Spiritually motivated restrictions on animal products have a limited impact on consumption of healthy plant-based foods

Hilary J. Bethancourt*, Mario Kratz, Kathleen O'Connor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Plant-based diets are considered healthier than many omnivorous diets. However, it is unclear that restriction of animal products necessarily motivates increased consumption of nutrient- and fibre-rich plant-based foods as opposed to energy-dense but nutrient-poor plant-based foods containing refined grains and added sugars and fats. The present study examined FFQ and food record data from ninety-nine individuals in the USA with varying degrees of adherence to the Orthodox Christian tradition of restricting meat, dairy and egg (MDE) products for 48 d prior to Easter to investigate whether restricting MDE products in the absence of explicit nutritional guidance would lead to increased consumption of healthy plant-based foods and greater likelihood of meeting dietary recommendations. Multiple linear regression models assessed changes in major food groups, energy and nutrients in relation to the degree of reduction in MDE consumption. Logistic regression analyses tested the odds of meeting 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on plant-based foods in relation to MDE restriction. Each serving reduction in MDE products was associated with small (approximately 0·1-0·7 serving) increases in legumes, soya products and nuts/seeds (all P values < 0·005). MDE restriction was not associated with higher odds of meeting recommendations on vegetable, fruit or whole-grain intake. Consumption of refined grains and added sugars did not change in relation to MDE restriction but remained above recommended thresholds, on average. These findings demonstrate that a reduction of MDE products for spiritual purposes may result in increases in some nutrient-rich plant-based foods but may not uniformly lead to a healthier dietary composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-819
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 14 2019


  • Dietary recommendations
  • Lent
  • Orthodox Christians
  • Plant-based diets
  • Vegetarian diets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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