This study provides insight into differences and similarities in the mindset and motivation of four dietary groups (young self-declared vegetarians, low, medium and high meat-eaters) to support the development of strategies for a general transition to a less meat-based diet. The paper highlights the value of the identity concept for our understanding of both vegetarians and meat eaters. The analysis involves a comparison of the four dietary groups focusing on the strength and the profile of their food-related motivation and their reasons for and against frequent meat eating. To check for the generalizability of the results, the analyses were performed in two samples of adults (aged 18-35) in the Netherlands (native Dutch, n = 357, and second generation Chinese Dutch, n = 350). In both samples, the vegetarians had the same level of food-related motivation as the other groups, but a different motivational profile and distinctive, taste- and animal-welfare related reasons to justify their abstinence from eating meat. The low and medium meat-eaters often considered health a reason to eat meat as well as to moderate meat eating, plus they liked to vary their meals. In these aspects they were different from both the vegetarians and the high meat-eaters. The findings are relevant for (non) governmental organizations that aim to influence dietary choices, as well as for businesses that operate in the market of meat substitutes.