Flexitarian diet more likely after leaving home
28 January 2021 | Students News
A traditional meat-based meal may not be the first choice of everyone around the family dinner table, though there may be nothing said at the time.
New research finds some young adults feel they can only embrace a meat-reduced plant-based diet, or flexitarianism, when they leave home and have more control over what they eat.
The findings indicated a conscious shift away from parental eating habits when they became independent.
The flexitarian approach of limiting meat portion sizes, or spreading consumption out over a longer period, was also easier to adopt, and justify to family, than the all-or-nothing approach of veganism.
Young adults' experiences with flexitarianism: The 4Cs, co-authored by Lincoln University’s Samantha White, from the Department of Agribusiness and Markets, and Dr Joya Kemper from the University of Auckland, interviewed 23 young adults, aged 18–35.
All participants were in the process of trying to reduce their meat consumption. Almost all grew up on a heavy meat diet, eating meat every day.
The four Cs are themes of control, compromise, concern and cravings identified in the research.
Control relates to the opportunity to regulate their own meat consumption, and in a flatting situation they were more likely to experiment.
Compromise involved eating meat in social situations to avoid having to justify their choices in social situations.
Cravings saw the re-categorisation of meat, the taste of which they still enjoyed, from a dominant dietary component to one of a ‘treat’ consumed selectively and in limited quantities.
Concern describes the means through which concerns about eating meat were triggered, and the key areas of these concerns, including environmental, ethical and health issues, as well as the resulting emotions experienced.
For most a trigger was through online exposure and documentaries.
Increased knowledge and awareness about the food system negatively affected the emotional state of the interviewees. Many felt conflicted or guilty for continuing to eat meat, usually related to the environment or ethical concerns.
However, a sense of pride and awareness about flexitarianism also resulted in them feeling better about themselves.
Ms White said the research demonstrated that flexitarianism could be a part of a transition away from the family home.
“Research has also shown that people are more likely to reduce their meat consumption than eliminate it completely.”
The ‘not all or nothing’ strategy could be utilised by social marketing campaigns if promoting a meat-reduced diet for health or environmental concerns—possibly creating more of a sense of a flexitarian identity, she added.