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We are what we eat : investigating enabling factors for dietary change and sustainable diets in Skåne


  • Luisa Fernanda Suarez Rozo

Summary, in English

The health and environmental impacts of food consumption are increasingly recognized as sustainability issues in developed countries. Therefore, promotion of sustainable diets is becoming more popular among governments and International NGOs. However, the question persists of how best to do this. While the determinants of behavioural change have been studied extensively, the motivations behind behaviour change and those driving sustainable food choices in particular, are not well understood. To help fill this knowledge gap I investigated Skåne residents’ motivations to adopt diets that reduce environmental impacts and enhance health (i.e., vegetarian and vegan diets).

To examine these motivations I conducted a literature review based on which I designed and applied a survey among 121 vegetarians and vegans living in Skåne. The survey measured 20 different possible motivations, combining 17 motivations considered in well-established food choice surveys, and 3 additional motivations that I derived from literature on pro-environmental behaviour. I undertook descriptive statistical analysis to determine which were the most and least important motivations, and compared all motivations by gender, age, occupation, income and type of vegetarian diet, using t- tests. I also used Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to interpret these findings.

Results show that “animal welfare”, “intrinsic motivation”, “frugality”, “environmental concern” and “health” were the most important motivations, while “sociability”, “social image” and “weight control” were the least important. All demographic factors, except for gender, had an effect on motivations. While older people found “health” significantly more important than younger people, the low-income group found “price”, “sociability” and “social image” significantly more important than the high-income group, and students rated “mood” and “sociability” significantly higher compared with paid employees. In the context of SDT, the most highly rated motivations were consistent with integrated and intrinsic regulatory styles, classifying as autonomous types of motivation. Accordingly, respondents adopted vegetarian diets because eating vegetarian was consistent with their value structure and other priorities in their lives, but also because they enjoyed
eating vegetarian food. However in order to promote sustainable diets it is not enough to promote environmental values. Engaging people with animal welfare, frugal lifestyles and the intrinsic enjoyment of vegetarian food is also necessary, and might prove more effective. Further research on how to engage non- vegetarians with animal welfare and the intrinsic enjoyment of vegetarian food,
might illustrate strategies to promote vegetarianism.

Publishing year





Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science

Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Social Sciences


  • healthy diets
  • intrinsic motivation
  • vegetarian food-choice motives
  • environmentally-friendly diets
  • sustainability Science.


  • Svenska Institutet

Report number

2014: 036


  • Kimberly Nicholas