Plant-based boom: More Americans are changing their diets, becoming ‘vegan-curious’

NEW YORK — One in five Americans say their diet is radically different now compared to what it was like just five years ago. That’s especially the case for people opting for trying more plant-based foods. Researchers reveal that health-conscious Americans are going down what they call the “vegan-curious” route.

In a new survey of 2,000 U.S. residents, 19 percent believe that what they eat on a regular basis has changed significantly over that time.  Those switching up their menu say they did so due to shifts in their health and dietary needs (41%), much more so than their personal tastes (35%) or environmental concerns (19%).

Meanwhile, over half the poll (53%) believe that their food choices have remained more or less the same. Part of that, perhaps, may be because three-fourths of respondents follow some form of diet or guidelines that manage their eating habits. While trendy diet plans like intermittent fasting (26%) and ketogenic eating (20%) have gained a lot of ground, neither can hold a candle to good old-fashioned calorie-counting (38%).

Where did all the meat eaters go?

Thinking Past MeatConducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Modern Table, the survey also asked respondents to weigh in on the fads they see while food shopping, especially the rise of plant-based foods. Almost half (48%) consider themselves as omnivorous — eating animal and plant products in equal amounts — while only 17 percent consume only animal products with no plants at all.

Interestingly, more men (26%) than women (12%) claim to subscribe to this carnivorous all-meat diet. One in three respondents now identify as either vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, meaning that they favor or even exclusively eat plant-based foods.

However, complete vegans — who don’t eat meat or animal products of any kind — are still in the minority, the results suggest. In comparison, almost 12 times as many respondents say they regularly refer to vegan eating as “rabbit food” (51%). Just three percent of these Americans consider themselves vegan.

More people are getting ‘vegan-curious’

Thinking Past MeatDespite the jokes, almost 46 percent of the rest of the poll note they’ve either tried or considered going vegan in the past. One in ten are also eating more vegan foods than they did previously, while another 60 percent have tried their hand at making their own vegan food.

Of those with vegan cooking experience, 48 percent say they tried it out because they wanted to make something healthy for themselves. When researchers asked Americans what they expect vegan food products to be like, respondents overwhelmingly use terms like “healthy” (49%), “plant-based” (48%), and “natural” (38%).

“All too often, people mistakenly assume that eating a vegan diet means completely giving up your favorite foods, sacrificing taste or expecting to lose out on protein and other important nutrients. That’s simply not the case,” says Nick Banuelos, a spokesperson for Modern Table, in a statement.

“In fact, more and more alternatives are coming to market every day,” Banuelos adds. “Using plant-based ingredients and unique flavor profiles that often end up being healthier than their traditional counterparts.”

For many, the difference is negligible. Even though 46 percent think they can always tell a vegan product from a non-vegan one, half the poll admits to bringing something home without realizing it’s vegan until after the fact.

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