Flexitarian Diet: Your Starter’s Guide And Sample Diet Plan


Published:

© Brooke Lark, Unsplash

While there are many health benefits to being vegetarian, some of us don’t want to completely cut out meat. This is the idea behind the flexitarian diet, which reduces meat intake instead of avoiding it altogether.

This article discusses the potential benefits and risks of following a flexitarian diet to help you decide if it’s a good plan for you.

What Is A Flexitarian Diet?

“Flexitarianism” is essentially what it sounds like: a flexible vegetarian diet. A person who identifies as flexitarian might eat meat occasionally, but does not include it as a regular part of their normal diet. Most often, those who prefer not to eat meat do so for health or ethical reasons (or both). The same can be said for flexitarians looking to improve their overall health and lessen their impact on the environment.

Will A Flexitarian Diet Promote Weight Loss And Improve Overall Health?

In short, yes, if we first look at the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Studies have found that those who eat a vegetarian diet are more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) that falls within the normal range. This may be because vegetarians are likely to consume more fruit and vegetables, which are low in calories and high in fiber — two major components in promoting weight loss.

Additionally, vegetarians tend to have an increased life expectancy compared with meat-eaters. Several studies have found that people who eat a diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains have a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and cancer—two of our biggest killers.1,2 This is likely due to the high amount of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals and plant protein found in such foods.3,4

Meanwhile, observational studies indicate that eating red meat may lead to an increase risk of cancers, including colorectal cancer. Avoiding or limiting red meat can help reduce this risk.5

That said, compared to a vegetarian, a flexitarian will benefit from getting important nutrients—such as protein, vitamin B12, and iron—that are highly concentrated in meat.

Interestingly, among diabetics, eating a diet low in red meat has also been shown to improve blood sugar levels.6,7,8 But at the same time, a low carb diet can help diabetics too.

So it seems a flexitarian eating pattern can be healthy for a range of people. As you’d expect, those who eat a semi-vegetarian diet tend to have lower BMIs, lower risk of breast cancer and lower blood glucose levels compared to those who eat meat often.9

Health Risks Of Flexitarianism

Changing your diet in any way may come with some unexpected risks. As mentioned above, meat is an excellent source of dietary protein, as well as zinc, iron and vitamins like B1, B2, B3 and B12. This means flexitarians need to be sure they’re getting these nutrients from other sources when cutting down on meat.

For example, limiting red meat may increase your risk of iron deficiency anemia. Flexitarians may want to increase their intake of plant foods like soybeans, chickpeas, quinoa and lentils—all good sources of iron.9

You’ll also want to seek out high-protein plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, lentils, tofu and beans. This graph gives you an idea of the protein content of many plant foods:

Who Should (And Shouldn’t) Consider A Flexitarian Diet?

If you are overweight, at increased cardiovascular risk (including those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or people with a family history of metabolic health issues) or have ethical concerns about eating meat, you may benefit from adopting a flexitarian lifestyle.

However, you should discuss this diet with your doctor or dietitian if you have:

  • Iron deficiency or any other type of anemia
  • Dietary allergies or intolerances that limit your intake of non-meat foods
  • A history of eating disorders or drastically restricting your diet.

How To Become Flexitarian

If you currently eat meat, it’s best to make small, gradual changes to your diet. Consider tracking your meat intake for one week. Write down every portion of meat consumed for seven days.

The following week, aim to reduce meat intake by around one serving (approximately 85 grams or 3 ounces). Continue doing this week by week until your weekly meat intake equates to less than five servings per week.

It’s useful to observe when your largest intake of meat is likely to occur. For most people, this will be dinner. Replace meat in the evening meal with vegetarian options or meat substitutes.

Because the flexitarian diet is, by definition, flexible, you can choose how much meat you wish to consume. Continue to gradually lessen your meat consumption until you reach a point that feels right to you.

See below for ways to incorporate this idea into a meal plan.

2-Day Sample Flexitarian Diet Plan

Day 1

Breakfast: Omelette with eggs, cheese and selected vegetables as desired (e.g. mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers)

Lunch: Sandwich on wholegrain bread with cottage cheese, lettuce, tomato, grated carrot, cucumber

Dinner: Pasta with vegetarian sauce

Snacks: Fruit, nuts, yogurt

Day 2

Breakfast: Rolled oats with milk and berries

Lunch: Sandwich on wholegrain bread with egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, beetroot

Dinner: Roast vegetables with tofu and couscous

Snacks: Fruit, nuts, yogurt.

Is A Flexitarian Diet Right For You?

There is no one perfect diet. In fact, the best diet for you may very well be different to me. What I like about the flexitarian diet is that it allows for flexibility.

This places the diet among the more sensible and sustainable methods of eating (unlike the ketogenic diet) as it doesn’t require strict dietary restriction.

Overall, reducing meat intake may offer many health benefits, particularly if you are already overweight or experience metabolic health issues. Meat is high in calories so reducing your intake will be beneficial.

