat-out rejection. Patience and a steely will are key, as is an ability to remain calm and stay focused on the end goal.
But, as with a baby tentatively tasting their first stewed apple or mashed sweet potato and cooing with satisfaction, watching your parents experiment with a vegan lifestyle can be exciting beyond your wildest dreams. Perhaps you’ve caught them eyeing your dairy-alt latte and sneaking a cheeky bite of your jackfruit bolognese. Or you’ve walked into the room to find them scrolling through vegan recipe ideas on Pinterest, and you’re sure your oat drink is mysteriously disappearing from the fridge faster than usual.
You’re not a preachy kind of vegan, but you know the diet works for you. You’ve done all your homework about the nutritional balance that it’s important to find. And you’re very clued up on the environmental and ethical arguments. But how do you know if your parents are really ready? And what’s the best way to approach getting them on board? Here’s your handy guide to weaning your parents off dairy …
Be responsive to their cues
Nobody likes being caught off-guard or, worse still, ambushed. Your job, first, is to observe your parents. Have they just finished a work call and emerged from “the office” (the spare room) looking flushed and scowling? Not a good time. Or returned from the shops empty-handed because they forgot their face covering? Back away slowly.
Instead, maybe the weekend is a better time. Offer to make them a latte while you’re making yours. Or better yet, don’t even ask. Just quietly place a beautifully foamed hot drink in front of your dad while he’s reading the paper. Even the most die-hard dairy lover would find it difficult to refuse something lovingly prepared by their offspring.
Arm yourself with the facts
Before your parents weaned you as a baby, they read books, they researched, they asked others for advice. Now it’s your turn to take the same approach with them. It won’t help your cause if you’re not confident when they quiz you on fortification and you draw a blank.
And speaking of vitamins and minerals, some dairy-alt drinks are fortified with important nutrients such as vitamins D and B12, iodine and calcium, but some aren’t. If you’re vegan you can sometimes miss out on certain nutrients, particularly iodine and B12. So make sure you read labels and choose a plant-based drink that’s fortified – interestingly, organic plant-based drinks tend not to be. Why? “Because fortification is not generally thought of as organic,” says nutritionist Dr Harriet Holme. “Lots of people think that organic is better, but organic plant-based drinks are not fortified with calcium. A lot of the range from Oatly has calcium in it, but iodine has recently been added too.” According to Holme, if you eat dairy, fish and eggs you’re pretty much sorted for iodine, but as a vegan your sources are limited.
Vitamin D is another big one, not just for vegans but everyone, especially in the winter months. Foods fortified with this essential vitamin use either vitamin D2 or D3 but, according to the Vegan Society, vitamin D3 is sometimes derived from an animal source such as sheep’s wool. So check food and drink labels to be sure. Are your vegans-in-training likely to quiz you at this level of detail? Maybe not, but you never know.
Assure them veganism is a real thing
Humans are curious by nature, and your parents are no different. So all this talk about veganism is likely to have caught their attention – even if they’re still a little unsure about it all. Point them in the direction of a survey by finder.com, which shows that the number of vegans in the UK is estimated to have increased by 419,000 (62%) in the past year – if this doesn’t convince them that veganism is a real thing, we don’t know what will.
Teach them how to make the perfect dairy-alt hot drink
Keep in mind that your parents are new to this, so help them get to grips with the art of making the perfect dairy-alt hot drink. Often, a lovely cup of coffee or tea can be ruined by the separation that can happen when plant-based drink is added to a piping-hot cuppa. This will cause an unnecessary setback to your mission, so do your research before you start – word on the street is that oat- and hemp-based drinks don’t tend to curdle.
And now that you’re armed with all the knowledge in the world, there’s a good chance that before long your parents won’t even give dairy a second glance when they’re doing the weekly shop.
Need help talking to dad about plant-based drinks? Visit oatly.com/helpdad