Scientific Updates /
Are teenagers ready to adopt a plant-based diet?
15 October 2021
Alpro Foundation Supported Research
Prof. Remco Havermans, Special chair: Youth, Food, and Health at Maastricht University
In order to encourage wide-spread adoption of plant-based diets, it is important to understand the drivers of individuals’ food choices. Adolescence is a critical time for the development of eating behaviour, in Europe, adolescents’ diets tend to be high in sugar, fat, salt and processed meat and lacking in healthy plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This Alpro Foundation supported study by Professor Havermans and team aimed to examine the willingness of adolescents to consume plant-based foods and meals in order to understand how to promote adoption of plant-based diets.
The qualitative study interviewed 11 Dutch teenagers aged 15-16 years old (7 female, 4 male) to identify the reasons for their willingness and unwillingness to adopt a more plant-based diet. The interview structure was based on the Reasoned Action Approach (RAA) which aims to explain and predict behaviour based on an individual’s:
A) behavioural beliefs (attitudes)
B) normative beliefs (social pressures)
C) control beliefs (perceived self-efficacy)
The researchers’ observations were in line with the predicted behavioural theory model. Overall, most of the teenagers interviewed:
Had little intention to adopt a more plant-based diet at present
Did not have clear knowledge about the meaning of a plant-based diet
Were not aware of the health and environmental benefits of plant-based eating
Expressed the influence of their parents on their food choices and the perception that meat eating was the social norm
Did not have role models who consumed a more plant-based diet
Lacked the skills needed to prepare plant-based meals
The taste and appearance of foods were clearly deemed as important. Habit, environment, and routine were also reported as strong influences on their food choices.
Despite the barriers identified, the majority of teenagers interviewed believed they would be able to adopt a plant-based diet for a set period of time. They also expressed a willingness to try plant-based foods if they looked appealing and tasted good.
The researchers concluded that raising awareness, education, and skill building is needed to increase the willingness of adolescents to adopt more plant-based ways of eating.
Havermans RC, Rutten G, Bartelet D. Adolescent's willingness to adopt a more plant-based diet: a theory-based interview study. Front Nutr. 2021;8:688131. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.688131
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