News & Views

Feature Story

Are Men a Barrier to Healthier Family Eating?

Salem survey: More women interested in plant-based diet, but worry the family won't like it.

February 9, 2017



Hands holding peppers and a lime

SALEM, Ore. — A health survey of Salem-area residents by Kaiser Permanente Northwest finds that more women are likely to try a plant-based diet to improve their health, while more men say they would miss meat too much.

Studies have shown that increasing the amount of vegetables and fruit while cutting back on processed food, sugar, meat and dairy has numerous health benefits.

“As an internal medicine physician in primary care, I see an ever-worsening crisis of chronic conditions in my patients, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and more,” said Carmelo Mejia, MD, of the Kaiser Permanente Skyline Medical Office in Salem. “There is so much potential for preventing or reversing many of these conditions through lifestyle changes, such as adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet.”

The survey of 315 Salem-area residents showed that there is a surprisingly high level of awareness of the term “plant-based diet.” More than two-thirds said they are familiar with the term, and more than three-quarters said they would be willing to try it.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Women were more likely than men to have a favorable reaction to the term “plant-based diet.” The favorable response increased slightly after getting more information (7 percentage points higher pre-definition and 9 points post-definition).
  • Men were more likely than women to say that the main barriers to trying a plant-based diet were missing meat (63 percent vs. 40 percent) and unappetizing sound (59 percent vs. 36 percent).
  • Women were more likely than men to respond that the main barrier to trying a plant-based diet was that not everyone in their family would eat it (41 percent vs. 25 percent).

“Giving up meat is a common concern I hear from my patients,” said Dr. Mejia. “I encourage them to begin by cutting back on meat and using it more for flavor, for example. You could also start by giving up one meat, such as beef or pork.

“For women or men concerned about how their families may react to eating plant-based meals, I recommend experimenting with more meatless meals — for example, changing a favorite recipe to be plant-based,” said Dr. Mejia. “This could mean preparing chili with beans and no meat, or making tacos with beans, rice and veggies instead of meat and cheese.”

Dr. Mejia added that any movement away from the standard American diet (rich in red meat, dairy and processed foods) is progress. Still, the most compelling research and clinical outcomes demonstrating disease reversal occur in patients who adopt a completely plant-based diet.

For the purposes of the survey, a plant-based diet is defined as: including plant foods in their whole, unprocessed form, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and small amounts of healthy fats. It limits animal products, processed foods, and sweets.

Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett invite the Salem community to participate in a two-week plant-based challenge from February 16 to March 1, 2017. Mayor Bennett will join the challenge as a participant. Interested individuals are invited to RSVP to the challenge’s Facebook event page at: http://bit.ly/KPchallenge where they’ll receive plant-based-recipe ideas and resources, get inspired from personal stories and have the opportunity to ask nutrition questions to a Kaiser Permanente health coach.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 11.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia, including more than 550,000 medical and 260,000 dental members in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, dentists, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical and dental teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.