Plant-based diets have shown favorable dietary quality and chronic disease outcomes. However, differences in diet quality of vegan, vegetarians, and semi-vegetarians, considering motivations to adopt plant-based diets and nutrition literacy, are not well known.
Assess the quality of plant-based diets (vegan, vegetarians, and semi-vegetarians) and their association with motives and nutrition literacy.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
In this cross-sectional study, 222 participants recruited via social media ads completed an online survey and food frequency questionnaire. Majority of participants were female (85.6%), Caucasian (87.4%), and college-educated (85.6%).
The study used the Healthy Eating Index-2015 to measure dietary quality and the 64-item Nutrition Literacy Assessment Instrument to measure nutrition literacy. Participants selected their top motive for following their diet (8 options), which were categorized into health, ethics, or other (politics/taste). Kruskal Wallis and post-hoc tests were used to compare diet quality and nutrition literacy between diet types and motives.
Of the respondents, 52.5% were vegan (no animal products), 22.9% were vegetarians (dairy and/or eggs, but no meat), and 24.7% were semi-vegetarians (meat ≤1x/week). When comparing diet types, vegans had higher diet quality (80.8 ± 6.5 out of 100, P < 0.001) compared to vegetarians (75.1 ± 9.1), and semi-vegetarians (76.8 ± 7.5). Ethics was the top diet motive for 69.4% of vegetarians, while health was the top motive for 50% of vegans and 45.3% of semi-vegetarians. Overall, ethics was the main motive for following a diet (49.3%), followed by health (40.8%), and other motivations (6.7%). Participants who selected health as their top motive had higher diet quality (80.6 ± 6.3, P = 0.002) than those who selected ethical reasons (77.1 ± 8.3) and other reasons (75.3 ± 8.9). No differences in nutrition literacy were observed between groups, the overall average score was 59.0 ± 3.1 (out of 64).
Participants had high diet quality and nutrition literacy. Adopting a diet primarily based on health and following a vegan diet were associated with better diet quality. Considering motivations can aid the development of tailored nutrition education to promote healthy dietary behaviors.
Circle of Friends Molly and Gene Rauen Endowed Research Assistance Award