Deeply rooted convictions have a tendency to make us want to shout from the rooftops. And why not. We feel strongly about something, so strongly that we believe everyone we know should step in line, and we don't understand why, with all the information we've given them, they still choose a path we disagree with. Sound familiar?

Sometimes shouting from the rooftops is necessary and effective. But more often than not, it's one conversation at a time that helps inspire change, because most people respond better to grace and kindness than force. How many of you grapple with this in your own life? As someone who cares about food and where it comes from, it's easy to seamlessly launch into statistics about factory farms or remind my audience that 72 ingredients for a McRib sandwich isn't natural. We say these things out of love and enthusiasm, but it's very easy to appear aggressive instead.

I saw a post on Oprah.com recently about Chef Bryant Terry, a Vegan who was raised in the south and just published his cookbook, The Inspired Vegan. His interview made me think about the best approaches to encourage people in our lives to eat healthier meals, vegan or not. He admits to having been a "dogmatic jerk" who yelled at his parents about their food choices. I'm sure that didn't get him very far. Now, he brings vegan dishes to family gatherings without the label. If someone asks about it or says it tastes good, then there's room to have a conversation.

I once did this at a Thanksgiving meal years ago. Trying to be accommodate to several family members with food allergies, I brought a roasted Brussels sprout salad. It happened to be vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free, but the bottom line was it was just a great side dish. Everyone enjoyed it, regardless of their food philosophy. If someone asked me about the ingredients or why I chose it, I offered a calm explanation, but otherwise left the topic alone.

Have you had any negative encounters when talking with others about food choices, and how will you change your approach in the future?

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