From health and sustainability perspectives, reduction in the consumption of animal-based foods, especially red meat, is a key strategy. The present study examined the prevalence, sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, food consumption and food choice motives of vegetarians and consumers of low and high amounts of red and processed meat (RPM) among Finnish adults. We applied the data from three national health studies: FINRISK 2007 (n 4874), FINRISK 2012 (n 4812) and FinHealth 2017 (n 4442). Participants addressed their food consumption with a FFQ and answered other questionnaires about sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, as well as food choice motives. The prevalence of vegetarianism increased from 0·7 % in 2012 to 1·8 % in 2017, and median daily RPM consumption decreased from 128 g in 2007 to 119 g in 2012 and to 96 g in 2017. Vegetarians and members of the low-RPM group were more often women, younger and more highly educated than the high-RPM group, both in 2007 and 2017. Still, the importance of sex for the probability of a vegetarian diet decreased, while its importance for high-RPM consumption increased. Vegetarians consumed more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds than either the low- or high-RPM groups. The high-RPM group had the lowest scores in several aspects of healthy and sustainable diet, healthy food choice motives and healthy lifestyle. Vegetarians and groups differing in their RPM consumption levels might benefit from differing interventions and nutrition information taking into account their other dietary habits, food choice motives and lifestyle factors.