The aim was to investigate socio-demographic characteristics, and attitudes to food and health of vegetarians, non-vegetarian consumers of meat substitutes, and meat consumers in the Netherlands. The sample used for this study (participants ≥18 years) was taken from the Dutch National Food Consumption Survey, 1997/1998. Vegetarians (n=63) and consumers of meat substitutes (n=39) had similar socio-demographic profiles: higher education levels, higher social economic status, smaller households, and more urbanised residential areas, compared to meat consumers (n=4313). Attitudes to food were assessed by the food-related lifestyle instrument. We found that vegetarians (n=32) had more positive attitudes towards importance of product information, speciality shops, health, novelty, ecological products, social event, and social relationships than meat consumers (n=1638). The health consciousness scale, which was used to assess attitudes to health, supported earlier findings that vegetarians are more occupied by health. Food-related lifestyle and health attitudes of meat substitute consumers (n=17) were predominantly in-between those from vegetarians and meat consumers. The outcome of this study suggests that in strategies to promote meat substitutes for non-vegetarian consumers, the focus should not only be on health and ecological aspects of foods. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.