Whether we like it or not, more and more evidence is coming out that supports that eating too much meat may not only be bad for our health, but can be detrimental for the environment. Although some people choose to go totally vegan, or full vegetarian, not everyone wants or needs to go this route. Ultimately, the role that meat plays in your diet is an individual decision, but as people start learning more about the big picture when it comes to meat production and consumption, many folks are choosing to go meatless for one or more days per week.
When talking about reduced meat diets, one word that comes up is flexitarian. The flexitarian diet is probably more common than you think, even if there are people who aren’t familiar with the term. So what exactly is the flexitarian diet, and is it good for your health?
What is the Flexitarian Diet?
“Flexitarian” was a phrase coined by a dietician named Dawn Jackson Blatner, and is a combination of the term “flexible” and “vegetarian”. It is exactly as it sounds- a flexible vegetarian diet. Where a vegetarian diet is one that leans on not eating meat at all, the flexitarian diet is one where you can still eat meat in moderation. In fact, you can be a flexitarian regardless of how much or how little meat you eat- it is not a philosophy that is based on rules. It’s simply a lifestyle that focuses on eating more plant based foods, more whole foods that are minimally processed, and keeping an open flexible approach when it comes to consuming meat.
For this reason, the flexitarian diet is a really good option for people who are looking to reduce their meat consumption and increase their intake of fresh whole foods, as it is a very low pressure approach to food. If you do eat meat, it isn’t as if you have “failed”. The flexibility of the diet means that it is a great way to start to overhaul the way you eat without setting yourself up for too big of a change.
Although it was created by a dietician and given the title of “diet”, it is more of a food philosophy or lifestyle approach than a typical restrictive diet that has rules and guidelines. This is why it is a popular choice for people looking to change the way they eat for either health or ethical reasons.
Is The Flexitarian Diet Good For You?
As a semi-vegetarian diet that focuses on increasing your intake of fresh whole plant-based foods, flexitarianism can come with the many health benefits of moderating your meat intake. People can also reap the rewards of eating more fruits and veggies while on this diet.
Because this isn’t a plan that has a concrete set of guidelines from person to person, results may vary when it comes to health. There are many variables that can influence the types of health benefits someone may or may not have while following a flexitarian diet.
Another plus side of following a flexitarian diet is that it may help reduce your carbon footprint. Many of the detrimental effects of meat consumption come from the large scale production of livestock. If people are eating less meat they may be helping to mitigate these effects by consuming less.
As with traditional vegetarian diets, it is important to make sure you are getting enough protein (flexitarians usually seek plant based sources for this), and enough of the nutrients your body needs such as Vitamin B-12.
Ultimately, whether a flexitarian diet will be healthy for you depends on a few variables.
That being said, it is a good lifestyle change to try out if you are looking to increase your consumption of plant based foods, while lowering your intake of meat products.