May 15, 2023

Health organizations advise limiting the consumption of processed Meat and sugar. However, studies have shown that Europeans consume these items in higher quantities than recommended. Encouraging consumers to switch to eating more plant-based foods has proven difficult.

The authors of this study surveyed 7,590 consumers in ten E.U. countries and the U.K. on the barriers preventing them from embracing plant-based eating. The survey asked respondents how much they agreed or disagreed with 26 statements about reasons to continue eating animal products. Reasons included, among other things, “I don’t want to change my eating habits or routine” and “I think humans are meant to eat lots of animal-based meat.” Each response consisted of “levels of agreement” on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represented strong disagreement, and 5 described strong agreement. This allowed the authors to analyze consumers’ subjective perspectives on food statistically.

Around 60% of the respondents were omnivores, while 30% identified as flexitarians, 5% as vegetarians, 3% as pescatarians, and 2% as vegans. Overall, omnivores more strongly agreed with all 26 of the suggested statements. The statements with the most vital levels of the agreement included the belief that people should eat lots of Meat and worries about the taste of plant-based foods. Omnivores were also relatively concerned about nutrition. Women generally were more open to plant-based foods than men, though this was found to be a weaker factor than dietary lifestyle. 

There were also regional differences in the report. Respondents in German-speaking countries showed lower agreement levels with the perceived barriers, meaning they may be more interested in plant-based foods than other respondents. Meanwhile, more so than in other countries, respondents from Denmark, France, and Poland expressed a general lack of desire to change their diets and believe that plant-based foods are inferior to Meat regarding energy, taste, and satiation. People in cities and with more education tended to show lower perceived barriers to plant-based eating.

Clear signs of progress are visible in this report. For example, the authors note that only 5% of Europeans were vegetarian a few years ago, and very few seemed interested in reducing animal product consumption. Now, 40% indicate that they eat an alternative diet, but 37% still say they are uninterested in making a dietary change, so more progress is necessary. 

The authors make a few suggestions for encouraging behavioural change. These include changing social norms, which are crucial in determining how people make food decisions. In addition, advocates can focus on promoting meatless “defaults” at food service providers and running campaigns to debunk the conventional assumptions about the taste and nutrition of plant-based diets. Finally, focusing on public health and environmental messaging may appeal to consumers’ self-interest, as meat consumption contributes significantly to chronic illness and climate change.

As a holistic health coach, I have witnessed that people’s choices for food are based on tradition, habits and what people believe is nutritional, healthy, tasty, convenient, easy and, for some, masculine. Most of these beliefs, ideas and behaviours are copied from their parents, who have been raised with a traditional diet of Meat, fish, eggs and dairy,

For people to change, there must be a need, benefit, and desire.

People, in general, like what they know. What is culturally accepted, and what is traditional? People have often been raised to value traditional dietary ideas, behaviours and cultural traditions without thinking much about them.

We live today in a world where life is changing rapidly due to technological advances, access to information and people’s desires and needs.

The belief is that a Whole Food Plant Based diet is not nutritional, healthy, tasty, convenient, easy and, for some, masculine is often based on fear, ignorance, lack of experience and knowledge. For most people, breaking with cultural traditions, family belief systems, values and norms is challenging.

It’s hubris to think that the way we see things is everything there is – Lisa Randell.

However, once people realize that transitioning to a Whole Food Plant-Based diet is more nutritional and healthy, tastes fantastic, is very convenient, easy and can be masculine (ask a gorilla). People generally are willing to re-evaluate their current position, especially when there is guidance to make an exciting, smooth transition.

Source: Science Direct article

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