Maintaining Vegetarian Diets
For this study, 19 vegetarians were interviewed to investigate the factors that influence the maintenance of a vegetarian diet, including personal factors (internal beliefs, skills, and habits), social networks (organized groups, friends), and environmental resources (availability of vegetarian foods, etc.).[Excerpts from study]:
To maintain a vegetarian diet over time, social networks, personal factors and environmental resources were vital. Support provided by social networks was especially important for the maintenance of a vegetarian diet in this group of socially-connected vegetarians.
Instrumental support took the form of shared recipes, shared meals, shopping tips and solutions to the practical problems of eating a vegetarian diet. Expressive support provided by vegetarian-related groups and friends provided an accepting and comfortable atmosphere. This was important for respondents who experienced a lack of emotional support and challenges from family members.
Environmental resources that enhanced maintenance included increased accessibility of vegetarian food products and a greater perceived social acceptance of vegetarianism.
As society becomes more accepting of vegetarianism dietitians will see an increase in the number of people following vegetarian diets. In order to help people maintain healthful vegetarian diets, dietitians need to be aware of influential social and environmental factors. Dietitians can benefit from recognizing the role that various groups provide in maintaining dietary change.
To assist in maintaining a vegetarian diet, people may benefit from being encouraged to join vegetarian-related groups that accept a wide range of dietary practices. Groups may be designed to offer instrumental support, such as cooking techniques and strategies for eating at social events, as well as expressive support, such as sharing problems and struggles. Dietitians should be aware that many people may face discouragement from family members after adopting a vegetarian diet. Providing clients with strategies and support to deal with unsupportive family members can help people maintain vegetarian diets.