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You or someone you know has probably wanted to “go vegan”, but not knowing how stood in the way. Maybe the desire to eat a plant-based diet was prompted by a desire to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of certain cancers, address the environmental problems associated with meat consumption, or out of concern for the animals who bear the brunt of our dietary choices. This Thanksgiving maybe you’ll adopt a turkey instead of eating one. The following ten steps will help you reach your goal of maintaining a vegan diet before the holidays.
1. Develop habits
No one asks, “Do I feel like brushing my teeth today?” It is performed out of habit. Developing healthy food habits start in the grocery story. Beyond what you put in your cart, consider preparing food for the week on a Sunday, having numerous easy to make snacks, and frozen meals that you can combine with fresh vegetables. The transition to a vegetarian diet often includes a number of “bridge foods” – meat analogs and other comfort foods. As you progress in your diet, you’ll likely include fewer processed foods.
2. Ask new questions
What does it take – from the environment, the animals, and slaughterhouse employees – to bring a meal to my plate? What are the most health-enhancing foods I might choose today? While the ground up remains of spent female dairy cows (hamburger) or the fried wing from a chicken might taste good, is it the best choice when you consider your values, people, the planet, and animals?
3. Answer your questions
Answering these newly formed questions will require research. In the process you will learn information that will motivate and surprise you. Additionally, it will provide you with the answers you need to defend yourself against those who think you’re nuts for eating such an “extreme diet”, even if it’s motivated by a desire to avoid an extreme medical procedure such as open heart surgery.
4. Avoid mental gymnastics
The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance indicates that we like our thoughts (i.e., “I’m a compassionate person”) to agree with our actions (i.e., “I don’t eat sentient animals who have been killed to be eaten”). However, it’s common for individuals to keep their meat-eating behavior and perform mental gymnastics that require rationalizations. In a study of 32 vegans one of the major findings was that vegans’ eudemonic well-being improved significantly as a result of aligning their actions with their values.