Survey: More Americans Eating Less Meat, Opting For Plant-Based Options Instead


New research shows “flexitarian” diet growing in popularity as more adults prefer to eat meat only on occasion.


NEW YORK — Cheeseburgers, steaks, and hot dogs are synonymous with American cuisine, or at least they were at one time. According to a new survey of 2,000 Americans, if these dishes are a common part of your diet, you’re now in the minority. Less than half (47%) of the survey’s respondents said meat is a major part of their diet.

The survey, commissioned by Herbalife Nutrition, found that many Americans (23%) are adopting a “flexitarian” approach to eating. This means eating mostly vegetarian foods with the occasional inclusion of meat. Another 18% of respondents said they were fully vegetarian.

So, what’s fueling this shift in Americans’ eating habits? Among survey participants, flexitarians were the most likely group to say their food choices stemmed from trying to be more environmentally friendly (40%) or ethical (31%). Young people are also a factor; 36% of surveyed flexitarians said they adopted their new diet because their children encouraged them to do so.

Even among those still regularly eating meat, the survey shows that more Americans than ever are willing to experiment with more plant-based food sources. In all, 71% of respondents expressed this sentiment.

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But, what about protein? For so many of us, meat is our primary source of protein, but the results of the survey make it clear there are plenty of other ways to build muscle. Among survey participants not regularly eating meat, 65% get most of their protein from shakes and protein bars, and 56% just eat other foods known to carry lots of protein like rice, beans, and soy.

“Protein is an important component of every cell in the body, helping to support healthy bones, muscles and organs,” says Susan Bowerman, senior director of Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition, in a statement. “So whether you obtain your protein from shakes, bars, animals or plants, your focus should be on the quality of the source, to help ensure your body is receiving maximum benefit.”

Generationally speaking, millennials are the most likely age group to try out more plant-based foods, but across all ages more people than ever before are open to the idea.

Interestingly, the survey also noted that Americans living in the West (20%) and Northeast (19%) are the most likely to frequently eat “meatless” meat. Individuals from those areas were also found to be the most open to trying plant-based foods as well (51% in the West, 55% in the Northeast).

It’s clear that meatless meat is here to stay, with 70% of all respondents stating they believe it will continue to grow in popularity moving forward.

Of course, there will always be some resistant to change. For example, 16% of respondents said they “never” eat meatless meat. Perhaps, though, these respondents are so hesitant because they don’t know what is inside meatless meat. Less than half of respondents (45%) knew that meatless meat usually contains soy, and only 41% knew that wheat gluten is another common ingredient.

In fact, only 55% of respondents knew that meatless meat is intended to taste just like real meat. Puzzlingly, 38% incorrectly said meatless meat is grown in a lab.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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