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

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      Abstract

      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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