Evaluating Dietary Changes With Focus On Veg*n
This paper examines methods of changing dietary selection toward healthier and more plant based options and discusses how major changes might be easier for individuals rather than incremental changes.
Understanding what motivates individuals to make particular food choices or induce dietary change is important in influencing overall dietary choices and promoting vegetarianism.
The approach taken in this paper to understand dietary selection combines a number of methods and data from a diverse field of topics. This “complex systems analysis” is modeled at the level of individual decision makers and consists of simulated consumers and manufacturers interacting in a virtual n-space of possible dietary choices. In this study, simulated consumers act upon 4 factors:
- Healthfulness of a particular diet
- Availability and price of a diet
- Personal history
- Simple taste
These four influences are added to calculate a level of utility for consumers. Suppliers, on the other hand, operate on a simple market principles, motivated by profit. By simulating consumer behavior in line with improving utility, this modeling allowed for various propositions with respect to dietary choices.
Minor changes in diet, like eating incrementally more healthy, can be more difficult to achieve, with greater urges to backslide. A major change seems up front to be significantly more unpleasant than small changes, but a giant step may reduce the likelihood of backsliding. Also, once greater utility is achieved by a consumer by reaching a local goal, less satisfaction is achieved for these incremental goals in contrast to the satisfaction received from achieving a major change.
The implication for this analysis is that traditional policy of advocating incremental change in diet is likely to fail. It may be more effective to teach people that major change is easier than incremental changes and that once the switch is made, taste preferences are likely also to adjust accordingly. With respect to vegetarianism, informing individuals about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet is useful and it is a more clear directive than a broader health directive, i.e., eat less fat.