The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has found that men eat an incredible 57 percent more meat than women. This gender gap can be explained in part by the host of unique barriers men experience when they try shifting their diets toward more plant-based foods.
Perhaps not surprisingly, consumer studies show that men are less likely to view plant-based diets as nutritious or tasty. They also don’t tend to believe that plant-based foods provide enough energy. (This might be part of the reason behind the fact that Americans eat around twice the recommended daily allowance of protein every day, despite the fact that the body is unable to store it.) Men are also more likely than women to believe that humans are designed to eat a lot of meat and that meals without meat are not “real meals.”
If men’s perceptions of plant-based foods are one barrier, another is their ideas around how they want to be perceived by others. Researchers have found that what we eat is wrapped up with the subtle cues we give to the world about ourselves. On a sub-conscious level, we make food choices, at least in part, based on how those decisions will affect our public image. For example, people who eat healthy foods are seen as responsible, but those who eat pastries and pies are interpreted as fun and easy-going. And if you want to be seen as a “real” man? The research shows that you should eat red meat, and lots of it.