Healthy Eating Tips/ Healthy Kitchen

You’re Vegan, Your Partner Isn’t: Making Peace in the Kitchen

Healthy plant-based foods

Even without the complicating factor of kids, being part of a mixed dietary preference couple isn’t always simple. Since I have no experience in this matter, I’ll let four friends share their tips. The bottom line is that there are no perfectly neat solutions; there’s a lot of compromising and accommodation. Each couple needs to work things out so that each party can eat and enjoy in peace! Here are four different approaches to the dilemma.

Food should be a source of pleasure, bringing us together. Don’t make separate meals — that only makes dinner divisive. Make most of the meal something you can both enjoy. I never refuse to cook anything — even meat — for my husband. The main course, though, is vegan — whole grains, beans and greens, a main course salad, or a vegan curry or stir-fry. My omnivorous husband even requests vegan meals. On the other hand, when he’s out on business, he’s probably at a steak house. 

I lucked out in having a guy who loves whatever I prepare, deferring meal planning to me unless he has a particular yen for something or we’re having a bunch of people over, so he can pair the meal with a fabulous wine. He likes shopping with me, especially the farmers market, but doesn’t always get to do it. I’m okay with buying and preparing meat on occasion. His mother (may she rest in peace) accused me of trying to kill him by withholding meat.

Since I do 98% of the cooking we keep the house meat-free, with very few exceptions (for certain parties and potlucks). My wife eats meat when we go out or go to someone else’s house. The one exception is if we do a barbecue — then meat is allowed, and is cooked on a different part of the grill. Those who want it will bring their own meat.

I find it helps Cheryl if we have Gardein, Beyond Meat, or another meat substitute once or twice a week. She would live on chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, but it doesn’t matter to her if it’s vegan or not. I think it’s important to make sure that if the vegan is the planner to include a few things that the meat eater really likes.     

In the past, when I’ve lived with other meat-eaters, I’ve had one drawer in the fridge that only meat goes in and a few pans and utensils that are meat only. Since I can sterilize dishes in the dishwasher I don’t worry as much about that any longer.

I’m not 100% vegan. Call me a veganist, a nutritarian, someone that occasionally uses animal products as condiments, or just a person trying to follow a plant-based diet while navigating other food sensitivities. (Not fun, I just found out I’m reacting to soy and broccoli).

When I discovered that I was sensitive to gluten, I continued to cook “regular” foods for the family; I just ate around it. They had red sauce on pasta, and I ate it on my zucchini noodles. Often my meals were pathetic. As soon as my daughter was diagnosed it all changed. We ate primarily gluten-free at home, though there were always gluten-filled bread and bagels. My family didn’t complain because the recipes I cooked were delicious.

Fast forward to early 2012, and all the kids were out of the house. I decided, for health reasons, to try and follow a plant-based diet. My husband continued to eat flesh and I ate sides. It wasn’t until I discovered that there were wonderful gluten-free and vegan recipes that I stopped serving meat. We now eat only vegan food at home, although there are still some dairy products in the fridge — he’s not too fond of vegan cheeses. When we go out, Bruce probably orders a vegetarian entree about fifty percent of the time. Other times he goes for the lamb chops or fish. He often takes a veggie burger for lunch, and has whole grain cereal with almond milk for breakfast. It’s a huge improvement over his old diet.

Basically, my husband and I just both go about our business unless it directly interferes with the other. So, he cooks all his own meat at home, usually grilled, then uses my meal as his side dish. This doesn’t happen too often, though — maybe two to three times a month.

The rest of the time, he just eats what I eat at home, and endeavors to eat his “meat meal” for lunch at the office. That way, he’s not overly hungry for dinner so he feels he can “get by” with the vegan meal (which he says wouldn’t be enough to fill him otherwise). That said, he’s happy to eat whatever I cook and rarely turns it away. He won’t consume my ultra hard core green smoothies or anything with too much tofu, but otherwise seems to love whatever I make.

I have noticed a distinct change in me, though. In the past year or so, I haven’t been able to tolerate too much of the smell of cooked meat. The other change I’ve noticed is around washing up. We alternate who does the dishes (one week he does, next week I do, etc) and if he happens to grill his meat on my week, I have now told him I won’t wash the grill, either, even though I wash the rest of the dishes. The smell is just too off-putting to me.

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Mixed dietary preferences —vegan, veg, non-vegan — in families

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  • Reply
    March 12, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Very interesting post. We live aboard a boat 75% of the time. I do all the food provisioning and cooking so, being the vegan, I win. He knows it’s the way he should eat so he doesn’t fight me on it but he still eats meat outside the home and will buy meat products for the home but doesn’t expect me to cook them. Since he has plenty of opportunities to eat meat, it is working so far.

  • Reply
    Laura K
    March 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you for addressing this topic! My husband and I have been together for 10 years. I’m vegan, he’s an omnivore. I cook vegan, and lucky for me he likes my cooking. Our house is vegetarian; he sometimes keeps dairy or eggs in the fridge or freezer and cooks them for himself. He does all the dishes no matter who’s cooking, which is wonderful. He eats meat occasionally at work or when we go out. It works for us!

  • Reply
    Lauren Deegan
    April 13, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Eating out is the hardest part of my life at the moment, because we never seem to settle for one restaurant. But we have managed to find one Japanese place where they have a few vegetarian options that I like and meat for my S.O.

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 2:10 am

    I tried being with a meat eater, but I couldn’t stand the kitchen filled with bacon, steak, or chicken odor every time she cooked something. Then, it was her stacking her meat above my vegetables in the fridge with her meat juices contaminating my food. But the worst was living with another human who didn’t understand my love for life. So, kudos, for the ladies here who strive with their carnivore husbands. I can’t do it.

    • Reply
      May 23, 2016 at 8:29 am

      I’m with you, John, and admire you for your conviction! I can’t imagine being with someone with whom my values were so misaligned, and so I’m glad that my husband has been on the vegetarian- to vegan path with me for these many years.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I’m on the cusp of veganism–meaning that I occasionally have a piece of cheese or saute onions with a pat of butter, but the truth is that I wouldn’t even keep these products in the house if not for my omnivorous husband. I’m at the point now where consuming any animal products is so misaligned with my values that I feel tremendous guilt about it. My husband has always been very supportive of my choice to be vegetarian and my path to veganism, and I’m thankful for that. I told him this weekend that I’m just not comfortable buying animal products anymore. He said it was no problem, that I should shop however I wanted and that he’ll pick up meat/cheese himself if he has the craving. Because I do most of the cooking he has cut back on consumption of animal products dramatically (but I secretly hope that he converts to a vegan diet with me in the end!)

  • Reply
    December 20, 2017 at 3:13 am

    So the vegan take is basically I’ll have whatever you are cooking with exception to meat and dairy, but I don’t want anything to do with the washing up of utensils used for cooking of meat and dairy.
    It seems that being strongminded enough to not eat meat, yet will put a relationship in jeopardy just to avoid pulling your weight and sharing the kitchen chores. If I didn’t wash up the saucepans used for veg on my watch then you all have something else to moan about.

  • Reply
    June 25, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve read all the comments and suggestions, and none of them are helpful/apply to me. My husband will never give up meat. Not even for one meal. He can’t cook. I can’t just say “I cook, so you eat what I make.” He didn’t marry someone who was considering going plant-based. It’s not what he signed up for. I just have to be flexible with what I cook so that there are plant-based options for me.

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