Have you ever thought about making a lifestyle change that could positively impact the planet too? I may have the very thing for you: Enter the Flexitarian Diet! This could be the lifestyle change that you need this year to not only lose weight but improve your overall health.Follow This Extra Life with Bloglovin
- Have you heard about the Plant Based Diet taking the world by storm?
- What is the Flexitarian Diet?
- Benefits of a Flexitarian Diet on your health
- Downsides of eating fewer animal products
- How to Adopt a Flexitarian Diet
- Flexitarian FAQ
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Have you heard about the Plant Based Diet taking the world by storm?
A Plant based diet is all the rage in 2021 and it’s no surprise as to why. The plant based diet touts numerous benefits from a health and a financial point of view and moreover, it can help you to lose weight too.
What is the Flexitarian Diet?
The flexitarian diet is an increasingly popular plant based diet that allows for occasional meat-eating. While it’s not fully vegetarian or indeed vegan, the Flexitarian diet encourages focusing on a plant based diet for the majority of meals.
Some critics suggest that the flexitarian diet is just “vegetarians with benefits” and technically, they’d be right.
Created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, as mentioned, the flexitarian diet is not as strict as a vegetarian or vegan diet. But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The predominantly plant based diet can help to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health with a diet full of vitamins and nutrients but also incorporating meat eating from time to time.
Who is a Flexitarian Diet for?
If you don’t want to fully commit to a rigid diet like full vegetarianism or veganism then the flexitarian diet could well be for you.
Although the flexitarian diet does encourage a predominantly plant based diet, it’s entirely up to you how often you choose to eat meat. In fact, some flexitarians eat meat up to three to four times per week. Where others may only eat meat once or twice per month. Rather than excluding food from your diet, the Flexitarian approach is more about adding new foods to encourage variety in your diet.
The great thing about the flexitarian diet is that it’s fully flexible and how you approach it is completely down to personal preference. It’s flexibility will adapt to your lifestyle or indeed any health conditions.
While I’ve talked a bit about those adapting to the flexitarian diet from a predominantly standard western meat eating diet, The flexitarian diet can also be helpful to those following a strict plant based diet or vegan diet who would like to start reintroducing certain animal products to their diet.
Why follow a Flexitarian Diet?
So why should you follow a flexitarian diet? Well, there are many motivations and they are quite diverse, ranging from taking better care of your health and body to concerns about the environment.
Looking at overall health it may come as a shock to learn that red meat, in particular, is quite high in fat. Reducing your intake of red meat can lead to weight loss (as part of a calorie-controlled diet of course). Doing so can even lower your risk of suffering from a number of diseases. Additives in various types of meat, such as salt and other chemicals, are linked to certain types of cancer.
Another reason for adopting a Flexitarian diet includes animal welfare and environmental concerns.
Since 2000, large-scale factory farms have taken over from many small and medium-sized farms meaning that a large number of animals are raised in confined spaces which can create a stressful environment for the animals. By eating animal products from factory farms you could be at risk of contracting E. coli and Salmonella, along with suffering the consequences of unchecked use of antibiotics used of animals.
Furthermore, many people have adopted a plant based diet to avoid eating meat in the wake of the horsemeat scandal in 2013. The horsemeat scandal hit many parts of the food industry in Europe in 2013 when it was discovered that meats labeled as beef were found to contain undeclared or improperly declared horse meat. In fact, in some cases, this was up to 100% of the meat content. While not posing a health issue, there was a risk that harmful ingredients could have entered the food supply chain such as the veterinary drug phenylbutazone which is banned in food animals.
From an environmental viewpoint, hazardous air pollutants, gases, and even dust are released into the air by the decomposition of millions of gallons of manure. These contaminants are also dangerous to humans. When the manure decomposes it releases hydrogen sulphide, methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide. Furthermore, if large vats of manure disturbed lethal amounts of hydrogen sulphide can be released which can suffocate people instantly.
Switching to a predominantly plant based diet could see the reduction of factory farmed animals along with the hazardous waste produced as a result.
Benefits of a Flexitarian Diet on your health
Switching to a plant based diet could reduce your likelihood of suffering from heart disease. Diets rich in fiber and healthy fats are good for a healthy heart.
A study conducted over 11 years on 45,000 adults living in Great Britain found that vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of heart disease compared to non-vegetarians.
The study compared plant based diet and omnivore diets so it is difficult to ascertain the effects of a flexitarian diet. However, as the flexitarian diet is primarily plant-based, it’s likely to show similar results.
Heart healthy fats include:
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
“Bad” fats include:
- Trans fat
- Saturated fat
A study conducted on the correlation between a vegetarian diet and weight loss discovered that a vegetarian diet had significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarians.
Plant foods are naturally lower in calories but are rich in fiber and typically leave you feeling fuller for longer. Replacing high-calorie processed foods with plant foods will lower your calorie intake and improve any nutritional deficiency.
Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition where either your pancreas cannot make enough insulin, or the insulin doesn’t work properly.
