Nowadays, more and more people consider reducing meat intake to improve their health and quality of life. One of the diets that emphasize low meat intake is a flexitarian diet. The flexitarian diet, or semi-vegetarian diet, is an eating pattern that allows people to get the benefits of a vegetarian diet without complete refusal of animal-based products. It focuses on plant-based foods and incorporates the consumption of animal products in moderation. You should check out a flexitarian diet whenever you are looking for a healthy diet without strict rules and counting calories. The flexitarian diet is more flexible than completely vegetarian and vegan diets.
The flexitarian diet emphasizes adding a variety of plant foods to the diet rather than restricting and removing foods. Eating plant foods provides protection against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer and promotes weight loss. This is due to plenty of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals present in plant-based food.
As you can mention, the flexitarian diet derives its name from the combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” It is because this diet is more flexible and less restrictive than the traditional vegetarian or vegan diets. Following the flexitarian diet, you should focus on eating more vegetarian meals. However, this diet pattern allows for incorporating meat-based meals moderately. Therefore, a flexitarian diet is not considered vegan or vegetarian.
In addition, this diet plan has no clear-cut rules or any set amounts of calories or macronutrients. Therefore, the flexitarian diet is more of a lifestyle choice than a diet.
The flexitarian diet emphasizes eating mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Also, it focuses on consuming the least processed and most natural food forms and limiting sweets and sugar. Although this diet allows for eating meat from time to time, most of the protein needs to be consumed from plants instead of animals.
There are no contraindications for the flexitarian diet.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
Flexitarian Diet poses a risk for vitamin B-12, zinc, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. To avoid possible nutrient deficiencies, you should balance your diet plan.
- Vitamin B12: nutritional yeasts, fortified soy products, plant-based meat, fortified cereals, chlorella, tempeh, nori seaweed, and cremini mushrooms.
- Zinc: whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, tempeh, tofu, oat, fortified cereals.
- Iron: lentils, soybeans, tofu, natto, tempeh, beans, peas, seeds, nuts, leafy greens, potatoes, tomato paste, palm hearts, mushrooms, olives, prune juice, whole grains, coconut milk.
- Calcium: soy foods, Brazil nuts, almonds, lentils, beans, peas, seeds, teff, amaranth, seaweed, leafy greens, raw figs, oranges.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, algal oil, brussels sprouts, hemp seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and perilla oil.
You may also consider supplements to meet your body’s needs for vitamins and minerals.
Tips on improving dieting experience
- Use internet resources to diversify your diet. You can find a variety of new recipes and meal plans on the Flexitarian Digital Cookbook, Flexitarian Diet Facebook page, or some mobile apps.
- Change your diet gradually. It is recommended that beginners start with two days per week without meat and gradually move to three-four days without meat. Eventually, you can try five meatless days per week. You should do it slowly to allow your body to adapt to a new diet plan.
- Build a routine. If you want to follow a flexitarian diet pattern, you need to pay attention to what you are eating and ensure you have balanced meals. Routine can help you stick to your new lifestyle. Plan and prepare your meals two to three times a week, so you always have a quick and easy dinner at hand.
- Consider alternatives. Vegetarian meat-alternative products which have similar texture and taste to meat can be a good choice if it is hard for you to reduce your meat intake.
A semi-vegetarian flexitarian diet emphasizes plant-based proteins and whole, minimally processed foods, but it also encourages the consumption of animal products in moderation. However, you should pay attention to planning your diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies and receive more health benefits from this diet. In addition to providing overall well-being, flexitarian diets should provide more energy and less fatigue. Therefore, the flexitarian diet is a good choice for people who want to improve their health and quality of life.