What is The Flexitarian Diet?
Dawn Jackson Blatner is the originator of this diet. It works differently from what we know of our usual diets. Instead of looking at what we need to remove from our diet, this gives us the ability to search for foods we can healthily add to it. This inclusive nature of the Flexitarian Diet has contributed to its popularity and one of the reasons many people have started consuming less meat.
Environmental Impact of Consuming Animal Products
Research indicates that avoiding meat and dairy products can make a significant change to an individual’s environmental impact. Farming does a lot of damage to the earth. With over 26 percent of the ice-free land area of the planet being used for livestock grazing and 33 percent of croplands for livestock feed production, it is easy to see how meat farming has a greater impact. Deforestation for agriculture is one of the major reasons for many species facing extinction.
A study conducted in 2018 at Oxford university found that meat and dairy accounts for 37 percent protein consumed, but are responsible for 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, livestock accounts for 86 percent of all land animals. This means the tiniest impact on meat could cause the highest level of harm to our environment.
A diet that contains less meat and dairy products can help the planet greatly. It will help with reducing food-related greenhouse gas emissions and also deal with eutrophication, use of land and water and global acidification.
This does not mean that the entire global population needs to turn vegan. Consuming meat infrequently and in moderation can help a lot. Besides this, if the majority of the population starts consuming more fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods, more farming areas will need to be devoted to this instead of livestock. Cultivating does not require nearly as many resources as rearing animals does.
Benefits of a Flexitarian Diet
There are several possible health benefits of maintaining a Flexitarian Diet. Some studies show that those who follow a meatless diet have an improved immune system. However, it should also be kept in mind that consuming a lot of refined foods can have negative health effects overall. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of following a Flexitarian Diet.
A Flexitarian Diet is a good way to monitor your caloric intake. The diet tends to contain more plant-based foods, which are naturally low in calories. This means that you can eat more volume — and feel fuller — while maintaining a lower calorie load, which can help in reducing your weight. It is believed that people who follow a plant-based diet tend to lose more weight than those who do not follow such a diet. And since the Flexitarian Diet is closer to a vegetarian diet and minimizes processed foods, it should be helpful in losing weight.
Those who follow a Flexitarian Diet generally tend to live a bit longer than those who are meat-eaters. This could be due to the fact that eating less processed foods and sugar decreases the chances of many diseases and disorders.
What to Eat on a Flexitarian Diet
As a flexitarian, you will have to consume a lot more plant-based foods and meals which are minimally processed. Let’s have a look at what types of food a flexitarian can consume.
Fruits and Vegetables
Legumes and Grains
Limited red-meats and animal products (eggs and dairy)
If you are heavily reliant on meat in your diet, the first few months might be tough while you change diets, but it is not impossible. There are many types of food that you will be able to enjoy. One thing to keep in mind is that you are not completely stopping the consumption of meat — you are just limiting it.
For a source of proteins, look to tofu, soybeans, lentils and legumes. All of these are full of proteins and will help you substitute the proteins which you gain from meat-based foods.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables such as bell peppers, brussels sprouts, green beans, cauliflower and carrots can help when you want to have less starchy food. On the other hand, you will be able to find starch in vegetables, such as corn, sweet potato, peas and winter squash. Most fruits are good on the flexitarian diet, but specifically apples, berries, oranges, grapes and cherries.
In terms of fat, it is advisable to consume healthy fats such as almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, cashews, avocados, olives, coconut, pistachios and peanut butter. Unsweetened hemp, oat and rice milk are options for plant-based dairy products.
Since the Flexitarian Diet also allows consumption of meat, it is advisable to consume products that are free-range or wild-caught. For example, when you want to have fish, choose wild-caught fish that are fresh and have not been processed. Opt for meat that has been grass-fed and eggs which are free-range. Meat substitutes are also a good idea.
What to Avoid on a Flexitarian Diet
Besides limiting the consumption of meat, this diet also restricts processed foods and foods containing a high amount of sugar. Processed meats like sausage, bologna and bacon should be avoided as well. Red meats are discouraged.
Sugar and fast-foods
Foods containing a lot of sugar, such as cakes, soda, candy and cookies should be avoided as well. The food from fast-food restaurants is highly processed and should not be consumed under the Flexitarian Diet. This includes burgers, milkshakes and fries.
Besides processed foods and sugar, there is one more thing to be careful about — foods containing refined carbs. This includes white rice, bagels and white bread.
Supplements to Support a Flexitarian Diet
Although there are millions out there practicing vegetarian, vegan and Flexitarian Diets and living a healthy lifestyle, nutrient deficiency is a possible concern for those who are used to consuming meat and dairy products. Cutting back on meat could lead to health issues for some people. For this reason, supplements can be helpful.
Omega-3 fatty acids
No official recommended daily dose exists, so you can take guidance from your doctor or follow instructions on the label.
The Bottom Line
The Flexitarian Diet places an emphasis on consumption of plant-based foods and intake of plant proteins instead of meat and dairy products. Besides limiting the consumption of meat, the diet also discourages processed foods, carbs and sugar. Those following this diet are free to continue eating meat and other animal and dairy products but in moderation.
The Flexitarian Diet has a lot of benefits — both health and environmental. Health-wise, it helps regulate your blood sugar levels, ensures your heart is healthy, helps reduce the risk of cancer and aids with weight loss. Environmentally, it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and so much more. To ensure you reap the best benefits, plan your Flexitarian Diet properly and in a manner that ensures you receive all the nutrients your body needs. When diet is not able to provide enough of any one nutrient, supplementation is possible — commonly vitamin B12, zinc, iron, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids are needed by those on restrictive diets.