To start, try cutting out one serving of meat (about 3 ounces) every week. But note that those with existing health problems, including iron deficiency or other anemias, should talk to their doctor or a dietitian first.

Making these types of slow, gradual changes to your diet will lead to longer lasting changes and hopefully a beautiful relationship with food and your health.

Joe Leech is a university-qualified dietitian from Australia. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in exercise science, followed by a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics in 2011.

This article was republished from Diet v.s. Disease.

See also:
How Plant-Based Diets Can Heal Our Bodies And The Planet
3 Reasons Why A Meat Tax Is A Good Idea

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

September 22, 2019

Shortly after midnight the Moon settles into her home base, Cancer. The quiet pleasures of familiar places is accented, although a late morning lunar sextile to Uranus may bring unexpected messages or surprise visitors. An informal gathering of close…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2019

It’s time for a workshop!  One plus one always equals two. In a similar fashion EFT plus Law of Attraction always equals effective and positive change. Teaching Emotional Freedom...

Cost: $40

Where:
21 Wiles Farm Road
Northboro, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Medicine My Way
Telephone: 508-523-7132
Website »

More information

In this 90 minute workshop you will find clarity in what brings you joy. You will create your personal vision statement that will help guide you to living a more satisfied, balanced life. This...

Cost: $25 early-bird till 9/20 ($30 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Witness the healing power of mediumship! Join New England's own trusted spirit medium Raylene Sousa and top UK medium Dominic Boag from Scotland for an afternoon of spirit messages. If...

Cost: $40

Where:
The Little Meetinghouse
723 Roosevelt Trail
Windham, ME  04062
View map »


Sponsor: Raylene Sousa Medium LLC
Telephone: 207-956-0220
Contact Name: Raylene Sousa
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Members of the Reflexology Association of NH will be offering “mini” hand or foot reflexology sessions at the Salt Cave within Bien Soigne in honor of World Reflexology Week.

Cost: Donations suggested $15 - $20

Where:
Bien Soigne Salt Cave
350 North Broadway
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: Reflexology Association of NH
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

September 25–October 29, 2019 Expert Tai Chi instructor and Qigong Master Instructor Terry Dunn will be giving a total of four five-day intensive workshops in October 2019 at Eastover...

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

September 26–29 This training at the Center for Mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) uses mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy to break the cycle of...

Cost: $1,390

Where:
Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
1035 Cambridge St, Suite 21A
Cambridge, MA  02141
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
Telephone: 617-591-6132
Contact Name: Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
Website »

More information

Come detox, relax and renew yourself for the fall in our sanctuary! We have an intimate gathering of great readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while...

Cost: $60: 3 Pack Service Special; $25: Single Service

Where:
Healing Power Of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Mirabai Starr was an adjunct professor of Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years. Her emphasis has always been on making connections between the perennial...

Cost: $20

Where:
First Parish in Lexington
7 Harrington Road
Lexington, MA  02420
View map »


Sponsor: Lexington Community Education
Telephone: 781-862-8043
Contact Name: Craig Hall
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Maryellen Labelle, David Sholemson and Steve Cunningham are excited to announce Qigong for Inner Peace teacher training fall term 2019. This 50 hour certification training is appropriate for a wide...

Cost: $1100 / $800 early registration

Where:
Yoga Depot
17 Depot Square
Lexington, MA  02420
View map »


Sponsor: Qigong for Inner Peace
Telephone: 617-721-7215
Contact Name: Maryellen Labelle / David Sholemson
Website »

More information

Join life coach Cheryl Richardson and her husband, Michael Gerrish, a psychotherapist and gifted intuitive, for a special evening designed to help you upgrade your life! During this event,...

Cost: $35

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

This Dating Program is the follow-up to Kerri Morrison's workshop, Deliberate Dating: 5 Keys to Successful Online Romance; held Friday, August 16th, 2019 from 6:30-7:30pm. View that event...

Cost: $199

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki—revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher.) This one-day class covers the...

Cost: $150

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

With Laura Haley, IET Master Instructor Trainer  This class provides you with everything you need to conduct a powerful Integrated Energy Therapy session on yourself or others (either in...

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
Methuen, MA


Telephone: (978) 474-8010
Website »

More information

Learn the benefits of yoga for families as well as how to develop character in children to get them more focused, respectful, and confident before returning back to school this fall! This class...

Cost: $45 early bird till 9/25 (includes child and a parent), $50 after

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

September 28–29 Saturday 10 am Registration; 10 am–5 pm  Sunday 10 am–5 pm This practitioner training takes place over 2 days and offers students the opportunity to...

Cost: Course Fee: $450; Recalibration Appointment: $333

Where:
The Hampton Inn Coventry Warwick
850 Centre Of New England Boulevard
Coventry, RI
View map »


Telephone: 617-366-6042
Website »

More information

September 28–29 Learn hands-on techniques for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, as well as the sacrum, psoas and ilium. Leave with tools you can use right away. Coming in...

Where:
Downeast School of Massage
Waldoboro, ME


Telephone: (617) 678-8920
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags