7 Tips for Inspiring Others toward a Plant-Based Lifestyle

Vegetables, chickpeas, and pita in a blue ceramic dish
Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

Note:  This article contains excerpts from the e-book 7 Best Practices to Inspire Your Loved Ones to Go Plant-Based (available through WeDidIt.Health)

Have you experienced the amazing healing power of a plant-based lifestyle?  After celebrating your own health improvements, and learning about the extensive research supporting a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet, it’s common to wish that everyone could experience these same benefits.  Perhaps you have loved ones who are struggling with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or cancer, and you long to nudge them toward this lifestyle. 

But all too often, others turn a deaf ear when we encourage them to try this way of eating.  There is so much confusing and conflicting information out there about nutrition and health, it may appear as if a plant-based diet is just another fad.

Often others dismiss what we are sharing and question it in light of information from the media or even their health care providers.  In the face of others’ reluctance or outright resistance, it’s easy to give up on encouraging healthier choices. However, while you can’t control others’ choices, you can help to inspire curiosity and hope.  Stoking these embers of hope for a healthier future may start them on the path to change. 

Below are seven tips for empowering others toward greater health with a plant-based diet. Consider the person(s) you hope to inspire as you mindfully engage in these practices.

1. Consider their readiness for change.   

While we may wish to influence everyone to become healthier through a plant-based diet, the reality is that a plant-exclusive diet is not (yet) embraced by society.  Many people find it difficult to adopt a way of eating that appears to go against familiar norms and traditions.  Even some medical practitioners promote diets high in meat and dairy, and low in carbohydrates.  Receiving this type of advice from trusted experts makes it difficult for many to accept that there is extensive research validating the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

In addition, research on the process of lifestyle change suggests that individuals go through stages of readiness in considering, initiating, and successfully maintaining change.  When sharing about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, it’s helpful to consider the other person’s stage of change to determine which approaches will be most effective.

Where is your loved one on the change continuum?  Are they strongly opposed to trying a plant-based diet?  Are they somewhat receptive, but have a number of concerns and questions?  Are they receptive and interested, but unsure how to make this lifestyle change in a healthy and sustainable way?  

If the other person is firmly opposed to considering a plant-based diet, being a positive role model (practice 4) may be your best bet.  However, be alert for times of greater receptivity to take the opportunity to share information that is relevant to their specific interests and concerns.

For those who are somewhat receptive, but are ambivalent due to concerns and/or misinformation about a vegan diet, practices 2, 3, and 5 may be helpful to lessen their fears, and raise awareness of the positives of this lifestyle.

If your loved one is intrigued by the possibilities of a plant-based diet, but unsure how to go about this new lifestyle, explore how to best support them with practical resources, role modeling, and developing new skills (practices 4, 5, and 6).

2. Tailor your message to their deepest concerns

We are most impactful when we share information that is highly relevant to the other person.  This may involve asking open-ended questions to understand their concerns surrounding health, nutrition, and diet, and their goals and wishes for these areas.  What matters most to them?  What are their greatest challenges and concerns?  Listen and reflect back the key points they are sharing.  This helps the other to feel heard, and allows you to focus your message in a way that is meaningful to the other person.

If they have serious health problems that impact their quality of life, they may be inspired by hearing stories of yourself or others healing through plant-based nutrition.  For those who value physical fitness, it may pique their interest to learn about the benefits of this lifestyle for athletic performance.  If they are environmentally conscious, they may be motivated by learning that a plant-based lifestyle can reduce their carbon footprint even more than switching to a hybrid car. 

3. Address their barriers to change

If the other person seems reluctant to consider a plant-based diet, explore their fears and obstacles.  What do they see as being in the way?  Listen empathically without judging.  Provide support and understanding.  Perhaps you once experienced similar challenges on your plant-based journey, and can build a sense of shared understanding by acknowledging this.

Once they have shared their concerns and feel heard, they may be more receptive to information, resources, and/or learning how you overcame similar challenges. For example, if they think it’s too much work to change their diet, perhaps you can suggest meal planning and cooking together to develop new skills.  If they are afraid they won’t enjoy the food, you might explore plant-based recipes that create a healthier version of their favorite meals. 

4. Show, don’t just tell

One of the best ways to inspire others is to role model a healthy lifestyle.  Develop a repertoire of scrumptious vegan dishes to share at social gatherings.  Continue to educate yourself on the benefits of WFPB nutrition and build a support network with others who embrace this way of eating.  This will help you remain inspired and committed to your plant-based lifestyle.  As you enjoy better health, while overcoming any challenges in the process, your positive outlook and results may be an inspiration to your loved ones.

5. Share compelling documentaries. 

Invite family and friends to watch What the Health, Forks over Knives, or The Game Changers.  It’s amazing how many people have awakened to the benefits of going plant-based through watching a documentary.  You might also recommend an article or a podcast that is relevant to their specific concerns.  As they hear information shared by experts, and witness the stories of those whose health has been transformed, their view may expand to see nutrition and health in a whole new way. 

6. Focus on positive messages and encouragement

Lasting lifestyle change occurs more readily when individuals connect with their own reasons for change versus feeling pressured or brow-beaten.  Support your loved one when they express interest in making healthy dietary changes.  Encourage any positive steps toward a healthier, plant-strong lifestyle, rather than critiquing their unhealthy choices.  It’s OK to express concerns about your loved one’s dietary choices and the potential impact on health, but you will be most impactful if these concerns are expressed in a compassionate and respectful way.  Be aware that criticism and unsolicited advice is rarely effective in eliciting behavior change.  Be an ally on their health journey, rather than an adversary.

