Relationships are tricky enough without adding eating issues of a special diet into the mix. These tips, from the authors of a new book about dating while vegan, show you how to handle the potential roadblocks.
Whether you’re on the first date or about to broach the big move-in, relationships can get crazy-complicated when you’re on a special diet. That’s why vegans Ayindé Howell and Zöe Eisenberg wrote their book The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Relationship Manifesto for Vegans and the People Who Love Them. Of course, veganism isn’t the only dietary restriction that can interfere with your love life—gluten-free, dairy-free, and Paleo eaters also need help navigating the tricky world of dating on a specific food plan. We chatted with Howell and Eisenberg about their top tips for going out when you (or your significant other) has a dietary restriction.
Shape: Let’s start with the early dating stage. At what point should you bring up your dietary restriction?
Ayindé Howell [AH]: As soon as the topic of food comes up, use the opportunity to casually lay out your restrictions and your reasons. If your first date is a dinner date, you can’t get around it. Sometimes women ask if I’m on a diet when I order tofu.
Zöe Eisenberg [ZE]: The early stages can be the most awkward, since most beginning dates revolve around food. It can make you feel self-conscious; nobody wants to be seen as high maintenance, but the sooner the better.
AH: If you’re the one with the restriction, you should choose the restaurant. When your date asks why you picked it, it’ll open the conversation naturally.
Shape: That’s a good tip. So when you’re picking out a restaurant, what should vegans and omnivores keep in mind?
ZE: Ethnic restaurants are usually a win because they tend to have options for everyone. I eat a lot of Asian food.
AH: If you’re trying to accommodate your date, call ahead or Google the restaurant and check out what they serve. It’s really nice when someone has figured out what you can eat before you’re staring at a menu.
ZE: Totally. It’s a good way to win big points early on.
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Shape: When do dietary restrictions become a deal-breaker?
ZE: If you can’t have a comfortable conversation about what either of you eat or don’t eat, or the topic sparks arguments and you’re not able to agree to disagree, it’s a sign there will be bigger issues down the road.
AH: It can become a power struggle, which isn’t good. Another thing that can be a deal breaker is having kids. The question can come up, what are our kids going to do? That can be a big issue. If you or your partner has a clear vision of what you want your kids’ diet to be like, you have to discuss that.
ZE: It’s about acceptance and respect. If you have those things, you’ll be able to navigate challenges.
Shape: Another big step is meeting the parents. When you take your vegan partner home for the first time, what can you do to make it go smoothly?
AH: If you’re the significant other, you have to inform and educate the person who is doing the cooking, making sure there are options available. And if you’re the vegan, give your significant other a heads up, tell them they need to talk to their parents in advance.
ZE: Always bring your own food. If you bring a dish to share, you know you’ll have one thing you can eat. And help out in the kitchen! It scores points, but you also won’t have to ask a million questions about how the food was prepared, since you’ll have seen the process.