Why many people globally are making significant changes to their diet during the pandemic

Three in 10 Americans made a major change to their diet during the pandemic, according to new research.

The survey of 2,000 Americans revealed 33% have modified their diet in these past seven months — and for many, the pandemic has helped them stick to their change.

Seven in 10 of those respondents said their new diet has lasted longer because they did it during the on-going pandemic, versus if they made the change at another time.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Herbalife Nutrition, the global survey of 28,000 people in 30 countries looked at why that might be, and it delved into the specific changes respondents made.

Globally, results revealed an even stronger desire for change, with 41% of respondents saying they made a change to their diet during the pandemic — and 83% said there was a specific moment that prompted it.

For Americans surveyed, 47% started eating more plant-based foods, while 54% started eating more fruits and vegetables — and 43% made an effort to eat less meat.

Results also found a third of American respondents cut out or ate less sugar (32%), and some cut down on the number of treats they ate (30%).

And why did they choose to make a change to their diet now? For many respondents, it was because they had extra time on their hands.

Fifty-three percent said they had more time to research healthier foods, while 51% said they had time to cook more and learn new recipes.

In addition to that, respondents said they were away from negative influences like office snacks (40%), while others wanted to use this time to make a positive change (37%).

"There is never a bad time to make a positive change in your lifestyle, especially when those changes lead to lasting healthy results," said Dr. Kent Bradley, Chief Health and Nutrition Officer, Herbalife Nutrition. "During this pandemic it appears more individuals are choosing quality nutrient-dense sources like those found in a plant-based diet."

The survey asked respondents about their current diets, and it found 75% eat meat as part of their diet — 18% identified as "flexitarians," and the remaining respondents were vegan or vegetarian.

But plant-based diets might be on the rise: 61% of respondents said they'd like to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet, but they aren't sure where to begin.

That was true for global respondents, too: across 30 countries, 62% said they'd like to add more plant-based foods to their diet.

The survey also found 46% of global respondents said they've become more open-minded about plant-based foods and "meatless meat" options during the pandemic (compared to 40% of American respondents).

In a similar survey conducted last year, half of respondents said they'd become more open-minded about plant-based foods and "meatless meat" options in the past few years.

And 70% of respondents in 2019 believed meatless meat would continue to grow in popularity.

This year, that optimism stands: 43% of respondents believe — within their lifetime — the majority of people will be eating a plant-based diet.

Bradley added, "I commend all those who are empowering themselves in the midst of this pandemic and have found a way to create new healthy habits."