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J Food Sci. 2018 Jan;83(1):175-187. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13991. Epub 2017 Nov 28.

The Flexitarian Flip : Testing the Modalities of Flavor as Sensory Strategies to Accomplish the Shift from Meat-Centered to Vegetable-Forward Mixed Dishes.

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Dept. of Food Science and Technology, 392 Old Davis Rd., Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.


The American diet is lacking in plant-based foods and vegetables, higher in protein than necessary, and too centered on meat and poultry. Two major dietary shifts recommended by the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines are to increase vegetable intake and to increase the variety of protein food sources. One suggested strategy for doing this is to partially replace meat and poultry with vegetables and plant-based ingredients in mixed dishes. This research tested the potential of flavor modalities (taste, aroma, trigeminal, and their combination) as strategies to increase the sensory appeal of plant-forward dishes. Consumer testing (n = 141) was conducted in a cross-sectional design in a laboratory setting on 24 recipe variations. Three factors were tested: cuisine (Latin American, Mediterranean, and Asian), meat proportion (high-meat/low-vegetable versus low-meat/high-vegetable), and flavor strategy (taste, aroma, trigeminal, and a reduced-intensity trimodal combination). Statistical analysis was performed in R and XLSTAT-Sensory® 2017. Four consumer preference segments were uncovered. The low-meat dishes achieved parity or higher in consumer acceptance across all recipes and flavor strategies. The taste and trigeminal strategies both had higher overall acceptability scores than the aroma strategy, and the differences were significant (P < 0.05) in some consumer preference segments. The consumers successfully characterized the samples using a Check-All-That-Apply task, verifying the flavor strategy design. This research provides insight into consumer preferences regarding flavor strategies to partially replace meat with vegetables in mixed dishes. The trigeminal and trimodal combination strategies were found to be the most promising flavor modalities to use to implement this shift.


There is little knowledge of American consumer preferences regarding vegetables in mixed dishes. Mixed dishes are a strategy recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines to increase vegetable consumption and variety of protein sources. This research explores various flavor and culinary strategies with which to carry out the mixed dish meat-vegetable swap and to test the potential of the Flexitarian Flip (the shift from meat-centric to plant-centric diets). This research shows that individuals have different preferences regarding the type of flavor they prefer in mixed dishes (for example, some consumers prefer salty and some prefer spicy), so if the dietitian can recommend recipes that cater to that client's food and flavor preferences, the client will be more likely to adhere to their diet.


Flexitarian Flip; flavor; meat reduction; sensory; vegetables

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