Eating green for health or social benefits? Interactions of attitudes with self-identity on the consumption of vegetarian meals among U.S. and Chinese college students

Mingyue Zhang, Youjie Zhang, William K. Hallman, Jerome D. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Encouraging greater consumption of vegetarian foods could be a strategy to improve plant-based food intake among non-vegetarians. Prior research on vegetarianism has focused mostly on people's motivations to be a vegetarian. However, the factors that motivate non-vegetarians to consume vegetarian meals remain largely unknown. The current research tested associations between attitudes, self-identity, and vegetarian meal consumption among 746 U.S. college students and 484 Chinese college students. Two types of attitudes were assessed: attitudes towards vegetarian food (ATF), which represents the personal benefits (including healthiness, tastiness, and enjoyableness) and attitudes towards people who are vegetarians (ATP), which represents the social benefits (perceived as being environmentally friendly, nice, and good-looking). Results showed that U.S. college students were more likely to be either vegetarians or non-vegetarians, while more Chinese college students tended to report being semi-vegetarians. In both samples, ATF and ATP were positively associated with self-identity and vegetarian meal consumption. Moderation analyses suggested that associations between attitudes and consumption were significant only among people who do not hold a definite self-identity as a vegetarian. In addition, ATP was significantly associated with vegetarian meal consumption among U.S. non- and semi-vegetarians alike, but among Chinese non-vegetarians only. These findings suggest that self-identity and cross-cultural differences are important to consider in promoting consumption of vegetarian meals through improving the public's attitudes towards vegetarian food and vegetarians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105652
JournalAppetite
Volume167
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Keywords

  • Attitudes
  • Consumption behavior
  • Self-identity
  • Vegetarian

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