Apr 14, 2021
The Flexitarian Diet is a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation. It’s more flexible than fully vegetarian or vegan diets. If you’re looking to add more plant foods to your diet but don’t want to completely cut out meat, going flexitarian may be for you.
The Flexitarian Diet was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner to help people reap the benefits of vegetarian eating while still enjoying animal products in moderation. That’s why the name of this diet is a combination of the words flexible and vegetarian.
Vegetarians eliminate meat and sometimes other animal foods, while vegans completely restrict meat, fish, eggs, dairy and all animal-derived food products. Since flexitarians eat animal products, they’re not considered vegetarians or vegans.
The Flexitarian Diet has no clear-cut rules or recommended numbers of calories and macronutrients. In fact, it’s more a lifestyle than a diet. It’s based on the following principles:
Due to its flexible nature and focus on what to include rather than restrict, the Flexitarian Diet is a popular choice for people looking to eat healthier. The creator of the Flexitarian Diet, Dawn Jackson Blatner spells out how to start eating flexitarian by incorporating certain amounts of meat per week in her book. However, following her specific recommendations is not required to start eating in a flexitarian way. Some people on the diet may eat more animal products than others.
Overall, the goal is to eat more nutritious plant foods and less meat.
Possible Health Benefits
Eating flexitarian may provide several health benefits (1). However, since there is no clear definition of this diet, it’s difficult to assess if and how researched benefits of other plant-based diets apply to the Flexitarian Diet. Nevertheless, research on vegan and vegetarian diets is still helpful in highlighting how semi-vegetarian diets may promote health.
It appears to be important to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and other minimally processed whole foods in order to reap the health benefits of plant-based eating. Decreasing meat consumption while continuing to eat refined foods with lots of added sugar and salt will not lead to the same benefits (2).
Downside to Eating Less Meat and Animal Products
When flexitarian and other plant-based diets are well-planned, they can be very healthy. However, some people may be at risk of nutrient deficiencies when they cut back on meat and other animal products depending on the adequacy of their other food choices. Possible nutrient deficiencies to be aware of on the Flexitarian Diet include (3):
Flexitarians may also have lower stores of zinc and iron, as these minerals are best absorbed from animal foods. While it’s possible to get enough of these nutrients from plant foods alone, flexitarians need to plan their diets accordingly to accomplish this (4).
Limited consumption of meat and other animal products may lead to some nutritional deficiencies, particularly B12, iron, zinc and calcium. Flexitarians may be at risk depending on their food choices.
Foods to Eat on the Flexitarian Diet
Flexitarians emphasize plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant foods while limiting animal products.
Foods to eat regularly include:
When incorporating animal products, choose the following when possible:
While some of us have trouble digesting vegetables or simply struggle to get enough into our diet, juicing can be a great tool to reap…
If you’ve ever hosted a party you know there are always nerves – do you have enough food? Do you have enough variety so everyone…
It’s officially summer and we are gearing up for camping season! Whether you’re looking at cutting back your meat consumption, or a vegan lifer, sometimes…