Research briefing: Pro-environmental behaviour predicts adherence to plant-based diets

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» Research briefing: Pro-environmental behaviour predicts adherence to plant-based diets

Researcher Network member, Dr Jana Krizanova, summarises the findings of a newly published study that asks how we can remain committed to long-term veganism as well as to others and ourselves. The answer, the research suggests, is by actively staying connected with nature.

Plant-based diets are beneficial to human health and environmental sustainability but suffer from low rates of adherence. For example, many people who self-identify as vegetarian sporadically eat meat and eventually give up their vegetarian diet entirely. We theorise that valuing a lifestyle of pro-environmental behaviours can enable people to adhere to a plant-based diet more successfully. In the current survey study, we tested this prediction among plant-based dieters for two outcomes: short-term adherence (for the past three days) and future-intended dietary adherence (intention to continue one’s diet for the next 1–2 years). Over and above other dietary, motivational and demographic factors, pro-environmental behaviour positively predicted both short-term and future-intended adherence to plant-based diets. Moreover, pro-environmental behaviour mediated links between (a) connectedness with nature and dietary adherence and (b) political ideology and dietary adherence. These findings highlight pro-environmental behaviour as a tool for explaining and predicting adherence to plant-based diets.


Veganism conceived as a more conscious form of dieting is beneficial for the optimal management of natural resources, since industrial exploitation of meat is one of the relevant contributors to biodiversity loss, global warming and water and land deterioration, to name a few. Plant-based nutrition is not only pro-environmentally oriented but it also enhances the physical health of humans and preserves life of other living beings. Despite the numerous advantages a vegan diet provides at individual and collective levels, veganism is nevertheless a social and cultural minority among a wide public of consumers. Furthermore, those who decide to adopt this improved lifestyle still participate in occasional meat-eating. In other words, many vegans confess to having eaten animals, up to the extreme point where some of them even revert to an omnivore diet. This dietary adherence challenge has been the foundation of the present research, in which the University of Granada (UGR) and the University of California (UCLA) have collaborated. Our aim was to identify the predictive factors of plant-based dietary adherence. By these means, we acknowledge that the promotion of vegan dietary adoption is not complete without the consequent plant-based dietary consistency and intention to continue going meatless.

There is a generous scientific contribution on what motivates people to adopt vegan diets. However, the focus of our work is directed to what makes people stay vegan, which is important for the actual implementation of vegan benefits on global wellness. Previous evidence suggests that ethically oriented vegans (pro-environmentally and animal rights concerned) are more likely to stay vegan for longer and are more consistent with meatless diets. In addition, nature-related individuals are more likely to adopt veganism, and vice versa. Consequently, we introduce the aspect of environmental psychology as a possible predictor for vegan adherence at short and long-term perspective. More specifically, we addressed participants’ past behaviour reflected in their dietary meatless consistency during the three days prior to the survey and their future intention to stay meatless in the next 1-2 years, so that we could enhance environmental policy implementation.

The state of the art of our research consists of further developing the existing links between people, nature connection, pro-environmental behaviours that shape vegan interconnected personal-ecological identity and influence their food choices.

In our analysis, we accounted for categorised motivations, including animals, health, social and taste. We worked with a sample of young, educated adults who represent a trend-setting consumer group and maybe more commonly influenced by personal transformational processes and consequent adoption of veganism that frequently occurs within a university environment. That being said, the social and environmental relatedness facet of student life becomes a triggering factor for personal and vegan happiness (Krizanova & Guardiola, 2020). The main goals of our work address the role of pro-environmental behaviour on meatless dietary adherence in relation to nature connectedness and political orientation. With this in mind, we sought to allocate alternative strategies for better implementation of veganism in its ecological aspect.


We ran our analyses on more than one thousand participants from a university background in Spain. We distinguished between short-term and future intended dietary adherence as the main dependent variables. As independent variables we specified pro-environmental behaviour, nature connectedness, convenience of preparation of meatless dishes, dietary motivations, political ideology and self-identified dietary status. We conducted ordinary least squares and hierarchical logistic regressions accompanied by mediation analyses for both dependent variables.

Main findings

We found that pro-environmental behaviour positively predicts plant-based dietary adherence in its facet of short-term dietary consistency as well as the intention to continue with meatless dieting. Also, pro-environmental behaviour mediates the relation between nature connectedness and dietary adherence. This translates into the fact that people who feel emotionally more related to nature have stronger dietary consistency and intention to continue a meatless diet in the future. Additionally, pro-environmental behaviour explains why politically liberally oriented participants report higher dietary consistency and intention to continue the meatless diet in the future, in comparison with individuals who are more right-winged. Our findings also suggest that people who are motivated to eschew meat out of concern for animals report higher meatless consistency. On the other hand, factors such as convenience and lack of social pressure have a positive influence on plant-based dietary continuity in the near future. Accordingly, pro-environmental behaviour is the unique predictor for both – dietary consistency and continuity that constitute the dietary adherence.  In conclusion, our results report that by valuing the asset of individual connectedness with nature by its active promotion, we can enhance pro-environmental behaviour that, in turn, supports plant-based dietary adherence.

In other words, adopting vegan diets constitutes a big step forward in transforming our personal identity towards more compassionate and conscious lifestyles. Not only do we get closer to our physical health and pro-environmental responsibility but we also for a stronger bond with other non-human beings, such as animals and nature. This contributes to the building of a strong ecological identity that commonly intertwines with the personal identity. Therefore, how we relate with the outer world mirrors the internal ongoing processes, which translate into more conscious food choices and lifestyles that include awareness of our personal impacts on others, since we all are interconnected, in visible and invisible ways. How do we maintain dietary adherence and commitment to others and ourselves? By actively staying connected with nature.

Citation: Krizanova, J., Rosenfeld, D. L., Tomiyama, A. J., & Guardiola, J. (2021). Pro-Environmental Behavior Predicts Adherence to Plant-Based Diets. Appetite, 105243.

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