Plant-based diets aid weight loss and contain many foods that are high in fibre and low in unhealthy fats and added sugar. Eating predominantly plant-based foods is likely to prevent Diabetes, manage it or even send it into remission.
A flexitarian diet in conjunction with a consistent exercise regime can reduce risks of breast and prostate cancer.
A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber can reduce the risk of several types of cancers. For example, wholegrain foods are likely to decrease your chance of colorectal cancer.
So one thing I haven’t mentioned much here is the opportunity to save money. Let’s face it, meat is expensive. A typical sirloin steak from the supermarket will set you back at least £5 per steak. One kilogram of chicken is likely to come in around £6 too. Whereas a week’s worth of healthy vegetables will only cost around £30, depending on where you shop.
In these uncertain times when many people are out of work or on a reduced salary, saving every penny counts and now could be the time to switch to a more flexitarian or plant based diet to save those pennies.
Downsides of eating fewer animal products
Depending on the adequacy of food choices, some people may be at risk of nutrient deficiency when cutting back on meat and animal products.
Possible nutrient deficiencies to be aware of include:
- Vitamin B12
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. Depending on the number of animal products consumed by a flexitarian, a vitamin B12 supplement may be required.
Most nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes contain both iron and zinc. A great way to improve your iron absorption from plant foods is to include a source of vitamin C.
Depending on your preferences, you may wish to limit your intake of dairy products. However, you will need to ensure your diet includes adequate amounts of calcium to promote healthy bones and strong muscles.
Some examples of plant-based foods that are rich in calcium include bok choy, broccoli, kale, and sesame seeds.
Flexitarians who choose to avoid fatty fish should ensure they get enough Omega 3 fatty acids. Plant-based sources of Omega 3 include walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
How to Adopt a Flexitarian Diet
Although typically known as the Flexitarian diet, you may come to the conclusion that flexitarianism is more of a lifestyle choice.
There are no strict rules, calorie control or macro counting (although it doesn’t hurt to have an idea about what your daily macro intake is). However, there are a few guidelines, or general ideas to follow:
- Stick to mostly fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains
- Get your protein source from plants instead of animals
- Remain flexible and eat meat and animal products from time to time
- Opt for the most natural form of foods and avoid processed foods
- Limit artificial sweeteners and added sugars
- Limit sweets
Foods you should eat
Here are a few ideas If you’re unsure of where to find the key nutrients in a plant-based diet:
- Five portions of fruit and vegetables per day
- Apples, oranges, berries, grapes and cherries
- Whole grains – brown rice, barley, whole wheat and quinoa
- Protein sources – lentils, beans, peas, nuts and seeds
- Soluble fibre – lentils and beans, which can reduce high cholesterol
- Polyunsaturated fats
- almonds, pine nuts, flaxseed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts
- Peanut butter, avocado, olives and coconut oil
- Iron sources – spinach, cabbage, kale and broccoli
- Vitamin C – a small glass of fruit juice, sweet peppers, or tomatoes is recommended to increase iron absorption
- Non-starchy vegetables – bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, carrots and cauliflower
- Starchy vegetables – Squash, corn and sweet potato
- Milk alternatives – almond, coconut or soy milk
When including animal products in your meals, aim for the following:
- Free-range eggs
- Lean poultry – organic, free-range or pasture-raised
- Wild-caught fish
- Lean meat – grass-fed or pasture-raised
- Dairy – organic from grass-fed or pastured animals
Foods you should avoid
When following the Flexitarian diet, aim to avoid these foods as much as possible:
- Processed meat
- Refined carbohydrates
- Added sugars, sugary drinks and sweets
- Fast foods
The Flexitarian diet promotes a focus on more plant-based foods while reducing your intake of animal products and unhealthy processed foods.
The view of the Flexitarian approach is to enhance your diet, rather than restrict it, by allowing for occasional meat-eating to suit your health and lifestyle.
Eating a Flexitarian diet can help you lose weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. However, careful planning of your meal choices is important to avoid nutritional deficiency.
The Flexitarian diet may be for you if you want to improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint without committing to a rigid vegetarian or vegan diet.
If you’re looking to up your health game this year then give some thought to why you should be doing HIIT workouts this year!
What are your thoughts on the Flexitarian diet? Do you think this would be something you would adopt in 2020? Drop us a comment and let us know!
How often do Flexitarians eat meat?
The Flexitarian diet is an increasingly popular plant-based diet that allows for occasional meat-eating. There is no standard agreement on how little or often a Flexitarian eats meat. This can be as little as once a month or as often as once a day. This is entirely up to the individual.
Do Flexitarian’s eat dairy?
Typically, Flexitarian’s follow a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet but on a more relaxed basis. While they do allow for minimal amounts of animal products in their diet such as meat, diary and eggs, this is often in reduced amounts.
Will I lose weight if I cut out meat?
Typically vegetarians weigh less than meat eaters, however what you eat and how much still counts. Becoming a vegetarian or Flexitarian will not guarantee weight loss, but it can improve your overall health.
What are the health benefits of a Flexitarian diet?
Adopting a Flexitarian diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer while aiding your ability to lose weight.