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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Plant-based dietary practices in Canada : examining definitions, prevalence and determinants of animal source food exclusions using the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition Valdes, Mirjana


The newly released 2019 Canadian dietary guidelines recommend consuming more plant- based foods, especially plant-based sources of protein as part of a healthy eating pattern. While plant-based dietary practices (PBDPs) have been recommended to improve both population health and environmental sustainability outcomes, no nationally representative study has described Canadian trends regarding exclusions of animal-based foods. This thesis therefore aimed to: 1) operationalize definitions for PBDPs based on animal source food exclusions to estimate the prevalence of Canadians who adhere to PBDPs; and 2) explore potential correlates of PBDPs. Nationally representative data on dietary exclusions drawn from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey–Nutrition were used to operationalize definitions of PBDPs and examine their prevalence. Potential correlates of PBDPs were explored through bivariate analyses using chi-square tests and multivariable analyses using logistic regression models, including sex-stratified models. Respondents’ PBDPs were categorized 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) meat-excluder (excluded red meat). In 2015, approximately 5% of Canadians reported adhering to PBDPs (all categories combined) with the majority (2.8%) identifying as a meat-excluder, 1.3% categorized as vegetarian, 0.7% as pescatarian and 0.28% as vegan. The significant determinants of vegetarian status after including sex, age, urban/rural residence, Canadian province of residence, self-identified racial/cultural group, immigration status, education, marital status and income in the model were self-identifying as South Asian relative to White (OR:16.70, 95%CI:8.01, 34.82) and living in Quebec (OR:0.24, 95%CI: 0.09, 0.63) or the Prairies (OR:0.43, 95%CI:0.19, 0.96) relative to the Atlantic Provinces. While self-identified South Asian ethnicity was significant in both male and female stratified models, immigrant status and province of residence were only significant in the female-only model. Despite growing public discourse around PBDPs, few Canadians reported total exclusion of animal products in 2015. Reported PBDPs were strongly associated with racial/cultural group: across all multivariable models, the main predictor of vegetarian status was self-identified South Asian ethnicity. Understanding factors shaping adherence to PBDPs among Canadians is valuable for informing strategies aimed at promoting environmentally sustainable diets.

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