Research Article| Volume 30, ISSUE 4, P196-202, July 1998

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Model of the Process of Adopting Vegetarian Diets: Health Vegetarians and Ethical Vegetarians

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      Interest in vegetarian diets is growing due to health and animal welfare concerns. This study examined the experiences of individuals who adopted vegetarian diets as adolescents or adults. Nineteen self-identified adult vegetarians, recruited from a vegetarian group in one city using snowball sampling, participated in qualitative interviews. The majority of respondents were well-educated, middle-class adults of European-American backgrounds, although they varied in age and sex as well as type and duration of vegetarian diet. The constant comparative method was used for analysis of these qualitative data. A process model describing the adoption of vegetarian diets was developed. Two types of vegetarians, health and ethical, were identified based on respondents’ major reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet. Health vegetarians were motivated by a perceived threat of disease and the potential health benefits associated with vegetarian diets. Ethical vegetarians were motivated by moral considerations and viewed a vegetarian diet as a way to align dietary behaviors with beliefs and values about animal welfare. Adoption of a vegetarian diet was influenced by the receipt of information about the health and ethical impacts of vegetarian diets, physical aversions to animal-derived food, and life transitions. These findings can assist nutrition educators in developing strategies to work with clients adopting vegetarian diets and expand understanding of food choice behavior.


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