Plant-based dietary practices in Canada: examining definitions, prevalence and correlates of animal source food exclusions using nationally representative data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition

Public Health Nutr. 2021 Apr;24(5):777-786. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020003444. Epub 2020 Oct 27.


Objective: While plant-based dietary practices (PBDPs) have been recommended to improve both population health and environmental sustainability outcomes, no nationally representative Canadian studies have described the prevalence or correlates of excluding animal source foods. The current study therefore: (1) created operationalised definitions of PBDPs based on animal source food exclusions to estimate the prevalence of Canadians who adhere to PBDPs and (2) examined key correlates of PBDPs.

Design: Population representative, cross-sectional data were from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition. Respondents' PBDPs were categorised as: (1) vegan (excluded red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy); (2) vegetarian (excluded red meat, poultry and fish); (3) pescatarian (excluded red meat and poultry) and (4) red meat excluder (excluded red meat). Descriptive statistics and multivariable regression analyses were used to examine the prevalence and correlates of these PBDP categories.

Setting: All ten provinces in Canada.

Participants: Canadians aged 2 years and above (n 20 477).

Results: In 2015, approximately 5 % of Canadians reported adhering to any PBDP (all categories combined) with the majority (2·8 %) categorised as a red meat excluder, 1·3 % as vegetarian, 0·7 % as pescatarian and 0·3 % as vegan. South Asian cultural identity (OR 19·70 (95 % CI 9·53, 40·69)) and higher educational attainment (OR 1·97 (95 % CI 1·02, 3·80)) were significantly associated with reporting a vegetarian/vegan PBDP.

Conclusions: Despite growing public discourse around PBDPs, only 5 % of Canadians reported PBDPs in 2015. Understanding the social and cultural factors that influence PBDPs is valuable for informing future strategies to promote environmentally sustainable dietary practices.

Keywords: Canada; Dietary pattern; National health survey; Plant-based diet; Vegetarian.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Meat*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health*

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