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What is a flexitarian diet?

By Angela Myers 3 years agoNo Comments
Home  /  Culinary medicine  /  What is a flexitarian diet?

Here’s something that might surprise you: not all plant-based diets require elimination of meat. Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to never eat a single animal product again. The flexitarian diet, a plant-based diet increasing in popularity, allows you to reap the benefits of more plants in your belly while allowing for flexibility in what you eat. But what is a flexitarian diet?

From “meaty” to minimal to meat-free, there are a variety of plant-based diets to choose from. Your plant-based diet will play a part in reducing society’s reliance on fossil fuels, minimizing degradation of environmental resources, and supporting the vitality of Mother Earth and all her creatures.

Flexitarians in particular eat some poultry and seafood, but incorporate plant-based food into their diet whenever possible. If you want to transition to a plant-based diet, becoming a flexitarian is a great place to start.

What is a Flexitarian diet?

A plant-based diet is a nutritional approach that places the focus of each meal on filling your plate with plant foods and whole foods: foods that are not processed and laden with sugars, preservatives, artificial ingredients, or other chemicals and additives. The greater the volume of plant-based and whole foods in your diet, the greater your likelihood for good health.

While flexitarians do eat some meat, they emphasize eating whole, natural foods whenever possible. Diets such as the Mediterranean diet are great for flexitarians. Flexitarianism is also about the values behind a plant-based diet: eating less processed foods, shopping organic and local, and committing to a diet that’s good for you and the Earth.

A plant-based diet doesn’t have to eliminate meat. That choice is one that vegans and vegetarians often make based on personal, health, and environmental considerations. Should you choose a plant-based diet, you may still eat small amounts of meat, as well as poultry, fish, seafood, and dairy (aka flexitarian).

The Difference Between No Meat and Less-Meat Diets

Vegan and vegetarian diets, the two most well-known, eliminate meat, fish, and poultry to differing degrees. Vegan diets also eliminate eggs, dairy products, and any other products that are derived from animals.

However, there are Vegetarian diet subtypes, like flexitarian, that allow for consuming different animal products:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: consume dairy and egg
  • Lacto-vegetarian: consume dairy, no egg
  • Ovo-vegetarian: consume egg, no dairy
  • Pescatarian: consume egg, dairy, fish, seafood
  • Flexitarian: consume egg, dairy, fish, and limited poultry

Examples of foods that make-up a plant-based menu

  • Vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, collards, peppers, peas.
  • Tubers (root vegetables): potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets.
  • Fruits: every color and flavor enjoyed in their natural season of the year.
  • Legumes & Beans: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, edamame, pinto beans, etc.
  • Nuts & Seeds: nutrient-dense essentials for any diet: almonds, cashews, flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Whole grains and healthy starches: in their whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, oats, barley, and even popcorn.

How to Begin Eating Flexitarian

So how do you begin eating a flexitarian diet? Here are a couple tips to make your transition easier:

  • Start by eating less meat at each meal, before trying to eliminate meat completely.
  • Choose tempeh, tofu, or a similar based protein as a substitute for meat.
  • When plating your food, start with fresh greens and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
  • Add a whole grain and protein to your meal, along with healthy fat (e.g., avocado, nuts)
  • You may want to plan meals ahead of time so that you can carefully balance nutrients at each meal (that is, making sure you get sufficient protein, carbs, healthy fats and a variety of nutrients throughout the day).

It can also be a good idea to start integrating in some meatless meals that are healthy for you. Transitioning slowly to a plant based diet makes it more sustainable–and more likely you’ll stick to it!

Some of my favorite meatless meals to integrate into your diet are:

How to Get Enough Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet?

When you opt for more plant-based eating, be adventurous in trying new foods and different combinations of foods to help ensure that you consume the nutrients essential for optimal health, including:

  • B vitamins, particularly B12 and B6
  • Calcium, zinc, selenium, and iron
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Protein and fat in an amount suitable for your age and activity level

To help you establish a plant-based diet that meets your specific needs, talk to your holistic practitioner to assess your nutrient status. This may involve running blood tests or other assessments to check for nutrient deficiencies in your diet.

From flexitarian to raw vegan, you can be confident that your plant-based diet will help enhance fitness performance, reduce your risk for acute illness, and protect against chronic diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

Check out some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the flexitarian diet.

Are Packaged Meat-free Meals a Good Choice?

Packaged meatless meals are available and may be a good option, in moderation. Grocery store shelves are filled with these processed plant-based “fortified with” foods. But buyer beware: many of these products (including the meatless burgers that are on restaurant menus) are highly processed. Look for foods that have a short list of ingredients, most of them being plant-derived, and are free of chemical additives, hydrogenated oils, and emulsifiers.

How often do flexitarians eat meat?

Most flexitarians try to limit how much meat they eat, though the exact amount is a personal choice. If you’re struggling with eliminating meat, start with a few meatless meals a day. Most flexitarians ideally try to eat about three servings of meat a week.

Is flexitarian better than vegan?

Flexitarian is not better than veganism or vice versa. Both are personal decisions which can have a good impact on your health, mental wellbeing, and the environment. However, if you are looking for the best diet to mitigate climate change, the vegan diet is more effective.

  Culinary medicine, Healthy Bites

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