How to Become a Flexitarian
If you’ve been making lifestyle changes and are on the lookout for a sustainable diet that’s ideal for the long term, consider becoming a flexitarian. Also known as semi-vegetarianism, the term flexitarian refers to a plant-based diet that doesn't entirely eliminate animal products.
In 2019, The U.S. News & World Report’s review for Best Diets favoured flexitarianism – it ranked highly in many categories including placing second for both Best Diets Overall and Easiest Diets to Follow, and coming in third for Best Diets for Healthy Eating. It appeals to those who don’t want to give up the occasional juicy burger or simply don’t believe that meat should be completely omitted from their eating plan. If this sounds like a diet you can tuck into, here’s all you need to know to get started with it.
1. Add more to your plate and life
Flexitarianism doesn’t take any tasty goodness away; it keeps in all food groups and puts an emphasis on variety. This way, flexitarians can work towards healthier living while losing weight, boosting energy levels, reducing the risk of major diseases such as diabetes and cancer – without hitting the wallet any harder. They don’t struggle as much with guilty eating or looking forward to a cheat day because there isn’t a true sense of having to abstain from any food.
This diet is a great option too for former vegans and vegetarians who may have experienced some deficiencies as a result of their dietary restrictions. From a sustainability perspective, flexitarians can contribute to the environment because a reduced demand to raise livestock for food translates to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions as well as land and water use.
2. No set guidelines to implement
Becoming a flexitarian has more to do with shifting your mindset about how you eat as opposed to sticking to a strict meal plan. There isn’t a consensus on the recommended intake of daily calories and macronutrients or for that matter, how much red meat, poultry or seafood you can consume. Instead, the approach here is pretty straightforward:
- eat mostly fruit, veggies, whole grains and natural foods
- incorporate more plant-based protein sources like beans and legumes, or eggs
- now and then, add in moderate servings of meat
- limit foods that are processed and use added sugars
If you’d prefer to start out with a plan, find one from a certified dietician or follow creator Dawn Jackson Blatner’s introduction to it in her book, The Flexitarian Diet.
3. Know how to strike a nutritional balance
If you’re not sure how to balance your meals, read up more on going flexitarian and collect a list of recipes you can try. When actively avoiding meat, you could be getting insufficient amounts of essential nutrients that are more readily available in animal products. These include zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B (the exception here, as it’s only found in meat).
Do your research on the best plant alternatives to incorporate – from tofu and quinoa to chia, flaxseed and other nuts, seeds and even supplements in some instances. You could also ease in and gain familiarity with the food options you have before levelling up – for example, start by eating meat only on alternate days before moving onto having it just twice a week and so on.
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