7. Be patient (and keep faith)

Everyone has their own process of change, and it’s important to respect other people’s journeys.  It may help to recall your own experience of moving toward a plant-based lifestyle, including any initial skepticism or resistance, as well as setbacks you may have experienced along the way.  Also remember your reasons for being plant-based, so that you remain hopeful and motivated to continue sharing the message.

Often many seeds are planted over time before a person is ready to implement and maintain healthy lifestyle changes.  Keep communication open, even if the other person doesn’t immediately adopt a plant-based lifestyle.  Continue to share intriguing stories about the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of eating plant-based.  Keep bringing delicious vegan food to social events.  Someday you may be pleasantly surprised when the others in your life tell you they are eating a lot more plants.  Maybe they will even be sharing great plant-based resources with you! 

Continue to hold your vision for a healthier world.  With each person who awakens to the health and planetary benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, we create an unstoppable momentum toward the healing and flourishing for all.

For a complimentary copy of my e-book on this topic (7 Best Practices to Inspire Your Loved Ones to Go Plant-Based, published by Hippocrates Table LLC, 2022;), which contains more in-depth tips and resources, take the one-question survey at WeDidIt.Health.  You will then contribute to sharing the plant-based message with others as well!

Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create healthy lives that nurture mind, body, spirit, and planet. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Vegan Abundance

Eat Delectable Food, Improve Your Health, and Save the Planet

Colorful vegetable dishes
Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

“What do vegans eat anyway?” 

Before I became vegan, I viewed veganism as a lifestyle of restriction.  I could not imagine what a vegan would eat, or how they would have enough to eat.  It was challenging enough for me to navigate daily food choices with my fairly standard American diet.  Choosing what to eat was confusing and burdensome.  I rarely cooked, and when I did, I had a limited and repetitive repertoire.

I became vegetarian after learning about factory farming and the treatment of animals.  I realized I would never want a dog or cat to be placed in those conditions, or go through that suffering.  Why was it okay for a pig, cow, or chicken?  When I made the choice to give up meat, and ultimately all animal products, I determined that I was going to learn how to thrive with this new lifestyle.

I learned to cook, one recipe at a time.  Starting with a roasted red pepper and spinach lasagna, I tried a new recipe each week, until I built up a foundation of menu items.  I tried new spices, condiments, and a palette of delicious ingredients.  I learned creative ways to make food taste delectable.  I learned to intuitively adjust recipes for the best flavor, taste, and texture.  Cooking became an expression of creativity and artistry, something I looked forward to each week.    

In contrast to my previous perceptions, becoming vegan turned out to be an experience of abundance and fulfillment. 

I felt lighter and more energetic with my plant-powered cuisine.  I discovered that whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are high in health-promoting nutrients and fiber, low in saturated fat, and have no cholesterol or animal stress hormones.

Along with the health benefits, I experienced an emotional and spiritual lightness with my choice to eat compassionately and sustainably. 

I learned that for each day I followed a vegan diet, I could save 1500 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, and reduce my carbon footprint by 50%Not to mention saving the lives of animals, both farm animals and wildlife.  It felt great to realize that my dietary choices led to more abundance for all.  (For more information on the environmental impact of diet, check out Eat for the Planet:  Saving the World One Bite at a Time by Nil Zacharias and Gene Stone).

My experience is shared by many vegans, who express that they feel lighter, freer, and have more food choices than they ever thought possible.  As we free our mindset from familiar dietary routines, new realms of possibility open up.

Ready to enjoy vegan abundance? Here are some suggestions:

  • Optimize your health and energy by including a variety of whole, unprocessed plant foods, including veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.  The more variety, the more positive impact on gut health and overall well-being.
  • Try out new recipes, starting with one recipe a week.  You can find a multitude of recipes on-line as well as in a number of amazing vegan cookbooks.  Check out my resource page for cookbook, website, and recipe suggestions.
  • Veganize your favorite meals.  Anything you enjoy can be made vegan, whether you prefer to cook with whole foods, or want to try out the vegan substitutes at the supermarket.
  • Try soups, stir-fries, casseroles, curry dishes, salads and power bowls, quesadillas, enchiladas, pizza, cashew-based cheese sauces, and yummy vegan baked goods.  Consider foods from a variety of cuisines.  The options are endless!
  • Visit your local farmers market, or try planting your own vegetables.
  • Share your favorite vegan dishes at social gatherings.  (Just be sure to bring enough!)
  • You can have your (vegan) cake and eat it too.  Whether you want to enjoy a few squares of fair trade dark chocolate, or wish to make delicious cookies, brownies, or cake for a special occasion, there are great plant-based options, free of dairy and eggs.  (For the most decadent—yet easy to make—vegan chocolate cake, try this recipe from Moosewood Restaurant).
  • When you want to enjoy eating out or take-out, there are increasing vegan options available. If you are not sure if a restaurant has vegan options, call ahead. Happy Cow is a great resource for finding veg-friendly restaurants when you are travelling.
  • Bring full awareness to the tastes, flavors, and blessings of abundant, delicious food through mindfulness and gratitude practices.  (A great book to support mindful, plant-powered living is The Mindful Vegan by Lani Muelrath).

With the world problems we face, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the epidemic of chronic medical conditions, division and injustice, and environmental crises, it is easy to become discouraged and think there isn’t anything we can do.  However, when we embrace a vegan lifestyle, we can positively impact our health and emotional thriving, and the well-being of animals and the planet. 

As vegans, we bring a message of compassion and care for all beings, to a world sorely needing this.  And we enjoy the abundance of nourishing, delicious plant foods, along with the peace that comes with eating healthfully, compassionately, and sustainably.

Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create lives that nurture body, mind, and spirit. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle.