The flexitarian diet has been gaining popularity as more and more people are looking to reduce their meat consumption. Here’s the lowdown on this diet, along with new recipes to try out.

What is a Flexitarian Diet?

Noted dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner first used the term 'flexitarian' in her 2009 book, by borrowing from the words 'flexible' and 'vegetarian'. According to Blatner, there is no need to completely do away with meat and associated animal products in order to get the benefits of a vegetarian diet. A few burgers and some grilled salmon can actually help balance a diet and even improve health conditions.

While vegetarians completely stay away from any form of animal products, meat-eaters include some form of animal protein in all their meals. Flexitarians tend to lean more towards the vegetarian lifestyle with an occasional side of meat dishes. From the vegetarian staples of tofu and quinoa, to intermittent salmon and lamb, there is no food item that is forbidden to flexitarians. There are no defined rules for this diet, which helps followers get the best of both worlds. No wonder it is quickly becoming the preferred lifestyle choice for many. So much so, that U.S. News has ranked the flexitarian diet Number 2 among its list of Best Food Diets Overall for 2022 because of its balanced nature and how it aids weight loss.

So if you're looking for a more plant- and fruit-heavy diet, but without completely cutting off animal protein, a flexitarian diet may just be the right way of life for you.

Benefits of a Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarianism is a type of diet that emphasizes eating mostly plant-based foods, but also allows for occasional meat or animal products. This approach to eating can offer many health benefits, including reducing your risk of chronic diseases and promoting weight loss.

When you focus on plant-based ingredients for your lunch and dinner recipes, you're naturally consuming more fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while taking in fewer calories and unhealthy fats. This way of eating has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Additionally, since the flexitarian diet allows for some animal products, you're able to get important nutrients like protein and vitamin B12 that are typically found in meats. However, it's important to choose lean meats and low-fat dairy when following this diet. By doing so, you can avoid getting too much saturated fat, which can lead to health problems like high cholesterol and heart disease.

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How Does a Flexitarian Diet Work?

The core idea of this diet is to include all kinds of vegetarian food, but not exclude meat altogether. There are different food groups you can add to your diet plan- fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains, dairy products, seeds, and seasoning. While you can add seafood and meat to your diet chart, make sure these additions are small. The list of foods meant for limited consumption includes turkey, lamb, chicken and read meat, seafood, processed and refined grain- and cereal-based foods like pasta or white bread, animal fats such as cream and butter, and store-bought processed food items such as pastries and cakes and soft drinks. Alcohol consumption must also be moderate.

  • Beginners can start this diet by foregoing meat two days a week and eating no more than 26 oz of meat over the remaining five days.
  • As you get accustomed to the new dietary routine, you can make alterations and include more vegetarian food and Reduce Foods that are meat-based to three days. According to Blatner, this stage is called the Advanced Flexitarian stage where you consume 18 ounces of meat over 3-4 days.
  • The final stage is the Expert Flexitarian stage where you have five meat-free days. You can consume 9 ounces of meat over the remaining two days, which becomes acceptable because you are used to the routine by now.

Flexitarian Diet Tips

The flexitarian diet is becoming increasingly popular as people realize the benefits of eating more plant-based foods. If you're thinking of trying it out, here are some tips to help you get started-

1. Incorporate more plant-based protein sources into your diet, such as beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh.

2. Add plenty of fruits and vegetables with every meal.

3. Make sure to include healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds in your dinner recipes.

4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid sugary drinks.

5. Experiment with new recipes or cuisine styles that are heavy on plants but still offer variety and flavor.

If you are at the starting point of your flexitarian routine, you may be on the lookout for some delicious and easy dinner preparations. We bring you two.

Fabulous Recipe for Flexitarians: Sweet Potato Chili

Ingredients-
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet potato (diced)
2 cans of black beans
1 large onion (diced)
2 tbsp chili powder
14 oz diced tomatoes
5 garlic cloves (minced)
4 tsp cumin powder,
0.5 tsp chipotle Chile
2.5 cups water
4 tsp lime juice
4 oz chopped cilantro
Salt

Recipe-
Step 1- Take a slow cooker and heat the olive oil. Add the diced sweet potatoes and onion. Keep stirring for five minutes till the onion becomes soft.

Step 2- Now add the minced garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin powder and salt. Keep stirring for a minute. Add the water and let the mixture simmer on medium heat.

Step 3- After cooking for 10 minutes, the potatoes will become soft. Now add the black beans, tomatoes and lime juice to the slow cooker. Let it simmer on low heat for another five minutes.

Step 4- Garnish with the chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Fabulous Recipe for Flexitarians: No-meat Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients-
2 cups button mushrooms (chopped)
2 lbs potatoes (diced)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup carrots (chopped)
2 cups yellow onions (chopped)
1.5 cups brown lentils
1 tbsp garlic (minced)
4 cups vegetable broth
15 oz crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp chopped thyme
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp vegan butter
Chopped chives for garnishing

Recipe-
Step 1- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Take a large pot, heat the oil and add the mushrooms, garlic, carrots and onions and keep stirring until they become soft. Now add the vegetable broth, tomatoes and lentils to the pot. Also add the thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Let it boil on medium heat while you keep the pot covered. Stir occasionally until the lentils and vegetables become tender. Cook for 30 minutes.

Step 2- Take another large pot and add the diced potatoes to it for boiling. Boil the potatoes until tender and then drain the pot. Add the vegan butter and some salt. Mash the potatoes and prepare a smooth paste.

Step 3- Take a sheet pan and add the lentil mixture to the pot. Top the mixture with the mashed potatoes. Add some ground pepper and place the dish inside the preheated oven. Bake the dish for 20 minutes until the top turns slightly brown and bubbly. Put the oven on broil mode and broil for five minutes till the top turns golden.

Step 4- Garnish with chives and serve hot.

Final Word

There are a lot of diets out there and it can be hard to know which one is right for you. The flexitarian diet is a good option for people who want to eat plant-based foods, but still want to include some animal products in their diet. This diet has been shown to have many health benefits, including weight loss, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and improved gut health. If you're interested in trying out this diet, start by adding more plant-based foods to your meals and gradually reducing your intake of animal products.

Moreover, with reduced consumption of cereals, meat and sugar products, the flexitarian diet also has a deep environmental and Economic Impact. Less meat consumption leads to reduced livestock maintenance and farming while the production of cereals and other processed food also reduces Food Waste and water waste in the process.