Make a change to your diet this year and simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint. That’s one of the many benefits of The Flexitarian Diet; A semi-vegetarian, semi vegan and semi omnivore diet that allows for complete flexibility towards your nutrition. Find out more about The Flexitarian Diet in this comprehensive guide.
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The Flexitarian Diet has grown in popularity over the last few years and is currently all the rage in 2021. This predominantly plant-based diet promotes numerous benefits to your health, your nutrition, the environment and to your pocket too.
Not to mention that The Flexitarian Diet can help you lose weight, improve your metabolism and increase your calorie burn by up to 19%.
Find out everything you need to know about The Flexitarian Diet below.
What Is A Flexitarian Diet?
A Flexitarian Diet is a mostly plant-based diet that also allows for meat-eating on the occasion.
Think of it as more of a semi-vegetarian, semi vegan, semi omnivore diet that encourages a plant-based approach to the majority of your meals.
There are no strict rules to follow and it gives the follower a more flexible approach to nutrition to fit with your lifestyle.
Some critics of The Flexitarian Diet have suggested it’s more like “vegetarians with benefits”, which technically they would be right, but there’s a little more to The Flexitarian Diet than that.
Who Created The Flexitarian Diet?
The Flexitarian Diet was created by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner who specialises in Sports Dietetics.
Having been a vegetarian for over ten years, she wanted to find a way to incorporate meat into her diet occasionally without feeling guilty.
Thus she created The Flexitarian Diet as a means to reap the benefits of Vegetarianism and veganism without strict rules to follow.
Who Is It For?
This diet is for anyone who wants to change their diet without fully committing to a rigid regime with strict rules such as vegetarianism or veganism.
Is There Anyone Who Shouldn’t Follow A Flexitarian Diet?
Although it is adaptable and can fit into almost anyone’s lifestyle, there may be people who should reconsider this diet.
It may be a difficult change for those who solely eat meat. Whilst they can still make small changes each week to enhance their overall diet, it is worth spending some time to consider exactly how they approach this diet.
My recommendation would be to focus on including more vegetables in meals and slightly reducing the number of animal products rather than making drastic changes.
Diabetics need to watch their total intake of carbohydrates. Vegetarian meals will sometimes have a higher proportion of carbohydrates which could spike their blood sugar levels. Therefore, diabetics should pay careful attention to the foods they eat on this diet and may even benefit from Macro tracking.
As a precaution, diabetics should consult their health care provider before switching to The Flexitarian Diet.
How Often Can You Eat Meat?
Although the flexitarian diet encourages a predominantly plant-based diet, it’s entirely up to you how often you choose to eat meat.
To ensure you are getting a balance of meatless meals, it might be worth spending some time to plan your meals for the week ahead.
There are three levels to The Flexitarian Diet; beginner, advanced and expert which are dependent on how much meat you eat as part of your diet.
Levels Of The Flexitarian Diet
The beginner level would be more suited to those who consume a lot of animal products on a weekly basis. Level 1 recommends two meat-free days per week.
The advanced level would be suited to someone who already has a varied diet but would like to balance their intake of animal products. Level 2 recommends three to four meat-free days per week.
The expert level would be suited to someone who has been following the flexitarian diet for some time and would like to reduce their consumption of animal products. It would also suit someone who is looking to reintroduce animal products into their diet on an occasional basis. Level 3 recommends five meat-free days per week.
Can You Use The Flexitarian Diet To Reintroduce Meat?
The Flexitarian Diet can also be beneficial to those who currently follow a strict plant-based diet or vegan diet and want to reintroduce meat or animal products back into their menu.
This can easily be achieved by following the expert level of Flexitarianism and reintroducing meat or animal products once or twice a week.
Does It Allow For Dietary Restrictions?
As the idea behind The Flexitarian Diet is to reduce your intake of animal products, this can be a good diet for those with certain intolerances and food allergies.
Those intolerant to lactose, gluten and sulfites may consider The Flexitarian Diet as a means to avoid unwanted symptoms.
How Often Can You Exercise?
If you love exercise and you’re worried that adopting The Flexitarian Diet might hinder your performance in the gym then fear not. Many athletes have been touting the benefits of a plant-based diet for some time now.
You’ll be able to continue working out according to your current schedule and you may even see an improvement in your results and overall performance.
You just need to pay attention to your energy levels and protein intake, especially if you’re trying to gain muscle.
