August is National Wellness Month, and this means an opportunity to make healthier decisions. Almost 25% of Americans have cut back on their meat intake in an effort to improve their health. Have you been looking for a way to eat healthier without giving up meat completely? If so, you might want to consider the flexitarian diet. This is a semi-vegetarian eating style that allows you to enjoy plant-based foods most of the time, while still indulging in animal products occasionally. In this article, we will explain what the flexitarian diet is, what are its benefits, and how to start following it.
The term “flexitarian” is a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian”. It was coined by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, who wrote a book called The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life. According to Blatner, the flexitarian diet is based on the following principles:
- Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
- Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.
- Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.
- Eat the least processed, most natural forms of foods.
- Limit added sugar and sweets.
The flexitarian diet does not have strict rules or calorie counts. It is more of a lifestyle than a diet. You can choose how often and how much meat you want to eat, depending on your preferences and goals. Blatner suggests three levels of flexitarianism:
- Beginner: Eat two meatless days per week and limit meat to 26 ounces per week.
- Advanced: Eat three to four meatless days per week and limit meat to 18 ounces per week.
- Expert: Eat five or more meatless days per week and limit meat to 9 ounces per week.
What are the benefits of the flexitarian diet?
The flexitarian diet has many potential benefits for your health and the environment. Some of them are:
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Eating more plant-based foods and less meat can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation. This can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.
- Weight loss: Eating more plant-based foods and less meat can also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. This is because plant-based foods are generally lower in calories, fat, and processed ingredients than animal products. They are also higher in fiber, which can keep you full and satisfied for longer.
- Environmental sustainability: Eating more plant-based foods and less meat can also help reduce your environmental impact. This is because animal agriculture is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, land degradation, and biodiversity loss. By reducing your meat consumption, you can help conserve natural resources and protect the planet.
How to start following the flexitarian diet?
If you are interested in trying the flexitarian diet, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Start small: You don’t have to go meatless overnight. You can start by having one or two meatless meals per week and gradually increase the frequency as you feel comfortable. You can also start by reducing the portion size of meat in your meals and increasing the amount of plant-based foods.
- Experiment with new foods: The flexitarian diet gives you the opportunity to explore new cuisines and recipes that feature plant-based foods. You can try different types of beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables. You can also use herbs, spices, sauces, and condiments to add flavor and variety to your dishes.
- Plan ahead: Planning your meals in advance can help you stick to your flexitarian goals and avoid temptations. You can use online tools or apps to find flexitarian recipes and create shopping lists. You can also prepare some meals or ingredients ahead of time and store them in the fridge or freezer for later use.
- Be flexible: The flexitarian diet is not about being perfect or rigid. It is about finding a balance that works for you and your lifestyle. You can still enjoy meat and animal products occasionally, as long as you make them a treat rather than a staple. You can also adjust your flexitarian level depending on your needs and preferences.
The flexitarian diet is a semi-vegetarian eating style that allows you to eat more plant-based foods and less meat. It has many benefits for your health and the environment. It is also flexible and easy to follow. If you are looking for a way to eat healthier without giving up meat completely, the flexitarian diet might be for you.