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October 2021

Can J Diet Pract Res. 1998 ; 59(4): 183-189.

Maintaining Vegetarian Diets Personal Factors, Social Networks and Environmental Resources.

Jabs J, Devine CM, Sobal J.

Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, US.

This study was designed to investigate factors influencing the maintenance of a vegetarian diet. An interpretivist approach and qualitative research methods were used in the study design. Nineteen vegetarians from a metropolitan area in Western New York State were purposefully recruited using snowball sampling to participate in in-depth interviews. Respondents varied in age, gender and type and duration of vegetarian diet, although the sample was predominantly middle-aged, middle-class and female and had ties to community groups. Interview transcripts were analyzed using the constant comparative method of qualitative data analysis. The maintenance of vegetarian diets was supported by personal factors, social networks and environmental resources. Personal factors included: internal beliefs, skills and habits and physical feedback. Social networks included: organized vegetarian groups as well as animal rights, environmental, or health groups supporting vegetarianism and vegetarian friends. Environmental resources, such as the availability of new vegetarian foods in supermarkets and restaurants, facilitated maintenance of vegetarian diets. Respondents perceived that society viewed vegetarianism as increasingly "mainstream," although diet-centred family conflicts were still common. These findings can assist dietitians in developing strategies for working with vegetarian clients by providing better understanding of personal, social and environmental supports for vegetarians' dietary behaviours.

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