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What is a Flexitarian Diet?

flexitarian dietThe flexitarian diet is also known as semivegetarianism.

The official definition, according to the American Dialect Society, is “a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.”

This means flexitarians eat a vegetarian diet most of the time, but once in a while will eat fish, chicken or red meat.

Many flexitarians adopt the diet because they are concerned about the impact meat eating has on the environment, but still want the occasional indulgence. Flexitarians do eat eggs and dairy regularly.

How Does a Flexitarian Diet Work?

While flexitarian sounds like another word for meat-eater, the basic concept is different. Meat eaters or omnivores eat both meat and vegetarian foods on a regular basis. In fact, most omnivores eat a combination of these things on a daily basis.

Flexitarians, on the other hand, stick to a vegetarian diet most days. Their reasons for adding meat occasionally vary. For example, some might allow themselves to eat meat while at a party or dining out. Others might indulge on a favorite animal-based dish on special occasions (turkey on Thanksgiving, for example) or simply when they’re missing the taste.

What Are the Benefits?

Plant-based diets have a number of benefits. For example, according to WebMD, plant-based diets reduce your risk of heart disease. Vegetarians also tend to have lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less chances of developing diabetes. They are also at a lower risk for obesity.

Studies have shown that vegetarian diets can help slow down cancer. This is because plant foods are rich in antioxidants (up to 64 times richer in antioxidants than animal foods) and phytochemicals, which can help keep cells young and disease-free and might even be able to repair DNA damage.

Because flexitarian diets are mostly plant-based, they still offer all these benefits – making the diet quite attractive to those who are abandoning meat because of health reasons. The occasional meat-eating episode in a flexitarian’s life wouldn’t be enough to take away from these benefits.

What You Can Eat

There are no set rules regarding what you can and cannot eat on a flexitarian diet. In fact, the entire point of the word “flex” (flexible) is that you are able to adapt your diet not only to your requirements but also to your taste and specific day-to-day circumstances. Books and nutrition experts out there might be able to offer some guidance on what to expect when switching.

The word flexitarian came into popular usage after the publication of the book “The Flexitarian Diet,” written by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner.

Blatner divides flexitarians into three levels: beginners, advanced, and experts. Beginners limit themselves to two meatless days per week. This group is technically more on the meat-eating side than on the vegetarian-eating side of the scale.

Advanced flexitarians (meatless 3-4 days per week) and experts (at least 5 meatless days per week) are more likely to receive the type of health benefits vegetarians do because they’ll be eating more plant-based foods. Plus, these two groups will be more likely to experiment with alternative sources of protein, including soy, whey and meat alternatives.