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What happens when animal lovers eat mindfully?

Most of us share our lives with beloved animals—cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, parrots, guinea pigs, rats and the like. Animals are wonderful partners on our journey toward mindfulness. But keeping that powerful connection alive when it comes to mindful eating can be extremely difficult, especially in today’s world, where eating animal products is not just expected, but practically celebrated.

But what if there was a way to bring our mindfulness practice to our next trip to the grocery store? Remember, even small steps will make a difference. Here are a few thoughts to meditate on next time you fill your shopping cart:

1. Let compassion drive your choices. We all wish truly “humane” farms existed, but unfortunately, they don’t. The best option? To go vegan. But that can be too extreme for many of us. Here are a few compassionate choices we can all make (though they do cost more):

  1. Only buy cage-free eggs, and don’t purchase eggs from big-box stores like Costco—its egg supplier recently made headlines for treating chickens “inhumanely.”

  2. Only buy organic dairy products, but minimize your use of dairy. It’s easier than you think! Have you tried almond milk yogurt? Yum! How about Kite Hill cream cheese spread made from almonds? Delish! And do you love mac ’n’ cheese? You will love this mouthwatering vegan version. Here are 10 wonderful benefits from going dairy-free.

  3. For many years, I have personally chosen not to eat meat. For those still feeling “borderline” on the issue, Meat Free Mondays and purchasing meat rated 4 or higher at Whole Foods are better choices.

2. Use meat substitutes. We all love our comfort foods! And whether you love bacon, hamburgers, tacos or spaghetti with meat sauce, there’s a delicious meat substitute available. I love to make veggie tacos by frying up some red potato cubes with garlic, onion and a little cumin instead of meat. Check out this great article to help you check for healthy ingredients in any veggie patty you buy and even make your own!

3. Remind yourself of the habitats you can save. This is an inspiring statistic that I came across recently: Every vegetarian saves one acre of forestland (grazing land) every year! Imagine a country where vegetarians were the norm and not an aberration, and the positive impacts that lifestyle would have on nature and the environment.

4. Grab hold of the power of mindfulness. We can use mindfulness to change ingrained habits, such as feeling like you “have to” serve turkey at Thanksgiving. Mindfulness is all about slowing down and savoring the moment. So next time you are eating or preparing a menu, be silent, look deep into your heart and think: What truly matters right now? Is it just to “eat” the way you always have? Or is it something more—to eat compassionately? Check out these inspired and elegant ideas for a vegan Thanksgiving. Going vegan or vegetarian takes new habits, but they can be formed with some soul-searching and meditation. The great thing about mindfulness is that even if you stumble and lose your way, you can always reach out and find your way back.

5. Think of food as medicine. I first discovered this concept during my recent battle with breast cancer. And when I discovered inspiring vegans like Kris Carr and Chloe Coscarelli, it made healthy eating that much easier! Instead of pills, so much of what ails us can be fixed or prevented by eating a plant-based diet. I have been eating dairy-free and gluten-free for a year now, focusing on eating 1-2 cups of dark leafy greens three times a day, and am feeling better than ever.

Do you have any mindful eating tips for animal lovers? Share them here!

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