Increasing the intake of plant-based foods is indispensable for a sustainable diet. Vegetables, however, are often unpopular with eaters young and old. Conducted in Europe over five years, the goal of the VeggiEat study is to discover the key determining factors in dietary choices.
Promote the consumption of plant-based foods without creating constraints
Green Monday is a growing world trend. The movement is based on a common challenge: the consumption of one vegetarian meal per week.
A multitude of techniques are arising to promote plant-based diets through behavioural initiatives. A 2018 study published in Appetite, demonstrates how creating menus has an impact on the choice of a vegetarian dish.
The VeggiEat study specifically focused on the determining factors in the choice of vegetables. The study was conducted over 5 years, in 4 European countries (Italy, England, Denmark and France) with adolescents and elderly people. Two nudging techniques used during the study were significantly effective:
- The “green” atmosphere in eating locations (plants, “green” dishes). The technique allowed for a reduction in calorie intake during the meal.
- Offering a variety of vegetables in pre-determined portions. The technique significantly increased the consumption of vegetables.
Nudges are effective techniques if they are adapted to the situation and to the person whose behaviour one aims to change. A great number of researchers have analysed their results, including the 2016 winner of the Louis Bonduelle Foundation Research Award. Find out more about her thesis: “Towards healthy and effortless nutritional choices”.
Techniques to adopt for effectiveness
The VeggiEat study revealed appreciation differences according to age: the elderly are more attracted to products with enhanced flavours, and new products, whereas adolescents tend towards familiar products with vivid colours and sweet tastes (tomatoes, corn, etc.). Differences can also be linked to geographical origins. For example, Danish students are more likely to eat vegetables in soup, whereas Italian students prefer to eat raw vegetables.
Other factors can come into play, such as a person’s past behaviour. For example, the study that focused on the creation of menus revealed that recommendations and descriptive menus increased vegetable dietary choices in those who consumed small amounts of vegetables on a daily basis. As a result, a gradual trend towards sustainable diets is possible, but requires more customised actions.