The Flexitarian way of eating is the way of the future and a very versatile solution for varying nutritional needs or desires within the household. This trend is also starting to be reflected in top restaurants around the globe as it’s a more “sustainable” way of eating too.
It is easily achievable and doesn’t involve any calorie counting.
I like the fact that It’s more about what you can have rather than a whole lot of don’ts. To my mind, this is a far more positive way of looking at nutrition. Essentially nutrition is giving our bodies everything they need to stay as healthy as possible so it’s pivotal to our health and wellbeing.
Let me introduce you to the Flexitarian Diet and its benefits( health & environmental), foods to eat. It’s also how I’ve structured my initial What’s for Dinner Meal Plans. They are a solution for people who don’t enjoy thinking about what to cook for dinner each night and show you how easy it can be to accommodate various dietary needs within the family dynamic. They utilise my favourite kitchen appliance – the Thermomix and a recipe platform called Cookidoo with access to 70k and growing recipes from around the world.
The Flexitarian Diet has no clear-cut rules or recommended numbers of calories and macronutrients. In fact, it’s more a lifestyle than a diet.
Due to its flexible nature and focus on what to include rather than restrict, the Flexitarian Diet is a popular choice for people looking to eat healthier.
The increasing number of vegans and vegetarians is a huge worldwide change, with more consumers trending towards a “flexitarian diet” for a variety of reasons.
Over recent years there’s been a steady rise of flexitarians and a move from the traditional “meat and three veg” to being more plant-based. The roles are reversed with vegetables being the star of the show and the meat being more of a side (if not eliminated by some) rather than the focal point of every meal.
This has been a positive way to overcome food dislikes, many of which are due to us not enjoying the way our parents happened to cook them, as the “flexitarian” way showcases the vegetables and the huge variety of ways that vegetables can be cooked.
A common misconception is that plant-based means vegan but if opting for a flexitarian diet, plant-based simply means that the base, or foundation, of your diet is plants — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pulses (beans and lentils), nuts and seeds.
For me, the visual is important – the colour on the plate. A dish is not complete with something green on it. Growing up when Mum was making a roast, I’d always ask – “are we having some peas”? There are easy ways to present our food in more interesting when we want to. I use cafe outings as inspiration often too.
I came across the term “Flexitarian” many years ago when some UK friends came to visit. I thought it was a term he’d come up with as he’s a creative writer. They had been very meat focussed in their family but decided to change for environmental and health reasons.
“The Flexitarian Diet was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner to help people reap the benefits of vegetarian eating while still enjoying animal products in moderation.”
That’s why the name of this diet is a combination of the words flexible and vegetarian.
3 simple guidelines
Proteins – mostly from plants.
Add in free-range and organic meat and animal products occasionally.
- whole grains
- processed food
- & sugar
It’s a great way to cope with the reality of many households where there is a variety of nutritional wants and/or needs eg I’m a vegetarian, my husband is not and I have a daughter who is vegan, gluten & dairy-free!!!
We all still manage to live harmoniously under the same roof.
What are the health benefits?
Reducing meat consumption can have a beneficial impact on long term health and wellbeing.
“It appears to be important to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and other minimally processed whole foods in order to reap the health benefits of plant-based eating.” (source:Healthline.com)
Type 2 diabetes is a global health epidemic. Eating a healthy diet, especially a predominantly plant-based one, may help prevent and manage this disease.
This is most likely because plant-based diets assist weight loss and contain many foods that are high in fibre and low in unhealthy fats and added sugar.
Decreasing meat consumption while continuing to eat refined foods with lots of added sugar and salt will obviously not have the same benefits!
Eating more fibre (found in fruit and vegetables) is believed to be beneficial for heart health.
Choosing the healthier fats – yes there are good fats and bad fats just like there’s good carbs and bad carbs etc For example olive oil, coconut oil, ghee are some of the better oils to use.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes all have nutrients and antioxidants that may help.
Research suggests that vegetarian diets are associated with a lower overall incidence of all cancers but especially colorectal cancers
Some interesting facts:
The environmental impact
Along with the health benefits, experts say the flexitarian diet may help slow the rising global temperatures.
Globally, meat production and consumption significantly contribute to major environmental concerns such as climate change, air quality, loss of biodiversity, and water pollution.
A review of the research on the sustainability of plant-based diets found that switching from the average Western diet to flexitarian eating, where meat is partially replaced by plant foods, could decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 7%.
Eating more plant foods will also drive the demand for more land to be devoted to growing fruits and vegetables for humans instead of feed for livestock.
Cultivating plants requires far fewer resources than raising animals to eat. In fact, growing plant protein uses 11 times less energy than producing animal protein.
Flexitarian eating may also be good for your waistline.
This is partially because flexitarians limit high-calorie, processed foods and eat more plant foods that are naturally lower in calories.
Several studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those who do not.
Some interesting facts:
A review of studies in more than 1,100 people total found that those who ate a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost 2kg (4.5 pounds) more than those who did not.
This and other studies also show that those who follow vegan diets tend to lose the most weight, compared to vegetarians and omnivores
How do I get started in reducing meat consumption?
Some people start by doing meat-free Monday, others only eat meat on the weekends or if they go out to friends and are served meat.
Simply reducing the amount of meat you have in each meal and filling the gaps with vegetables including some vegetable proteins is also a good start.
These days there are so many options – an amazing variety of salads, stir-fries, soups and curries.
The Flexitarian Diet is a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation.
It’s all about flexibility.
It’s more flexible than fully vegetarian or vegan diets, so it’s a great option for meat-eaters who’d like to explore more interesting ways to add more plant foods to their diet.
If nothing else, it introduces meat focussed families to a more varied & interesting way of adding vegetables and salads to their meals. So a win-win for everyone. It is also an easy way to accommodate varying dietary choices within a household unit.