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Most restaurant menus must be vegetarian before meat eaters make the switch

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FRIDAY, December 24, 2021 (HealthDay News)

According to a new study, meat eaters are much more likely to choose plant-based foods in restaurants if menus are at least 75% vegetarian.

Along with the health benefits, UK researchers say getting more people to eat plant-based foods could help fight climate change.

“The findings provide practical guidance on what percentage of their food offerings should be vegetarian if they are to be successful in encouraging sustainable eating behaviors,” said lead author Beth Parkin, senior lecturer at the University of Westminster.

“If the restaurant industry wants to reduce its carbon footprint, it must act by providing many more plant-based items than what is currently on offer,” she said in a press release from the university.

To assess how the availability of vegetarian food affects the choices of people who typically eat meat, Parkin and his team randomly gave 776 study participants menus with varying ratios of vegetarian and meat dishes.

People who usually eat meat only turn to vegetarian foods when the menus are 75% vegetarian, but not when 50% or 25% of the dishes are vegetarian.

This suggests that meat eaters can change their preferences when given enough vegetarian options, but it takes a large number of vegetarian choices to cause this change, according to findings in the magazine’s February issue. Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Increasing vegetarian choices on a menu may make meat eaters more likely to choose a plant-based item by offering them a wider range of desirable dishes or suggesting this is normal behavior, Parkin et al. colleagues.

They noted that the meat and dairy industries account for around 25% of global carbon emissions associated with climate change.

On a large scale, incremental shifts to plant-based foods could have a significant impact on carbon emissions, the authors say.

They said the food sector can play a major role in promoting sustainable food by changing the way choices are presented without the need to consciously persuade people of the benefits of environmentally friendly food. .

“[The study] shows the potential for the restaurant industry to create large-scale change to encourage meat eaters to alter their preferences,” Parkin said.

More information

To learn how to build a healthy vegetarian diet, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

SOURCES: University of Westminster, press release, 14 December 2021; Journal of Environmental PsychologyNovember 7, 2021, online

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