A goal-systems perspective on plant-based eating: Keys to successful adherence in university students

Maricarmen Vizcaino, Linda S. Ruehlman, Paul Karoly, Katy Shilling, Andrew Berardy, Sidney Lines, Christopher M. Wharton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore adherence to a plant-based diet from the perspective of goals- and motivations-based systems. Design: A cross-sectional, survey-based study was conducted regarding eating patterns, goals and motivations for current eating habits. Setting: Data were collected using an online survey platform, including the Goal Systems Assessment Battery (GSAB) and other survey tools. Participants: University students were recruited, including thirty-three students reporting successful maintenance of a plant-based diet (Adherents) and sixty-three students trying to adhere to a plant-based diet (Non-adherents). Results: Using GSAB subscale scores, discriminant function analyses significantly differentiated adherents v. non-adherents, accounting for 49·0 % of between-group variance (χ2 (13) = 42·03, P < 0·000). It correctly classified 72·7 % of adherents and 88·9 % of non-adherents. Constructs including value, self-efficacy, planning/stimulus control and positive affect were significant and included in the discriminant function. Logistic regression results suggested that participants who successfully adhered to a plant-based diet were seventeen times more likely to report 'To manage or treat a medical condition' as motivation and almost seven times more likely to report 'To align with my ethical beliefs' as motivation compared with non-adherents. However, these participants were 94 % less likely to report 'To maintain and/or improve my health' as motivation compared with non-adherents. Controlling for motivations, hierarchical logistic regression showed that only planning as part of the GSAB self-regulatory system predicted adherence to a plant-based diet. Conclusions: Values-based approaches to plant-based diets, including consideration for ethical beliefs, self-efficacy and proper planning, may be key for successful maintenance of this diet long-term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Goals
  • Goals system assessment battery
  • Motivations
  • Pescatarianism
  • Plant-based diets
  • Veganism
  • Vegetarianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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