What Are The Positives Of The Flexitarian Diet?
There are a number of benefits of The Flexitarian Diet such as its flexibility, it is a cost-effective way to lead a healthy lifestyle, the abundance of menu choices, and environmental benefits.
Its flexibility makes this diet easy to follow for a wide range of people. There are no strict rules to stick to unlike full vegetarian or vegan diets and it can easily be incorporated into your lifestyle.
It Saves You Money
The Flexitarian Diet can help to save you money.
Meat is particularly expensive when compared to fruits and vegetables.
A typical sirloin steak will set you back at least £5 per steak. One kilogram of chicken or lean minced beef 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 saving every penny counts and now could be the time to switch to a plant-based diet to save some money.
The Flexitarian Diet is more about including foods into your diet rather than excluding them, making the choice of delicious, healthy recipes almost infinite.
You can thoroughly enjoy a range of smoothies, porridge, oatmeal, one-pan meals, chilli, salads, vegetable traybakes and so much more.
There are no foods that are completely off-limits, however, there are certain foods that you should consider reducing. Keep reading to find out what you should eat less of.
By following The Flexitarian Diet, it may help you to reduce your carbon footprint and remove your likelihood of contracting certain diseases.
Animal Welfare And Diseases
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.
Reducing your intake of animal products may not reduce the amount of large scale factory farms in existence at the moment. However, you will be less likely to contract diseases such as E. Coli and Salmonella, or indeed suffer the consequences of the unchecked use of antibiotics used on animals.
Hazardous air pollutants, gases, and dust are released into the air by the decomposition of millions of gallons of manure, which are dangerous to humans.
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 hazardous waste products affecting the atmosphere which would be kinder to the environment.
What Are The Negatives Of The Flexitarian Diet?
There are some drawbacks of The Flexitarian Diet that you should consider before embarking on this new way of life.
The emphasis of The Flexitarian Diet is on healthy home-cooked meals.
If you are someone who can’t cook, doesn’t enjoy cooking or lives on takeaway food then The Flexitarian Diet may prove to be a little challenging for you at first.
Being aware of the challenges and making small, gradual changes over time may be the best way to adopt The Flexitarian Diet.
Difficult If You Don’t Like Fruit Or Vegetables
It could be equally as difficult to adopt The Flexitarian diet if you don’t like many fruits and vegetables.
What Are The Health Benefits?
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 and lower your risk of suffering from a number of diseases.
Additives in various types of meat, such as salt and other chemicals, are also linked to certain types of cancer.
Switching to a plant-based diet could reduce your likelihood of suffering from heart disease. Diets rich in fibre 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
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.
However, as I mentioned above, careful attention should be paid to the intake of carbohydrates to avoid spiking insulin levels.
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 fibre can reduce the risk of several other types of cancers.
For example, wholegrain foods are likely to decrease your chance of colorectal cancer.
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.
Flexitarians in particular, typically weigh 15% less than standard omnivores.
Plant foods are naturally lower in calories than meats, but are rich in fibre and typically leave you feeling fuller for longer.
Replacing high-calorie processed foods with plant foods can lower your calorie intake and improve nutritional deficiencies.
A recent study found that switching to a plant based diet consisting of fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains and pulses could increase your metabolism and enable you to burn up to 19% more calories after a meal.
Eating a lot of high fibrous plant based foods is linked to improving your digestive health. However, the types of fibre you consume is important and you need to incorporate a variety of soluble, insoluble and resistant fibres into your diet.
What Are The Health Risks?
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.
What Should You Eat On The 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, and no need to count calories or macros (unless you want to). However, there are a few guidelines, or general ideas to follow when it comes to what you should eat:
- 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 To Eat More Of
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, cashew, oat, 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 To Eat Less Of
When following the Flexitarian diet, aim to avoid these foods as much as possible:
- Processed meat
- Refined carbohydrates:
- White bread
- White tortilla wraps
- White rice
- Waffles & pastries
- Added sugars, sugary drinks and sweets
- Fast foods
Importance Of Portion Control
As with any diet, there can be too much of a good thing. Regardless of whether you’re eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables, you will still need to employ some portion control to ensure you are not overeating.
The Flexitarian Diet promotes a plant-based approach to your overall diet while reducing your intake of animal products and 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, increase your metabolism, and reduce your risk of a number of diseases. 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.
What are your thoughts on the Flexitarian diet? Drop me a comment below.
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.
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.